I just finished reading "For the Children's Sake: Foundations of education for home and school", by Susan Schaeffer Macauley. This short book is full to burst with ideas on how to lift "schooling" up from the miserable place it often occupies today, and turn it into something truly meaningful, fun, creative, enjoyable... and, well, educative. Eliminate the drudgery and make children's eyes sparkle as they explore the world around them with infinite curiosity, as they partake in all the rich goodness of true education - in the form of good books, music, nature, crafts, and real relationships in real life. Life, in itself, is the best teacher of all.
The author quotes extensively from Charlotte Mason's work, which I am yet to become familiar with. I feel more prepared now to tackle the 6 volumes of "The Original Home Schooling Series".
As a child, while my peers dreamed of becoming famous actresses or space explorers, I wanted to become a teacher. However, before long I became discouraged. A shy and quiet person, I knew I could never handle the pandemonium of forty children cooped up in the same room during many hours. I couldn't force-feed dry extracts of information to dull-eyes teenagers.
I didn't enjoy my lessons, either. I was a quick child, so I would simply try to be done with "school" as soon as possible - so that I could go home or to the library and pull a few good books from the shelf. I curled up for many hours with short biographies of famous men in history, breathless with attention. At my leisure, I would browse pictures of animals and art work reproductions. I read books by foreign authors, and without meaning to, I learned more about geography and culture in other countries than what school ever managed to teach me. When I got tired of reading I would roll in the grass and then lie flat on my stomach and watch ants carry crumbs and leaves to their underground cities, forming busy highways.
Looking back, it's amazing to see how little of the boring, crammed school material stayed in my head after exams were over - and how much I learned during my leisure time, seemingly without effort, which remains with me until today and hopefully will remain always. Why, I wonder, does life need to be divided into tiny cubicles and spoon-fed to children, thus underestimating their ability of creative thinking, of wonder and excitement at the abundance life has to offer? Why can't we have less memorizing and homework, and more close, personal touch with what will actually stay in our memory - real life?
Quoting from "For the Children's Sake":
"Some people today are ignorant of how well all of this can work. They have perhaps never witnessed the concentration and pleasure of children who are listening to a good book being read aloud. They do not know about the unique atmosphere that exists when children are absorbed in creative activities, including self-motivated play; they do not know about the atmosphere present when there are good, human relationships: where there is respect, trust, order, and time for individuality and work. Some do not even know about the atmosphere of love."
Sadly, it is true.
My passion for teaching, however, remained bubbling under the surface. I loved to tell and explain about things I knew, and could patiently study for hours with a classmate who didn't understand the material. When I was a highschool student, I was asked to tutor a child in English. She was recovering from surgery and didn't go to school for the time being. It was then that I fully realized the following: when you aren't in an overcrowded class, and you have patience, there's all the time in the world: time to talk and listen, time to explain and pepper up your point with interesting examples. There is time to learn.
In the following years, I had the privilege to get to know children of all ages, from toddlers to teenagers. I saw what a challenge it was to try and build a bridge, however thin and rickety, between homework and real life. Just one example: in a science book for 10-th grade, it was stated that as temperature rises, solid turns to liquid and then liquid becomes gas. The children didn't understand, because no one thought to give them an astoundingly simple, real-life example: ice melts into water, and water turns into vapor.
I also got to know the pleasure of playing monopoly with a child, of painting and drawing together, and making elaborate constructions out of playdough. I witnessed children's joy at exploring the outdoors and of seeing anything new and unexpected: an unfamiliar plant, a sand dune, a little wild animal. I grew up without siblings or younger cousins, and now learned how creative, intelligent, funny, sensitive and original children truly are. Even more than before, I realized what how terribly cruel it is to dull their sharp little minds by blocking access to anything real and leaving only the government-approved, the organized, the progressive and efficient.
My childhood passion for teaching blossomed into the desire to educate my children, to open the doors of beauty and love, freedom and joy, and security in the truth of God Almighty. In time, I prayed for God to bless me with a husband who has a sensitive, tender heart that would be ready to lean towards a small child, read and talk, play and listen. All of this I see in the man who eventually won my hand in marriage.
If the Lord sends us children, I don't want them to suffer the sad fate of modern childhood: unncesessary limitations in learning, and no boundaries at all beside that. I would like our children to grow up knowing love, freedom, joy, creativity, excitement and discovery - but also respect, honor, and duty. I want our children to spend hours watching butterflies, building camps, and exploring the wonders of our surroundings - and also know that elders should be respected, parents obeyed, and God looked upon as the ultimate authority.
"Education is an adventure," - says Susan Schaeffer Macaulay - "it's about people, children, life, reality!"
Education is also a journey. A journey that starts the moment a child is born, and never ends. Isn't it exciting?