“For Random Learning Comes.”
Every homeschooler, every life-long learner, knows this. 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, literally at our fingertips: the Internet, and the many worlds it opens to us.
“Random” is not my favorite word. It’s vague and all-purpose. People start out, looking for a more precise word, but for some reason they give up.
Still, we understand its meaning intuitively. Encountered by accident. Unintended and unsought. The luck of the draw.
Could there be value in things we come upon by chance?
Many of us were brought up to believe the opposite. That education is and should be a deliberate, grueling, torturous process. That such suffering must be endured to achieve a greater good. That we will become stronger, by being bent to another’s will, by aligning even our thoughts to those of a greater, more developed, more organized mind. That this process will transform us. That we are like red hot metal being hammered into steel.
And that like wild horses, we are only of use, if we allow ourselves to be tamed.
We Westerners tend to only value those things 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 things that will make us proud.
But something is lost in a life, when 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 felt like I had a choice. Then, assignments were finite and do-able. The effort required matched the time the average kid 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 prevent you from leaving high school.
What I mean by “having a choice”” is not being able to choose, which building you enter into, to further your education. I mean being able to choose what you do with your time.
It is interesting how we parents and teachers, often consider our children’s time our own. As if time belonged only to adults. An assumption deep at the heart of this attitude is that our children will outlive us. Their repression now has no significance, compared to their years and years of freedom later.
We overlook the fact that children, too, are mortal. And they have more freedom of body and mind, more time and imagination and vigor, right now, than their adult selves, shackled with jobs and family responsibilities, will ever have again, .
I remember, even as a teenager, sitting and reading, and doing nothing. Just musing about life. My husband had leisure time too. He built bikes for fun, and took apart clocks. Each of us, in our own way, pursued our interests. And these ventures paved the way to our later vocations.
How can a generation that has no time to think, and that experiences the stress of middle age at 14 or 15, ever find its way? These kids need time that is their own, time to think and breathe and work on who they are. Time for Random Learning.
For when Random Learning Comes, we must be sure to welcome it and make time for it. Or it will pass us, and our children, by.