When I recently offered a best selling, award-winning novel about a teenage boy to a teenage boy that I tutor he was baffled. Why would I suggest that he read this book when it wasn’t on his school reading list and his mother wasn’t insisting that he read it?
This is a top-performing student attending a top high school.
And when I said he might like to read it for pleasure, his face was a picture of bewilderment. The idea of studying or reading something when he wasn’t going to be marked or tested on it was beyond his ken.
I did know of his attitude before I offered him the book. After all, I’ve been tutoring him for two years. And during that time he has been very cooperative and hard working, which is why he is doing so well at school. I really like him. However, he doesn’t do any reading or studying for the sheer pleasure of learning.
Flick forward a few days. This week the New Zealand Herald is having a week of supplements on the history of Auckland. I got Tuesday’s paper because two of my teenagers had studied the history of Auckland and I thought they might be interested in it. I was right – they were very interested, and so was their father and so was I. We genuinely wanted to read and learn.
I’m not telling you to show off or anything like that, and I’m certainly not wanting to offend anyone or say that school is bad. But I am making a comment on an attitude to learning. No matter where it takes place, real learning is never about getting through pages of a schoolbook and maths exercises. It’s about the sheer delight and liveliness of learning as a lifestyle.
Home education isn’t about getting through books or ticking off subjects or filling in lists or timetables. It’s about being with your children, enjoying that time, watching them grow, guiding them, taking delight in showing them the wonders of the world and hugging yourself when you see them discovering it on their own. It’s about being presented with, and responding to, big ideas, and thoughts of great people. It’s about gaining understanding and wisdom.
As homeschoolers, we like being with our children and we want to enjoy life with them, we want to see them take delight in learning.
Having a goal like this doesn’t guarantee that life will always be easy, but it’s a worthy goal and worth striving for. And it’s attainable, I know. Being with your children can be fun, and not a chore; learning together is a delight not a drudge.
As for my school student, I won’t give up hope. Maybe one day he will want to learn for the sheer pleasure of the learning and for the sake of the knowledge. I hope so.
P.S. The book I offered my student was Hatchet by Gary Paulsen
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