Friday, October 08, 2010

Lifelong Learning

I met a fascinating older man today who told me that, if given the opportunity, he would continue to take classes throughout his entire life. Like me, he homeschooled his 3 boys and is hoping that he was able to pass his love and enthusiasm for learning on to them. Having experienced his infectious enthusiasm myself, I don't doubt that he was successful in doing this.

The attitude that learning is a lifelong process, not something we just do during structured schooltime, is caught, not taught.

This is absolutely not to say that families who choose school for their kids can't or don't do this also. The decision to turn off the TV and video games, to take the kids outside or to the library, to encourage them to work at a sport or an instrument, to spend time learning a new skill or craft together and to provide the space and materials they need for it - is by no means limited to homeschoolers. We just have to work a little harder on it because we have them all day long.

But even beyond the encouragement of their efforts are the benefits that come from children seeing their parents continue to learn new things, long after they've left school. Watching adults try (and sometimes struggle with) a sport, an instrument, a hobby, or seeing them experimenting with a new cuisine, reading a variety of books and magazines, taking on new challenges... shows them that learning isn't just the "work" they have to do for school to get a good grade and move on - it is what gives their lives meaning and flavor and makes them interesting people - both to others, and to themselves.

I realize my limitations as a homeschooling parent. I don't know everything; I can't teach them everything; eventually they will need more than what I can give them and I will be glad to send them off to learn it. But the one thing I can try to teach them - indirectly - is that learning new things is the essence of a fulfilling life.

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