Love of Learning and the Gift of Time
We’ve been finished with our homeschool journey for some time now, but learning is still happening for all of us, and that makes me happy. I continue to think about learning and what makes it stick, what brings it to life, and why some students enjoy it more than others. Of all the things we did, I think two of the most important were cultivating and protecting the love of learning, and giving our children the gift of free time.
Teach to keep the love of learning alive
Can you remember the last time you or your student was excited about learning? One of the things I enjoy most about having grown sons is the fact that they are continuing to learn through reading and listening, and are excited about it. One of them will often track me down to tell me all about the book he’s reading or listening to, and we often have conversations that range across the spectrum of knowledge.
Within the last couple of weeks, I’ve enjoyed a discussion of C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity with one of the boys, and had several interesting conversations about a lengthy series of essays by Ayn Rand with another son. They begin the discussions, and I’m always delighted to participate, whether or not we agree on everything. I’ve decided that it really does pay to raise your own conversational companions;-)!
Charlotte Mason wrote that “We, believing that the normal child has powers of mind which fit him to deal with all knowledge proper to him, give him a full and generous curriculum, taking care only that all knowledge offered to him is vital, that is, that facts are not presented without their informing ideas.” A full and generous curriculum includes so much more than just the 3Rs. Through history, literature, nature, science, and the arts, it cultivates curiosity and interest in many things, and can lead to a full and interesting life.
As I think back to my own school days, I remember both mind-numbing tedium and mind-nourishing reading. I believe I learned more from the reading I did (mostly in books of my own choosing), than from many of the stale, dry lessons I was expected to memorize and regurgitate. There were things we missed and didn’t do as well as I wanted to in our homeschool, but somehow, largely through remembering the good and bad of my own learning experiences and following the wise advice of Charlotte Mason, we kept alive the love of learning, and I’m thankful for that.
Give your children the gift of time
As homeschoolers, we were fairly relaxed. We did a lot of reading, less writing than we should have, listened to audio resources, traveled when possible, played games, and had interesting conversations. Most of all, I gave them the gift of time. Time to find out what was interesting to them. Time to learn skills that weren’t on any “state requirements” list. Time to be boys in the woods with sticks and forts. The most important thing was that they had time to learn how to learn anything they wanted to know (and this was before YouTube!).
The boys used their free time to play when they were young, and as they got older and we read more and more, they pursued subjects, questions, and skills on their own. They’d reenact books they’d read, try building things they learned about as we studied history and science, and of course, they practiced climbing trees, riding bikes, and more. (One cautionary note: if you have boys who like to replicate what they read about — like a dugout canoe, for example — make sure you have clear guidelines on when and how they can use things likes axes and fire.)
Sometimes they would spend a lot of time learning something that seemed pointless to me, but since I’ve spent a good bit of my life learning new and interesting things, I also remembered that everything I’ve really studied has eventually come in handy in some way. I spent over a year in middle school reading about architecture, drafting, interior design, and art principles such as proportion, light, and color. It’s probable that my math teacher wished I’d spend as much time with math as I did with these subjects, but because I was learning with curiosity, interest, and love for my subject, that was the learning that has stuck with me for life.
Are these things useful in college?
The boys each went into college wondering how they would measure up against students from traditional school systems. It didn’t take them long to find out that they measured up. They discovered that they knew how to learn and how to be good students. Most of all, they hadn’t lost their taste for learning and growth. To be sure, there were subjects that were none too interesting and professors who droned, but overall, their minds hadn’t been numbed by an unending stream of busywork, and they were able to approach learning with interest and delight.