Monday, May 7, 2012

A Son's Challenge

So, my Neil has been in public school for 2.5 years now, and I believe he has truly hated every minute of it. In addition, I'm not sure he's even actually been learning. This, to me, is depressing. But what to do?

I certainly don't have that answer, but it has led me to think extensively about education. What is it? Can it be compelled? How does it differ from schooling?

As I contemplate these and other questions, I have offered my son the following two-part challenge:

1. Think of three things that you want to learn. These do not have to be academic; they need not even involve books or formal research. Perhaps he wants to learn how to drive a stick-shift. Maybe he wants to learn how to make cream puffs. Maybe he wants to learn how to play more than just the guitar intro to Back in Black. For the purposes of this challenge, almost anything goes. I did stipulate that it cannot be illegal, unreasonably dangerous, harmful, or fueled by hate. Beyond that, he is limited only by his imagination.

2. Think of three things that you want to do, to earn, or to accomplish. Again, there is a world of possibility here. I know he wants his driver's licence. Great. Put it on the list. Does he want to go SCUBA diving? Rock climbing? Does he want to dig a root cellar? Fine. List it. I just want him to think about what he really wants to accomplish.

I have now put the challenge forward, but I do not want an immediate response. He still has three more weeks of school, and I will remind him of the challenge frequently during this time. By the end of this month, however, I want him to have developed these two ideas. What does he want to learn? What does he want to do?

And I did not guarantee that I would make these things happen for him. But I will do my best to help him find a way to access the tools he needs to pursue at least one item from each list during the course of the summer.

I want him to know that education, insofar as it includes the pursuit of knowledge that adds to a sense of self and fulfillment, is within his reach.

But he will have to do the reaching on his own.