I have always had a love affair with learning and exploring the world around me. I believe this is what led me to read the book Love in a Time of Homeschooling as well as having neighbors who home school with children who sincerely enjoy it. To me learning is an experience we should have every day. Each day should be a quest to find something new that excites us and breeds enthusiasm for living on this planet. When we truly look at life as a learning and creating process rather than a consumer experience, it’s amazing how rich and colorful it can be without having to shell out tons of money to feel alive through purchasing experiences. Now, don’t get me wrong I love a trip to the Caribbean as much as anyone else. Yet, learning can be a way to interject daily fun that engenders continuous adventure into our lives.
In the book Love in a Time of Homeschooling, Laura Brodie takes her daughter out of school at the age of ten for one year. She does this because her child, Julia, is struggling with boredom, an overabundance of homework and overall lack of stimulation at her public school. Laura, Julia’s mother, is a college English professor who sets out on a journey to create the love of literature and academia in her daughter. Starting out as a home school teacher she has visions of her daughter and her connecting on the classics at coffee shops and perusing local museums, both enthralled in soaking in the history and rich perspective. Soon she finds that her daughter really isn’t interested in the learning process, hence the struggles at school and need to identify a different approach to digesting educational information.
Slowly Laura identifies Julia’s true interests: nature, dinosaurs and fantasy books. They ignite Julia’s ability to write and research topics, given that they connect to her individualism. As a social mother always intrigued by human nature, Laura finds it unusual that Julia has little interest in studying history or writing about human behavior and dynamics. Yet, she learns to appreciate Julia’s learning style and curtail her work to her interests, while exposing her to new things along the way, pushing her beyond her comfort zone and enabling her to find new interests. During their time together they visit a variety of museums in Virginia, attend coffee shops to see live bands and learn about jazz and take knitting classes to understand the basics and have fun picking out fabrics. They also run into roadblocks such as Julia’s resistance to studying French and practicing the violin for an hour a day. Finding ways to meet in the middle of meeting educational goals, but also finding time room to explore, defines Laura and Julia’s journey in their year of home schooling.
Laura questions herself many times along the way, always wondering if she isn’t doing enough or if she is pushing too hard. However, at the end of her experience she reflects back and realizes how powerful it has been in that the experience has yielded a “learning family.” In this she means, a family that uses each experience to take something new away from it, to question assumptions, to understand why things are the way they are and to always be excited about pursuing new adventures to delve into. Laura exemplifies this by sharing her family’s learning experience on their three week trip out west during the summer and how she approaches educating her children in a new way through gradual fact and concept integration as well as letting them be kids, playing and interacting with new environments.
In reflecting on this book, I loved how Laura shared the trials and breakthroughs parents discover while teaching their children. Moreover, the discovery of how different the needs of adults and children are. As adults we always look for the overall goal and output of an activity and as children we seek the experience and adventure in each endeavor. Learning to balance a learning experience to have discipline and exploration isn’t easy, but it’s powerful if parents can get it right. As an adult and perhaps a potential mother one day, I want to ensure that I am always pushing the boundaries of what my family and I know.
As we learn more about the world, ourselves, nature etc. we not only introduce excitement, we also enable greater self sufficiency and understanding of the meaning of our lives. Without extending the barriers of the known, you may never understand life in all its glory and you may repeat the same mistakes as the people who walked this earth before you. This week pick up a new book, explore a new place to travel to or learn how to make your food taste better with the right mix of spices. Whatever you do, push the needle, focus and see what wonderful things can happen!