“Education is more the lighting of a fire than the filling of a bucket.”
Today we were reading through one of the books we read as a “spine” book for History, Streams of Civilization. As we read about the late 1800s and early 1900s and the rise of Relativism and Materialism, my oldest son became interested in hearing about the behaviorist, B.F. Skinner. He said, “Mom, I want to hear more about that guy.” I answered, off hand, “Well, we can look into that one day.” The day marched on and we engaged with many great ideas, had good discussions, covered a significant amount of material in Math, Lanuage (German), Language Arts, History, Literature and Poetry. Looking over the day as the boys are sleeping in their beds I realized I missed it.
I had a chance to go down the rabbit trail — HIS rabbit trail. He had an interest in an idea and I pushed the interest onto the back burner. Much was great. I’m not minimizing the goodness of our day. I’m just so keenly aware that I want to cross the threshold into a better way.
To light a fire, you need proper conditions. Specifically there must be air, fuel and heat. When we are camping, I like to be the one starting the fire. My husband gives in to this little penchant of mine. The boys gather kindling, bring it to me, we put in dried pine needles and twigs and then I put on larger logs. We light the match, put it to the kindling and wait for a spark. When we see the spark, we gently blow. My boys have learned where to blow to encourage the spark to spread and catch.
Raising children — especially homeschooling — requires encouraging sparks.
Here’s the rub. Fires are never safe. So many of us want the safe way as if that will promise some results we are after. If I, as a mom, follow this whim — this interest — this spark — I will have to lose something. I will have to lose control of the day and “the plan.” You can see it. I have the day laid out. The day is a part of a bigger picture. When I go with the impulsive desire to learn more alive inside my son, I will lose one thing — my sense of control. You already know it … I’ll gain so much more. He’ll gain so much more.
Education is not the filling of a bucket. It isn’t the checking off of a list. It isn’t getting through the day. It isn’t meeting standards. It isn’t completing the text book in a given time frame. Education is igniting a fire. It is allowing the sparks to be fanned into flames so that my children will love learning.