At the weekend, I went to a reunion dinner at New College, Oxford, where I studied music around about a decade ago. (A decade? Really? Wow.)
Now, Oxford is a pretty special place to my husband and me. We both studied there, as undergraduates and postgraduates, and we lived there a long time after graduating. Our children were both born there. But it’s also special because it’s just special.
In Oxford, you actually feel like you are surrounded by learning. And that learning is wonderful. And that learning for its own sake is good. It is a city full of libraries, colleges, museums, lecture halls, where learning is valued and pursued and praised. It’s a pretty amazing place.
Taking the train home, I started thinking… As we embark on homeschooling, whether it ends up being for a term, a year, a few years, or their entire school years, what are my hopes for their learning?
I’m not talking about getting them to learn addition, or Shakespeare, or algebra, or photosynthesis, or Beethoven. I’m talking about the relationship I’d like them to have with learning.
What do I want them to learn?
To read for pleasure and profit.
To read to understand, to read thoroughly, and slowly, and carefully.
To mine the internet for all it’s worth, to know how to use the internet to access human knowledge.
To write creatively, persuasively, eloquently.
That learning is lifelong. That learning is good.
That listening to and learning from an expert is an amazing way to expand your knowledge and gain new perspectives.
That there are often many ways of looking at and tackling a single problem.
That they will be loved and accepted whatever their idiosyncrasies, and whatever they excel at.
To understand that learning is also a discipline.
That a life of learning is a rich life.
That a life surrounded by books is a rich life.
To use museums, galleries, artefacts to enhance their learning.
That it’s OK to be wrong.
That it’s good to ask questions.
That there are opportunities to expand our minds every day.