When I was in school I remember despising story problems in math. My lowest math scores always involved story problems. But when math is not a ‘subject’ to be studied, but just part of like, then lots of it is a ‘story problem’ of sorts. Today we were waiting for the elevator and Ben was talking about get presents on your birthday. I have no idea what brought it on, but suddenly he said “If you had 10 friends that gave you a present on every birthday, and you lived to be 90, you would get…” he thought for a minute “…900 presents in your life.” Ummm, yes, you would. He’s six years old. How much formal sit down ‘math’ have we done? NONE. No workbooks, no curriculum. Just living. Math is part of life, so he thinks nothing of it. That’s the great thing about life learning. Nothing is separate. There are no ‘subjects’. It’s all part of the same thing.
Here’s another great thing. Libraries. We should all go out and donate to our local libraries. Libraries are great because they lend books for free, but they are also great because they are completely egalitarian. They do not discriminate based on race (anymore) or age or income. Today I walked into the branch near us to pick up two books for Ben, and a homeless man entered just before me. He went over to use the computer and as I was leaving he was checking out a book. He has a library card! (Not sure what he gives them for his address, but they’ve worked it out.) A few blocks from where we live, there are a group of housing projects, so our library hosts people of all social strata, from the lowest to some of the very highest. No matter. Once you walk through those doors, everyone is equal. You can pick out whatever books you like, and no one tells you that you can’t. No tests are done to determine your ‘reading level’, and no one says to someone who normally reads romance that they can’t decide on a whim to check out a book on molecular biology. Or read Nora Roberts and Stephen Hawking. (Or Mary Pope Osborne of the Magic Tree House books and Stephen Hawking, for that matter) No one says, “I’m sorry, but based on your age and background, that book probably isn’t right for you.”
If libraries can do it, why can’t schools? Why aren’t kids allowed to learn what they are interested in? That’s my million dollar question.
Come to think of it, just go ahead and give that million dollars to the library.