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Learning: Mind-Numbing or Mind-Nourishing?

Robinson Crusoe reading

Robinson Crusoe reading

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’ve been thinking about learning and what makes it stick, what brings it to life, and why some students enjoy it more than others. Here are a few thoughts…

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 usually delighted–though I don’t necessarily agree with everything– at the interesting ideas they bring to the table. I’ve decided that it really does pay to raise your own conversational companions;-)!

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. When my boys recall our homeschooling days, they talk about things we read or made, or places we went, and they understand that those were learning experiences, even when they were the most fun thing we’d done all week.

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 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 the expectation of mental nourishment and life enrichment. I’m glad we homeschooled, and I’d do it over again. How about you?

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1 Response

  1. Ginac says:

    Janice,

    Thank you for the insightful article about your true gift to your homeschooled children. I agree that it isn’t fact-memorizing, list-checking or speed math quizzes. It’s about developing young minds through time devoted to THEM. We are in the early stages of our homeschooling journey, but we already believe that time spent together learning as a family exploring our interests is what encourages life long learners.

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