Why learning should be experience based…

20141003_135341I’ve always believed that people in general learn best through experience.  This was obviously confirmed when I read study after study during my master’s degree work about the way children learn.  So then why do we place learning in a “box”?  Why do we assume that the best way to learn is sitting in a classroom with 25 other kids the same age staring at a chalkboard all day long?  Now, I understand some people may learn this way, but I’ve come to believe that experiential learning is by far the more superior of the two.

The perfect example came today during a not-so-exciting moment of homeschooling.  Ok, teachers, let’s admit – not every moment of teaching is some “AMAZING” mind-blowing lesson.  So, there I was, trying to get my just-turned 7-year-old to read about the amazing world of plants.  The conversation went a little bit something like this;

Him: “Mom, I HATE school.”

Me:  “I know, you’ve told me that a million times, ever since you started preschool”

Him:  “So why do you still make me do this stuff if you know I hate it??!??!?!?!?!”

Me:  “Because it is good for you.  You need to get an education to get a job someday.”

Him: “UGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHGGGGGHHH!  That’s what you always say.  But this is so B.O.R.I.N.G!!!”

Me: “UGHHHGHGUHGUUUUUUUUUUGGGHH!  Will you just read???”

The conversation continued…but you get the point.  Now, I must go back and tell you that my son has ALWAYS hated school.  Since the moment he stepped foot back in the car after the first day of preschool he looked at me and said, “That was soooooo boring.”  And the hate-affair continued, and continues, and continues…no matter what type of school, (He’s been in private and homeschool).  He hates it all.  Now, I have to say, I feel bad for the kid.  I mean, his mom is a former teacher, her bachelor degree is in Elementary Education, her master’s degree is in School Administration, and she L.O.V.E.D school!  So, you can see that God knew exactly what he was doing when he paired this mom and this kid together.  (gulp).  But the funny thing is, God DID know what he was doing!  He ALWAYS knows what he is doing.  So here I am, the mom of a kid who “hates” school, when I so much “LOVE” school.  Or at least I thought I did.  That’s when it hit me…I never “LOVED” school, I “LOVED” learning!!  That’s the difference.

Maybe, just maybe, if I could tap into the “learning” aspect of school and not the “schooling” I could reach this dear child of mine.  (Ok, but by the end of the day I’m not exactly calling him ‘dear’ anymore…but I’m working on my frustration too..LOL).

So as I’m trying to put the pieces together and figure this all out I started thinking.  I didn’t understand why he hated everything so much…this kid is SOOOOO smart!!?!!  I mean, he amazes me sometimes with his intelligence (As does my oldest son, but I’ll write more about his journey another time).  So why then, would someone with so much potential, so much intelligence, hate everything to do with learning and expanding that potential?  Then it hit me:  He needed to EXPERIMENT, he needed to TRY something with his hands!!  He needed to watch and observe – enjoy and create!!  Learning wasn’t about how many books he read, or how many sentences he wrote, it was about DOING.  Learning is about BECOMING a better you.  Learning was about exploring God’s world, and about using our talents for Him.  So…I decided to change things up a bit.  If we were going to learn about the amazing plant world, we were going to GO and EXPLORE the amazing plant world.  So, we took a trip outside…and may I say…my son didn’t “HATE” it…he “LOVED” it.  Here he is exploring the amazing plant world..

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Look at that face.  And here’s what he learned as we talked about plants, outside, where he could feel, touch, and see them…

“And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth; and it was so.”  Genesis 1:11

Without plants, you could not live.  Without plants, there could be no life at all!  Did you know that plants are responsible for all our food?  Even the bacon and eggs you had for breakfast!  Bacon comes from pigs and pigs eat plants to help them grow.  Eggs come from chickens and they eat grain and insects.  Grain is a plant.  Insects eat plants too.  ALL living things depend on plants.  What an amazing plant world God’ has planned for us!  How perfectly God crafted each plant to do a job to help us live.

Guess what?? …..He learned all this with a smile on his face, and a happy heart.  Not only that, he LOVED it!  He loved every minute of discovering God’s plant creation.  THIS is the way to learn!!  Why then do we place kids in a one-size-fits-all outfit?  Why do we send them to a school where they sit with sometimes 30 (yes that’s how many I had in 2nd grade one year), other children who all want to be out “doing” but are stuck “sitting”?  I ask – Is this learning?  Now, I say this as a former public-school teacher.  And I understand that there are many amazing teachers who are trying their best (I was hopefully one of those).  BUT..they are working in a system that is rigged.  It isn’t working America!

It was sooo awesome as a homeschool mom to be able to just get up and go outside.  Let my kids explore and learn.  This is the way learning was supposed to be.  It wasn’t supposed to put kids in a desk, or TEST them till they can sit up anymore.  (Don’t get me started on testing).  It was supposed to be LIFE.  Learning is LIVING.  We learn from doing.  I have learned SOOOO much living life that I never could have learned in school.  My best learning experiences were in the kitchen with my mom, or the garage with my dad.  My best learning experiences were failing at my attempts to build a snowman, or trying to do my own laundry for the first time.

My husband and I were talking the other night and he was reminiscing about how he learned extensively when he got his first job.  He learned the value of waking up to get to work not just “on time”, but “early.”  He learned to work with other people, and converse with customers.  He learned the value of a dollar.  He also learned how much the government takes of people’s hard-earned money when he saw that first paycheck (and then they waste it to boot…but that’s a different story).  He learned what it meant to live in a free country, where you could work hard and achieve.  After this conversation I began wondering, why don’t we have apprenticeships anymore?  What happened to them?  I remember reading how Benjamin Franklin (one of my favorite founding fathers by the way), was an apprentice to his older brother James.  He learned the printing press, and at the age of 16 was publishing his own articles that proclaimed the value of liberty!  Men were astounded at his writings.  But nowadays, our 16 yr-olds are sitting in a stale high-school classroom listening to some teacher go on and on about the world, instead of experiencing it! Why not let our teen-agers take apprenticeships in real-life jobs??! How great it would be??!!  But instead we tell them they must sit down, take a test, and follow the “system.”  And I know we have “work” programs in high schools, but that’s not what I’m talking about.  I’m talking about real apprenticeships.  Go out – live what you want to be.  Maybe someone can tell me where I’m going wrong.  Maybe you can enlighten me on how our public education system is really meeting the needs of every child.  I’m so tired of hearing that..but press on, tell me how I don’t know what I’m talking about..

I will end with this; I believe we can learn a lot from our history.  In fact, I enjoy American history so much that I am almost always somewhere in the middle of a biography, non-fiction title, or historical fiction book that relates to America.  One of my favorite time periods to read about is the early settlement era – the times of the pilgrims.  The Pilgrims believed that in the child’s early years, the mother was the most important educator.  But as the child grew, the father became the more important figure–from the father they are to learn manners, wisdom, and authority.  I believe too, that learning comes best from our parents.  Now, I know someone is going to say that I’m bashing teachers, and I’m not!!  I dedicated my life thus-far to being a teacher!  And I still dedicate myself every day to being a teacher to my own children.  But I strongly urge parents to invest in the education of their children.  Don’t rely on teachers, no matter how well-intentioned, to bring up your children.  We as a society must believe once again that education is the responsibility of parents.  I’m not saying that EVERY parent should home-school their child.  It’s not right for everyone.  But what I am saying is that EVERY parent should take it as their responsibility to see to the proper education of their children.  That means being involved.  And that means, making learning an experience for your kids.  I’m trying to daily work toward a more experienced-based approach to learning in our home.  I’m trying to teach my kids through life – through daily exploration of God’s world.  And there’s my two cents for the day…

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