By Shari Maser, Off-Campus Program Advisor
Quotes make me think. They distill ideas down to their essence, raise questions, and inspire me to go out and learn more to build my own understanding of a topic or interest area. When it comes to learning, a number of education writers and philosophers come to mind whose insights have challenged the conventional ideas of education and school. Let me share a few of their quotes with you now; you’ll see how powerful just a few words can be.
“Were a place and a time really necessary to learn?” This is the simple question that drove Clara Bellar to film the soon-to-be-released documentary Being and Becoming: What If We Chose Not to School Our Children? (Watch the trailer.) It’s a good question, and it raises a number of others for families considering the alternatives to traditional school: What is learning, and when, where, why, and how does learning happen? Do kids need an institutional building, a cohort of age-identical peers, and a standardized curriculum and pace in order to learn effectively and joyfully?
Linda Aronson, author of Unleashed to Learn, advises, “Students should never be cloistered in schools. They should be visible, active members in their community.” In this way, they can connect with the real world and maintain their internal curiosity and drive to learn. Or, perhaps Elizabeth Foss, author of Real Learning: Education in the Heart of the Home, puts it best: “When the atmosphere encourages learning, the learning is inevitable.”
Education pioneer Maria Montessori maintained that “the education of even a small child…does not aim at preparing him for school, but for life.” Thus, it follows that learning and life are inextricably intertwined, an idea that was echoed by John Holt, who wrote extensively about homeschooling and unschooling. “A child has no stronger desire than to make sense of the world, to move freely in it, to do the things that he sees bigger people doing,” noted Holt in How Children Learn.
As parents, we can see firsthand that the motivation to learn is innate, particularly when our children are young. So, how can we nurture learning in a way that harnesses each child’s natural motivation to learn? Holt says, first and foremost, we must “trust children. Nothing could be more simple, or more difficult. Difficult because to trust children we must first learn to trust ourselves, and most of us were taught as children that we could not be trusted.” No one said this was going to be easy!
Naomi Aldort, author of Raising Our Children, Raising Ourselves, succinctly captures this crucial responsibility in a way that many parents will want to remember. She writes, “We don’t water a flower if it blooms; we water it so it will bloom.” Ultimately, we must give our children our fullest compassion, respect, and trust; then, follow their lead as they naturally pursue their passions, curiosities, interests, and goals.
What are your favorite quotes about education, and what insights do they offer about the “who, what, when, where, why, and how” of learning?