Monday, March 11, 2013

A Special Kind of Learning

When I was in college I was fortunate to take a study abroad trip. We spent six weeks in Florence, Italy and six weeks in Paris, France. During weekends and breaks, we had the opportunity to travel on our own some as well. Our class went to churches, art museums, historical sites and other points of interest. Our professors were there to explain to us the significance of all these wonderful places. I have since traveled on my own and grew to appreciate how fortunate I was to have a tour guide. But more than anything, I learned so much from being there. I still remember what those places smell like, how smooth and cold was the marble, how damp and chilly were the churches, how friendly and relaxed were the Italian people, etc. I remember even then having the realization that this was a really special kind of learning and feeling pretty sure that I would always remember what I learned on that trip. And I believe I have.

I also became aware on this trip that different people approached travel in different ways. There were those who moved quickly from place to place, took their pictures, bought their postcards, checked items off their list and moved on. And there were those that stayed a while, settled into a place, got to know it before moving to their next destination. I did some of both. I can remember what each feels like. I can remember the short weekend trips, rushing to accomplish a lot in our days, hitting the highlights, taking my pictures, buying my postcards, and crashing out early with feet so sore I could barely walk to the bathroom in the middle of the night. Ah, but the places I got to stay and really experience! These feel like old friends to me because I had the time to really get to know them.

All of this came to my mind as I was thinking about parenting and homeschooling. It helped me clarify some priorities:
  1. I want to provide rich experiences for my children so they can enjoy this "special kind of learning" I enjoyed during my study abroad experience. I want us to learn through doing interesting things so that the things we learn are relevant and memorable.
  2. Rather than approaching learning as a long list of items to check off the list, I want to take time to really experience and enjoy each thing we do. I want to keep a sane pace and a simple schedule to hold space for this to happen.

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