I have an expressive, energetic, passionate and entrepreneurial oldest child. In his younger years we tried, desperately, to teach him what we thought he should know. To teach him what schools were teaching children of similar ages within their 4, cinder block, walls. Even then he had his own ideas on what he wanted to learn and what he was passionate about. I only wish I wasn’t so stubborn to see it earlier.
He learned so quickly and thoroughly, on the topics he found interesting. And he struggled with even trying to learn the things he didn’t. But don’t we all learn that way? Learn when we are motivated by the subject or motivated by the product of the learning? I think if we really think about it I think we would realize that we enjoy learning and that we retain much more of what we are interested in. And he was no different.
We pushed reading on him, and writing. We made him sit down and do worksheets. Which, when he finally succumbed to doing them could fly through them without a problem. It wasn’t that he couldn’t learn. In fact, he learned everything amazingly quickly, once he decided to do it. He loved science. But not the book stuff, the work sheets, the organized lessons. He truly loved science. He loved animals. SO MANY ANIMALS. That was, and still is, his passion. I have had teachers (we did one year in a Waldorf Homeschool Co-op) who told me that his genius was in nature and animals. That is his passion. I have had friends say that if they are lost in the woods, he is the kid they want to be lost with. He can fish,hunt and knows what plants are edible in our Northwest woods. He can start a fire and navigate with the best of them.
Did he learn to read, write and take tests? Did he learn math? History? Sociology? Science? He sure did. And he continued to learn even when we decided to start unschooling and toss the curriculum, the worksheets and the stress. Not that it really matters but, he scored great in his annual assessment. Above average in almost every subject. He really excelled in science. His passion.
This child of mine has never taken a test seriously, including his recent assessment. And yes, I know that it is not very unschooly of me but I am still deschooling myself I guess, so give me some grace. I don’t plan on doing test assessments next year. But I digress…This self motivated, energetic, expressive, passionate child of mine recently decided to get a certification in a course that he has been eager to take. He sat, quietly, as he read through 15 pages of content and took a test at the end. According to my husband it was a tricky test that required a real grasp of reading comprehension and understanding. (This kid, seriously, states that he hates reading…no matter how many books I strew all over the house!) How did he do? Perfect score. Because it was meaningful and because it was important to him.
That was the most encouraging and eye opening thing for me. Much more than his “above average” scores on his assessment. It was my validation that indeed, if children find value and meaning in what they are doing. If they have goals, self-acquired, goals. They will excel. They will learn. And they will succeed.
I am sorry that I tried to force education on my oldest son. I hope that I didn’t do too much harm. And I really hope, that someday, he will say he loves reading. Or at least I hope he someday realizes that he at least likes it.