What were your moments, growing up where you experienced deep learning? Was it a speech you gave? Was it an away trip or camp you attended? Was it a super-fun class project? Was it a book you read that plunged you into a situation very different from your own?
How many moments like these did you have growing up? One, two, a lot? How old were you?
I cannot say how vital these moments of true learning are. And—it’s especially important homeschool parents remember and reflect moments of true learning.
Schooling Our Own Children
These are the moments that HOPEFULLY we as homeschool parents can cultivate for our own children. We are not bounded by the full-time requirements of a traditional school. With careful thought, we can foster spaces such as these for our kids.
In this article — I would like to describe a moment like this I had growing up, in hopes that it will prove a meaningful illustration of the mystery of education, and true learning.
Deep, Organic Learning
When I was in the 2nd grade, I went with my class on a field trip to Marineland, in Los Angeles. At the time, they had some orcas, a pygmy sperm whale, and dolphins. I remember watching the show from the bleachers with the orcas performing tricks, touching balls, etc. After the show, my class went down to see the viewing window below the surface in that tank. I remember watching these marvelous black and white whales under water. Experiencing them swim around in the deep blue water was awe-inspiring and completely frightening. I was petrified, under the deep with the top of the food chain. I felt so small. To think that there were animals such as these naturally swimming in the waters was incomprehensible. And I do not think anyone around me knew about this moment I experienced. I did not say a thing.
Parents Guiding Children’s Passions
I must have been curious though, and perhaps after the field trip I said something. My mom, who was very good at guiding my passions, indulged and applauded me for loving these animals. She bought me books about ocean mammals, and took me whale watching almost every year. During upper elementary school, I even attended the American Cetacean Society monthly member meetings in Santa Monica with my mom. They sponsored a contest soliciting a name for their newsletter; my entry The Whale Tale, won the contest!
The reason why we search for what we lost in childhood is that we’re still children.– Jeff Coleman, “How Can I Rediscover the Magic of Childhood?”
All of this curiosity started with a private moment with these whales and I. No one asked me reading comprehension questions. I did not write an essay. I did not do a project. I had a private emotional experience where I was drawn in by these amazing living creatures.
In short, learning benefits from reflection. This type of reflection requires a moment of calm. Maybe we’re quietly writing an essay in a corner — or talking to ourselves as we’re in the shower. But it usually takes a bit of cognitive quiet, a moment of silent introspection, for us to engage in any sort of focused deliberation.– Ulrich Boser, “Learning Is a Learned Behavior. Here’s How to Get Better at It.”
For my mother, I think something about my curiosity inspired her. A number of years ago, a blue whale washed up in San Pedro. What was my mother’s response? Go down there and obtain blubber and baleen to show her gifted students for her oceanography classes. Curiosity IS infectious!
Longevity of Organic Learning
I remember this trip often now — as my mother has since passed away; one of my prized possessions is that very — piece of blue whale baleen. Out of all of my mother’s natural “collectables,” this one is relished by me.
Fast forward 36 years, and I started reading books about whales and painting these amazing creatures. I am not sure why I began recently painting them; I do not even understand my paintings. (Which is so strange for me, as I always have to figure out everything in life! I am a thinker and a strategizer.) I have found it’s best not to question, not to judge, but just to go with it!
The older I get, the more I realize that true passion comes from this “inner child.” This is the place true creativity stems from.
More on the Magic of Learning
See these articles for more on the mystery of learning.
And, if your children love animals, check out our Earth Party! Curriculum. This curriculum provides a deep basis on the variety of forms of life.
A note on Marineland: While my favorite place to see animals is in their natural environment, I acknowledge that many people have had deep experiences with animals in human-curated environments. Yes, it would be great if I could have had that experience in the wild. But, I am just grateful that I did connect with whales when I did. See this article about Anne Innis Dagg for a story about a life changing experience by a visit to a zoo.