I recently sat through a six hour adult education class to learn about Adobe Photoshop. I went into the class with a thirst for knowledge, a ton of excitement, ready to learn. It was a strange and unfamiliar feeling. Years of school left me bored in class, simply doing the minimum to get my A’s and B’s, memorizing enough to take the tests well, and then forgetting everything I learned. It was frustrating. I wanted to learn so much, but just not anything they were teaching in those classes!
My husband is the total opposite of me. He wants to learn everything. Everywhere we go, he is reading the educational signs, the news clips, trying to figure out how something works. If he has a question, he looks it up and reads about it until he understands it. I admire this in him, and I want for us to pass that trait on to our boys. He had his own reasons for disliking school – the busy work, the repetitive homework, the waiting around for other kids to understand concepts he was already familiar with. He was one of the smart ones with his own way of learning. In college we took the same lecture classes. We sat side by side. I took notes. He just sat and listened and soaked it in. I studied for the tests. He didn’t. And he always got better grades than me.
I never had that thirst for knowledge in school. I didn’t care about history. It bored me to death. I hated math. I didn’t understand why we couldn’t just use our calculators. Social studies was not interesting because I just couldn’t, and didn’t know how to relate to other cultures. Science made me squeamish – unless I was doing a fun science fair project with my dad’s petre dishes. And Geology? Ugh. Boring. Mostly, I really didn’t like people telling me what I had to read, learn, and do.
What I did like? Reading. I LOVED reading. Writing, yes! Bring on the book reports and essays. Animals. Crafts, like beading and braiding, pottery, and sewing. Music. And imagining. I had a whole world of imagination in my head. I had dreams of being so many different things. But sitting in a classroom, having to learn at the same pace as 30 other kids, waiting for the teacher to answer everyone’s questions, being to shy to ask my own questions, just wanting to feel smart and not be called upon. It was not fun for me.
And then there was recess. Being forced to run a mile, play dodge ball and volleyball when my sides ached. Watching the mean girls pick on my overweight friend, running after her, unsure of what to say to make her stop crying and feel better. Being afraid of my teachers. Of having my name written on the board for doing something incorrectly. It was not a positive experience. It was downright painful.
Growing up is hard. Being a kid is hard. Fitting in can be painful. And being an individual takes endless confidence.
Please don’t get me wrong – there were MANY positive experiences in my school years – from field trips to special projects, searching for four leaf clovers during recess, lifelong friendships made, special teachers who just “got” me and inspired me to work harder, learn, and grow. The confidence I gained in my music classes, the sense of teamwork during competitions and concerts, the crushes on cute older boys, the clubs and committees I joined. Class parties, school dances, ASB, yearbooks, and more. I have many, many good memories.
I sometimes just wonder how smart I would be, how full of knowledge I would be, if I had actually had the desire to learn anything and everything beyond those things I was interested in, every bit of information that was taught in my 17 years of education. If I wasn’t simply trying to pass a test and get a letter grade. If I actually really wanted to understand the information as it applied to me, my life, my heritage, my future, and the world I live in.
Was there anything I could have done differently? I don’t know. I don’t know what or why or how I went down the path I did. Whether it was my shyness, my insecurities, or my desire to be perfect and please everyone, I don’t know. Was it the way my teachers taught those subjects? The way the information was presented? Who knows, and I don’t want to psychoanalyze my past. I’m not blaming my education. I’m not blaming my parents choices. I am not blaming anyone, and I have absolutely no regrets. My experiences have simply sparked an interest in alternative education for the future and for my kids.
I honestly believe that if we allow our kids to lead, with our guidance, their educational path, that they will stay interested and love to learn. That is my hope, and goal for our family, whether we home school or not. I hope that our boys will have the thirst for knowledge that I found myself lacking, and a solid understanding of the world around them.