You might wonder why I chose to name the blog as I did. I attempt to explain in the following post.
Random Learning Comes
Every homeschooler, every life-long learner, knows: random learning comes from the strangest places. Not only from workbooks and educational materials, but from experience and contemplation. And not least, from this wonderful, horrible tool, at our fingertips: the Internet, and the many worlds it opens for us.
“Random” is not my favorite word. It’s vague and all-purpose. People start out, looking for a more precise word, and then give up, somewhere along the way, and use “random.”
But as the title of a blog about a homeschooling journey, I think, it fits. “Random” implies an element of chance. It means, more or less, encountered by accident. Unintentional. Unsought. Determined, by the luck of the draw.
The Value of Chance
Is there value in learning, that is stumbled upon by chance? Many of us were brought up to believe the opposite:
- Education is, and should be, deliberate, grueling, and torturous.
- Education must be endured, to achieve a greater good.
- Education will make us stronger by bending us to another’s will and aligning even our thoughts, to those of a greater, more developed, more organized mind.
- Education will transform us, like red hot metal, being hammered into steel.
- Only through this process of being tamed, much like bucking broncos, can we ever be of any use to the world.
Control vs. Choices
We Westerners tend to value only that, which we can control. We especially want to control our children and how they experience life. We want to steer them away from the mistakes we made. Toward accomplishments that will make us proud.
But something is lost in a life, if one’s every move is dictated by another. No matter how caring that person may be, or how carefully planned, their designs.
In public school, in the ’60s and ’70s, I still had the power to choose how I spent much of my time:
- Assignments were finite and do-able.
- The effort required matched the time, that a child had to devote to it.
- All subjects had value.
- There was no single test, that pretended to grade your entire school experience.
- The SAT and ACT indicated whether you were ready for college, nothing more. They did not, like some modern exit exams, prevent you from graduating high school.
Beating the Competition
I am not advocating that all learning necessarily be self-directed. Much of a student’s learning will inevitably be more structured, more rigorous, more “by the book.”
But let’s not, in the name of some race for world-domination, place inordinate value on certain subjects, only to exclude others, as being “unworthy” of inclusion in an proper education. Art, Music, Cooking, or some strange phenomenon in outer space, that excites and obsesses our child, shouldn’t be eschewed, just because it’s not on today’s lesson plan.
Likewise, let’s not shame and humiliate certain sectors of the student population, or certain types of learners, just because their interests, or current levels of performance in a subject, or methods of learning, carry them far from the mainstream. Let us not reserve the prospect, of a fulfilling education, to those who score above 1300 on the SAT, or make the Dean’s List.
I am a parent of a young man with a disability that affects learning. As such, I have seen, how a school’s pursuit of “fairness”–that is, measuring all students, by one rigid yardstick– can result, in the loud-and-clear message, that some students have more value than others. I don’t know about you, but this rubs me the wrong way.
Children are learners. All of them. All the time. We should cherish and celebrate and enable them, in their pursuit of knowledge. Not beat them, with the yardstick of unfair comparison.
Whose Time is It?
Much is made of “choice” in education these days. But when I talk of choice, I am not talking about the ability to choose, which building you enter into, to further your education. I’m talking about being willing, at least occasionally, to relinquish control of a student’s time to the student, him- or herself. To allow that student to choose exactly what to do with it.
It is interesting, how we, as parents and teachers, often think of our children’s time, as our own. As if time belonged only to adults. Deep at the heart of this attitude, lies the assumption, that our children will outlive us. Their repression, now, has no significance, compared to the years and years of freedom that lie ahead of them.
We overlook the fact, that children, too, are mortal. Right now, in childhood, they potentially have more freedom of body and mind, more time and imagination, than their adult selves ever will have, shackled, as they will be, with jobs and family responsibilities.
Free time is a precious resource. As a teenager, I remember being able to sit and read a book of my own choosing, draw, go for a bike ride, or just do nothing. There was time for that. Even after the homework was done.
My husband had leisure time, too. He built bikes for fun, or took apart clocks. Each of us, in our own way, pursued our interests. And these ventures paved the way to our later vocations.
So many kids today seem not to have that kind of unstructured time.
Allowing Time for Random Learning
How can a generation ever find its way, if its members have no time to think? If they experience the stress of middle age, as children and adolescents? How will they ever find their way?
Kids need time that is their own. Time to think and breathe and work on who they are.
Time for random learning.
If we give them time and space to learn, and guide them along, they will learn. Maybe not everything. Maybe not in the “right” order. Maybe not enough to satisfy us. Maybe too much of things we consider frivolous, or useless. But enough for them to satisfy their curiosity, and to work the muscles of learning, and to clear a path for whatever lies ahead.
For Random Learning Comes. And we must be sure to welcome it.
Please browse the other posts on my blog, For Random Learning Comes