“I was in my twenties when I began to look for a child’s lost desire to learn. It seemed to me that if we could keep this desire alive through childhood and into adult life, we would release a force more precious and more powerful for good than any other physical force the scientists ever discovered for mankind’s use.” — Caroline Pratt (early 1900’s)
It’s the feeling of this quote that has sent me onto an endless education adventure in my life. I remember sitting in classes during my undergraduate days when teachers would lecture about how to motivate students in the classroom, how to “get them interested” in learning, how to engage them and keep them on task. I was perplexed by all of this education speak, for it had not been my experience as a camp counselor or in my support of my mother’s daycare work, or even in my own learning (outside of school). Similarly, my experience with Lavinia over four years has demonstrated so strongly our innate drive to understand the world around us, to learn the adult ways, to absorb the vocabulary and skills that will enable us to do more and contribute more in the land of adults and adult things.
My conclusion after years of my own compulsory schooling, years of observing teachers (good meaning, often incredible humans by the way), years of teaching myself, and tons of reading on my own, is that our system of schooling stifles, squelches, and in some cases destroys our own systems of intrinsic learning. Our own interests and questions are superseded by those of well meaning adults intent on preparing us for success and achievement and growth and “normal development”. Given the realities of what to me seems to be a most impenetrable institution and one that is not easily redesigned and restructured, I’ve set out on my own path of supporting and creating alternatives.
I feel grateful to have had the opportunity to immerse myself in some very inspiring progressive education alternatives over the years; from Shackleton School in Massachusetts, an expedition-based high school; to Not-Back-to-School Camp, a nationwide community of homeschoolers and unschoolers; to my work with outdoor schools and youth corps programs across the country; I’ve seen the power and “physical force” of young people when they are supported in pursuing their own innate desires and passions. I’m so excited to be part of the Queen City HomeSchool Collective and to be actively engaged in helping to create an inspiring community where young people can be supported in pursuing their own passions and where I can assist in nurturing children’s own innate desire to learn.
If you’ve read this far, perhaps you may be interested in joining my reading group. It hasn’t started yet, but I want to start re-reading the writings of John Holt, Caroline Pratt, George Dennison, John Taylor Gatto, and so many more that have shaped my philosophy of education. I also want to share this love of learning and children so that others can more thoroughly understand and trust in the innate learning of children. If you’re interested, send me a message or an email, firstname.lastname@example.org. I think our first book is going to be “How Children Learn”, by my lifetime educational mentor, John Holt.