Friday, July 20, 2012

Why Do We Learn?

As a homeschooling parent, I often find myself wondering about WHAT we learn, WHY we learn it, and HOW we learn.

Why do I think about these questions in this abstruse or profound way? Because, as the kids and I work our ways through material, have lessons, read and digest information, I find myself wondering just WHAT, exactly, is the goal of education. Is it to be able to regurgitate facts? To be able to buy the best car and home? Is it to make a shit ton of money? It is for glory or fame? Is it for ourselves or our world? Is it to find happiness or efficacy or for practical reasons? For freedom?

I find myself truly questioning what we consider knowledge and education. And my mind changes on this every so often. We learn daily. Our brain is constantly synthesizing, understanding, and discovering. But what about what we purposely set out to learn. Lessons.

I have thought these things through and, maybe, I'm ready to put some of these "answers" down. Remember, this one is a work in progress for me. And I would sincerely appreciate your comments and thoughts.
  • I believe my child's education needs help my child be able to think critically. I want my children to be able to read or ingest information and materials and to sort through those materials and recognize ploys and efforts to ensnare their minds. I want them to recognize reputable sources. I want them to know when they need to know more. And how to find more.
  • I want them to know that learning is an ongoing event in their lives and that they can always learn more whenever they need to. If my child needs to learn how to program a computer, they will finally figure out algebra and formal logic. If they want to speak in a public forum, they will finally appreciate the need for clear writing and speaking. If they want to buy a car or rent an apartment, they will see the need for budgeting, projecting costs, and recognizing their own choices in the matter. If they want to write a play, they will learn the skills necessary for that task.
  • I want them to know that even the most complex problems can be broken down into manageable bits. And how to find help. They must know that their ability to work through difficulties will always benefit them in the end, perseverance is essential. 
  • I want them to be able to look at people and events and figure out their significance and their connections. Seeing how history and geography effect world events.
  • And I want them to know that good choices are within their grasp. 
Do my children have to learn about the American Revolution or Geometry?
Yes, I think they do.  Knowing how things are interconnected and complex is essential.
Science.  Music and all cultural appreciation...

What do you think?


  1. I want them to know it all. I can't teach it all, but I can provide books on various subjects and a library card. My biggest aim is for them to learn how to read and comprehend what they read, I believe once they have that mastered then anything and everything is open for them to learn and absorb. All I have to do is allow them to do it. :)

  2. I agree with each of your points. Our goal as parents and teachers is not to teach them everything...that is an impossibility, but to lead them toward a love for learning and the ability to continue learning long after they are done in school. As the quote says, we're not filling a pail, but lighting a fire. Filling a pail means that at some point it is full...there is no more room for anything else. Lighting the fire of learning will serve not only them, but future generations.

    1. AH! Reminding me of what I used to know!
      Great! LOL

  3. I really like your first point, that people need to learn critical thinking. "Critical" has such a negative connotation, especially for women, and that's so unfortunate. Being able to label nonsense is an incredibly important skill!

    I think what I most want my kids to learn is that they *can* learn, and how to best go about doing that. And to nurture the love of learning. Coming to the end of the home-schooling gig, but I hope I'm a good role-model of ongoing learning through life.

  4. Some great points I have kids from the sporting and arts mold, it's a struggle to get through the academic stuff... But we do and I know it's important to keep their minds active and growing too.

  5. Karen, I posted on my blog about searching for secular high school science and I was recommended to come over here and ask you,

    We aren't happy with the route we took this year - our provincial correspondence program for gr 9.

    You can comment on my blog or here or email me at Sarah.schira at

    1. I wish I had the answers!
      The secular science programs out there are…nil.
      I use textbooks and always have. But science is all around us! Get very eclectic about science. Use the computer (of course), visit university science departments (this is best done if you can get an “in” with someone in the department), go to the astronomy nights hosted by your local astronomy club, attend their meetings, go rock hunting, find a rock club, etc. Just get involved, read about fossils and the human body and taxonomy, and chemistry and everything else.
      In other words, put it together yourself.

      I have been half-heartedly working on a science series of books for homeschoolers Pre-K through high school…

      SORRY. I wish I had a better answer for you. Sadly, secular science materials for homeschoolers pretty much stink.

      My daughter is using a pretty nice Biology textbook/workbook/lab book combo that I put together. We like it. It is by Prentice Hall:


Leave a comment!