“It’s not about the math.”
I never thought I’d hear myself say that, but stepping into this last year of homeschooling, I find I’ve learned a thing or two along the way. And, it wasn’t math.
Math mastery is a fleeting skill for we right-brained individuals, and it seems all four of my “students” over the past 20 years have had little affinity for the subject. So, with the youngest prepping for some aptitude exams, I shared my new-found wisdom with him in order to nip his anxiety in the bud.
Because, you see, it really isn’t about the math.
Or the English, history, biology or creative writing. It’s about……well, so much more.
I value education and I know that to make it in this world, it’s crucial that our kids (indeed, all of us) become proficient in something for which they can earn a wage. More than that, I believe that what they learn and claim for their own can enrich their lives, maybe even make a difference in the lives of others.
But when and if that happens, it won’t be because they know the difference between a sine and a cosine, or a sonnet and a ballad. It will be because they have learned to be a SEEKER.
A seeker of wisdom.
A seeker of purpose.
A seeker of skill…..in a craft or a talent…..in relationships.
A seeker of inspiration when the mundane takes over and life has lost its color. And of vision when that inspiration leads them down a foreign path.
A seeker of what is true, of what is just. And a seeker of the strength to stand when their version of truth and justice are challenged.
A seeker of knowledge gained from immersing themselves in a passion that drives them to want to know more.
“Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion obtains no hold on the mind.”
I came across this comment by the great philosopher Plato after I had already discovered for myself that often the things I forced my children to study never really “stuck”. Understanding that truth earlier in our educational journey may have saved us a few tearful confrontations.
We’ve tried to prepare our sons for life by constructing the parameters and setting them free to explore and learn, with our guidance and accountability. Plenty of math, science and English were offered, but so were music, art, theater, work and play.
I ran into a fellow the other day that I’ve known only casually the past couple of years. A bright, outgoing man, devoted to his wife and daughters, I learned he recently lost his job. As we stood talking in the late summer sunshine, I admired the beautifully-crafted wood boxes that he had displayed on a cloth-covered table. He had fashioned the boxes and was selling them at our neighborhood farmers’ market. His charming daughter danced from his side to a nearby tree then back to grab his hand, smiling up at him while he talked.
This college-educated man told me he has decided to become “Mr. Mom”. While his wife works at a secure, well-paying job, he is at home with his young daughters. And between cooking and cleaning, doing the laundry, reading to the girls and fixing their ponytails, he makes time to create something lovely.
This is not what he was trained to do. It’s certainly not what he envisioned for himself while studying for a career. But it’s where he is right now. It turns out that because he was willing to seek a different path and to track down the skills he needed for this new “career”, he has become a success — especially in the eyes of that little pony-tailed daughter, and certainly in the eyes of the wife who can work without concern for her children.
So, it’s really not about the math — except when you need it. Or about the science or the history — unless there’s something your curiosity has led you to discover.
It’s about learning how to find what you need to know when you need or want to know it.
Sometimes scoring well on a test is the “need”, but even then, it’s good to keep it all in perspective. As their mom/teacher, I’d like to believe we’ve raised four “Renaissance men” who can find out for themselves how to write a sonnet, split a log, build a fence (and calculate the area of what they’re fencing), cook a chicken……or make a pony-tail, if that’s what life requires.