Friday, July 29, 2011


: the act or experience of one that learns (gains knowledge or understanding of or skill in by study, instruction, or experience)

One day this week as I drove A to her ballet class, we were sitting at a traffic light, each lost in thought.  Then A spoke, "You know, most kids hate it when school starts, but I can't wait."   It was interesting that she was thinking about school because my own thoughts had been on learning and how it makes me feel.  I told her where my thoughts had been and said that the best way I'd come up with to describe it was that learning felt like seeing a beautifully wrapped package - one with thick, patterned paper, ribbons criss-crossing it and an elaborate bow on top - and getting to open it and see what's inside.  The learning is in the unwrapping of the pack and the gift inside is the knowledge - but that kind of learning really only came to me later in my life - probably high school or college.

The other metaphor that I've long held in my mind about learning is that it was like having someone pull back a curtain so that I could see what was there.  I'd nod and remember it.  I say "remember" even though I hadn't learned it before.  This is how learning felt in elementary, middle and most of high school.  I felt like the knowledge was already there inside me, I just needed someone to show me it by teaching me.  This kind of learning felt more passive than opening the gift - but there was a similar thrill in seeing what was behind the curtain and what's in the gift box.

After sharing my thoughts with her, A immediately jumped in.  "I think of it more like a video game."  A video game? I thought.  But then she continued, "What I learn gets me to the next level.  So every thing I learn gets me a point and I move from level to level."  That was interesting.  A plays on the computer and the Wii less than her sisters, so her game metaphor surprised me a bit, but I thought it gave me some insight into how she feels and experiences learning.

Later that same day, I asked B about it.  I told her my metaphors and asked whether she wanted to hear A's first or tell me her own.  "You can tell me A's."  She listened and with no hesitation offered her own metaphor, "I feel more like I'm at an excavation, digging down and finding more and more things. I keep digging so that I keep finding things."

I loved hearing my daughters' thoughts on learning, in part because they each knew exactly how to describe it.  There was no searching for words, no stopping to think.  There was instant response and immediate recognition of what learning feels like to them.  Their metaphors show their natural bent toward learning - A's approach is a bit more utilitarian, B's a bit more exploratory.

As he often does, J surprised and challenged me a bit when I asked him about it.  He didn't really want to discuss this at first, since I brought it up as we were climbing into bed for the night.  Yet he took the time to explain that, for him, learning is both internal and external.  It's about what he's taking in, but also about how it makes the person sharing the information feel.  He talked about seeing someone become more animated and passionate as they talked about something they know.  In short, learning is a way to connect with other people.

What does learning feel like for you?  Is it like slogging through a wet snow with your feet getting heavier with each step?  Or like laying in the grass and feeling the sun on your face?  Or like making your way into a deep cave, shining your flashlight and seeing the ceiling adorned with the most beautiful gems and jewels?  (A friend's metaphor, that last one.)

I sometimes miss college.  I don't miss the social aspects - the pressure to dress just right, the parties, the living in close proximity to large numbers of people.   But I do miss opening those gifts of learning.  For me, this is part of the blessing of homeschooling.  I get to be a part of seeing A earn her points and B excavate her treasures.  And I get to open a few packages of my own that I missed along my own path of learning.


Troop983 said...

Reading this post I see again what I already saw in your heart long ago as you had your girls play on the giant map at the bicentennial. And when I watched you passion for studying God's word in Bible Study. And why I was excited to see you enter the world of more full-time learning with A and B (note: I KNOW you were always learning and experiencing together, just seems like to got to break open some new areas together this last year). Before I was the teacher, I was a reluctant, fearful student. To learn something new was the potential to fail or to be bored. What are the pictures called with many lines and colors and you're supposed to see the picture after you stare at it for a while? Learning is like that picture. Before I only saw the intimidating lines, maybe I didn't even look for the picture, I just called it "dumb" and turned away so I wouldn't fail. Now when we study birds, the ocean and crust of the earth, the characters of history, the word of God-my view of the world takes on a new clarity, revealing it's uniqueness, revealing glory. Now I don't mind looking. I know I'm going to see something worth taking the time, worth taking the chance. ( I'm going to ask the girls the metaphor question, I'll let you know the results...)

Troop983 said...

ahhh, that's me-aimee. not troop 983.