The other day a friend posted a picture of her daughter on the first day of kindergarten. Her face was all lit up, and she just oozed excitement at what the day was to bring. As I looked at her shining eyes, I found myself pondering the multitude of kids I have seen, known, or worked with over the years who have lost that joy.
Where does it go? That thirst for knowledge. That thrill to learn. That innate curiosity that leads to constant questions. What does our education system do that turns the exuberance of kindergartners into the drudging learners of just a few short months or years later?
These are questions that I, and most educators, have pondered over the years. Ten years ago, I began homeschooling with the naive hope that that would solve the problem. I mean, if the problem was the drudgery of public school, then taking them out of public school would be all that was needed, right?!?
That lasted about 42 minutes.
I will be honest. I didn’t actually time it, but 42 minutes sounds about right. 40 minutes to do all the fun stuff like calendar and read aloud. 90 seconds to teach the letter “a” and demonstrate how to write it. 30 seconds for the child to pick up her pencil, give it an attempt, and then throw her pencil down in frustration that her “a” wasn’t perfect.
And. It. Was. On.
Turns out, learning is hard. I mean, it is really, really hard. And I had a choice. I could pack it all up and tell her we would try again when it was easier, or I could teach her to work hard. So I dug in, and we faced the hard stuff head-on.
I will be honest. I questioned my decision. I heard all the voices around me saying she just wasn’t ready, that I was pushing too hard, that she would always hate learning because of me. I questioned my decision so much that when the second one came along and kicked up an even bigger battle, I backed off. Honestly, that is my biggest regret in her education. You see, I knew she was smart. I knew she was ready, and the first thing she learned from me was that quitting was an option. It took us a long time to unlearn that lesson. (Important lesson there – only start the battles that you know they are ready for and that you are ready to fight through with them!)
For years now, I have just focused on teaching them the next things they need to know. I have listened to them moan and groan. I have watched them roll their eyes, slouch in their seats, and stare off into space. I have dealt with tantrums and tears, and I have just assumed that there is no escaping the death of curiosity.
But lately, I have been thinking and watching.
I have been thinking about how I used to worry that they would hate reading because we fought so hard to learn to read. Yet, they are all three passionate readers. If I was wrong about reading, could I be wrong about their curiosity? So I thought some more. I thought about how Gabriella wants to be a cosmetologist, so she has spent numerous hours researching schools and licenses. She even took on an extra elective this year to learn more about it. I thought about Mikayla and her love of science that has her memorizing the periodic table of elements…for fun. I thought about William and his concern for the diet of our resident groundhog (Groundhog’s name is Fatty McLaughalot…because he is fat and makes us laugh a lot) that had him on the Internet the other night researching what groundhogs eat.
And it dawned on me. I almost missed it because their curiosity is just a normal part of our day. Learning is not something they go away to do. It doesn’t just occur in a special building during a set time. It is our life. It is natural and automatic, and it is happening all the time.
So hang in there, Mamma! Fight the battles when you know it is time. Ignore the voices that try to instill doubt. Hard work does pay off. Tears don’t kill curiosity, and I know I’m not the only one ready to cheer you on!
...a self-avowed "Wander Woman," homeschools her three children while traipsing the globe with her Army Chaplain husband. Her third greatest passion, falling below her love for God and family, is empowering other parents to teach their children.