Things I Learned this Term, (or, Enjoying the Journey) pt. 5


“Education, like faith, is the evidence of things not seen. We must begin with the notion that the business of the body is to grow; and it grows upon food, which food is composed of living cells, each a perfect life in itself. In like manner, though all analogies are misleading and inadequate, the only fit sustenance for the mind is ideas…

You aren’t actually required to educate your children. You can only help them learn how to learn and to spread a veritable feast of ideas in front of them. That’s it. They have to apprehend knowledge for themselves.

You can help them develop the habits of learning and learn to use the tools of a student. You can tutor them when they are stuck. But you can’t make them learn one single thing. They have to do the learning for themselves.

Good habits are essential. You can develop those in yourself and help your kids to develop them in themselves. This extends to housework as well as to study.

We cannot do all the things by ourselves. It isn’t healthy for anyone in our household for us to try that.  But I inevitably get tired of reminding people to finish their jobs and wind up doing them. Then I overdo it and am sorry for days. That doesn’t work around here. The boys get frustrated if I can’t do all my usual things because I did theirs. Since I struggle with chronic pain, they are very aware that me doing all of the work is going to mean that they won’t get to go and do something that they want to go and do because I won’t have the energy to make it happen.

Spread the Feast: the real work of an educator

Education happens when we get our hands on real ideas, and those are found in books and in real things. It is important to meet authors by reading their words, even though some of them require practice to understand. We need to use different tools, create with different media, perform different experiments, inspect different discoveries, and explore new places. We learn the most from things we can touch and hold and from varying voices we can read and hear. Spreading a broad educational feast will give students a broad experience of the world.

We can learn from apps, screens, and devices, but those things don’t impact us as much as the things we can put our hands on, see up close, listen to, taste and smell. Screens are good for watching documentaries, enjoying stories through films, studying foreign language vocabulary and learning from native speakers, and even creating worlds in video games, but they can’t replace the learning that takes place when we really get our hands in the dirt and experience things for ourselves.

I have more joy in this journey when I am sure of what I am responsible for and what my kids are responsible for. Are there consequences if they don’t accept and act on their responsibility? Sure. Are they fun? No. But I know that I can’t make them learn something.  I can make life uncomfortable for them if they don’t try, but discipline is not going to force any knowledge into their brains any faster.


Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.