I am a student by nature. Listening, reading, writing–these are all things that come to me naturally and that I enjoy. I happen to be one of the lucky few whose brains work exactly the way the public school system prefers. My study habits are almost impeccable. It took me years to learn all of that.
I’m surrounded by people in school right now. 4 of my 5 siblings (plus some spouses, thrown in for good measure) are in school, my husband is in school, my best friend teaches school (and she’s about to return for a master’s), and … I miss it.
I find myself eying DB’s pile of projects and notes with envy. I read Facebook updates about final projects and exams and wonder how I would do taking those same tests.
For a short while, I toyed with the idea of returning to school myself this fall, or possibly the spring after. I soon discarded the idea as selfish since (for the moment) all it would do is put an additional strain on our time and finances without any appreciable improvement of our lives.
And then it occurred to me: Why do I have to be in school, anyway?
Now, it is a fact of life that American children often leave school under the impression that “real learning” can only happen in school. They are not taught to learn on their own; in fact, they learn that learning is a chore to be avoided unless it’s going to get your a tangible “something” (think pay raise) in return. We feel as though here’s something magical about classrooms and we won’t be able to “really learn” under any other circumstances.
This is true, to a certain extent. A community of learners guided by a leader with more experience provides opportunity for growth that doesn’t occur in any other way.
But why should that always have to happen in a classroom?
For that matter, why shouldn’t I be able to learn without that ideal setting?
I almost believed what I had accidentally learned in school. I almost didn’t think beyond the possibility of guided learning. I almost told myself that I would just have to wait to learn until DB was established and we could really afford to send me back to school.
But then it occurred to me: There’s nothing wrong with my brain. I have access to several libraries, both physical and virtual. Failing that, there’s always Amazon.com for books. Why shouldn’t my learning outside of the classroom be just as valid, even if there wasn’t a shiny piece of paper waiting at the end?
I was studying to be a teacher, anyway, so why shouldn’t I teach myself?
Of course, the hardest thing about this project will be the discipline required. That’s where I might trip and fall. My motivation at school was always out-doing others in order to impress my teachers (I know: Pathetic, right?). I never missed a deadline. I never failed a test (okay, except that one spelling test in fifth grade–I swear, Ms. Cohn, it’ll never happen again!). What will I do without someone else’s schedule and criteria to meet?
Short answer: I have no idea.
But I have a thirst to learn that I don’t plan on waiting to sate. Now is as good a time as any. Starting May 1st, school will be in. My first two courses will be biology and music history. At the same time, I plan to have an ongoing literature study, finishing at least one book every month or six weeks and producing at least a short, slightly thoughtful paper on it. And hey, any suggestions for good books, fiction or non, to go with literature, biology, or music history are more than welcome! And you are more than welcome to join me in my little experiment–find a subject. Buy a book. Learn something.
Do it for yourself, not for the grade.
Learning didn’t end with school. School is just a springboard–a place to acquire skills to help guide your learning for the rest of your life. Graduation wasn’t finishing; it was moving on to the next level. And I’m ready to keep on going.