Last year, our son and I used a GED prep book for our homeschooling curriculum, focusing on the reading, social studies and science book. In it we read a hodgepodge of excerpts from books and poems and covered a wide variety of facts. He wanted to get a broad background of knowledge that school kids get and we felt this would be a good way to make sure that we didn’t miss anything.
The problem was that it was all excruciatingly boring. It didn’t seem to have any connection to anything else and while perhaps “nice to know,” we had no use for any of it. Even the math, which we started and quickly dropped, seemed more like irrelevant trivia than useful tools. After all, he could already do in his head all the math calculations he needed faster than anyone I know. No, he can’t do algebra, and neither can I anymore, having aced it in school and never had any further use for it since.
At the end of the school year, we decided that we wouldn’t mourn over a year wasted on pursuing someone elses idea of a rounded education, but would just chalk the experience up as a lesson learned. We went back to our serendipitous approach to learning, a method that had worked so well for us in the past.
Now we’re back to reading good literature that piques our interest — The Story of My Life, by Helen Keller right now, Lord of the Flies before that. We stumble across interesting articles in the news magazines, like Space takes its toll, an article about the physiological effects of lack of gravity, “Chinese ‘hacktivists’ spin a Web of trouble” about using the Internet to further the aims of democracy in a country where one could be jailed for such activity or “A blow-by-blow look at impeachment”. We learn about physiology through doctor’s visits for his various skating injuries (3 fractures, many sprains) and through his training regime. We’ve found time to play Scrabble and to listen to self-betterment tapes and to learn carpentry by building a 80 foot long skating ramp in our yard. We are both board members of the Maui Skate Association.
He now has time to work on his journal and his book, both of which he is very involved in. He writes many e-mails to his sponsors and friends who have moved away. And we don’t worry about “falling behind” when we go bodyboarding or hiking or camping.
The funny thing is, all this effortless learning turns out to produce a quite excellent education. We spend a good deal of time around school kids and schooled adults and find that his knowledge and understanding is generally at least as good as theirs, often better. In fact, they have made comments about his vocabulary and knowledge. Not to say that he doesn’t have holes in his education or weak points, but don’t we all? Are we concerned about college? Not particularly. Should the time come when that’s his interest, he’ll pursue that as naturally as he’s pursuing his current interests. The point is that there are so many interesting and useful things to know about and while nobody will ever know but a tiny fraction of them all, we’re glad we’re free to focus on those we choose.