Updated: Jul 23
This blog post was originally posted on our old blog in August, 2010.
The Princeton Website has two definitions for student:
a learner who is enrolled in an educational institution
a learned person; someone who by long study has gained mastery in one or more disciplines
My youngest child does not identify the first definition, but it is the second definition that describes his learning experiences.
Harrison is nine years old and we are extremely relaxed homeschoolers. Relaxed because we believe that children need enough time and support to be able to follow their curiosities. That's what this summer has done for Harrison.
At the beginning of the summer, Harrison took an interest in the elements. I posted on Facebook about his interest and got a book recommendation. I found the book at the library, which Harrison devoured. So I got a couple other elements book. One of which, he was particularly excited about because it had real photos of the elements. He carried this two-pound book with him everywhere.
Before he finished that book, Harrison decided that he wants to be even more intelligent. I already limit the boys' computer entertainment time, but Harrison decided to limit it even more. He created for himself a curriculum of study of the elements and practice of creativity. Quite uncharacteristic for a young boy, Harrison has stuck to his promise to himself. He almost completely stopped playing computer games. Imagine my pleasure, when coming home from running errands, instead of finding him glued to the computer or TV, he's reading physics!
Indeed, given the extra time on his hands, Harrison has stepped up his studies. The elements are only the beginning. Everything is made up of elements, so the subject has led him to many other topics. Harrison by now has also read up on astronomy, geography, rocks and minerals, biology, and physics
Knowing the importance of creativity for the growing brain and the impact of creativity in an adult's success, Harrison is sure to not ignore this part of his learning experiences. He is very conscientious of his creative abilities. I don't know any way to measure creativity, but Harrison has a way of sensing when his creativity is slipping. That's when he turns on his thinker. He will get out stuff like paper and/or straws and make as many new things as he can. We get straw and paper creations all over the house!
In my world, having a highly creative child is just as important as having a highly academic child. Successful people need both creativity and academics to excel. But since most people only want to see academic success, I will get back to talking about those studies.
So any time one of my children gets deeply into a subject, we all do. All day long, Harrison shares with us some exciting new thing that he has learned. Stuff we didn't know about the elements. Plus, with all these great books around the house, my other boys are reading them also. We've been having great conversations. We've touched on black body radiation, Schrödinger's cat paradox, and the Higgs boson particle. Of course, theories like these prompt many more questions and we've gotten into some philosophical discussions that relate to them.
Would you like to know how much I've spent for Harrison's summer curriculum? 99 cents for the straws. The books were from the library, and the paper was from our recycle stack.
So now I have to ask. What if Harrison was not allowed to study elements at this level until he was older? What if I told him to put down that elements book, that since he hasn't yet memorized his times tables, he is not smart enough to learn these things? Would anyone want that for him?
Yes, in my experience, the majority of the people in America would prefer that Harrison be the first definition of a student, rather than the second. What a shame!
I feel fortunate that Harrison was given the opportunity to learn whatever he wants, whenever he wants, and for as long as he wants.