Take the non-linear path

When did we start believing that learning must be linear to be valid?   That certain things must be learned at a certain age before the next thing can be learned?

Hand in hand with that is the idea that “important” subjects must be revisited on a daily basis, year after year, in order to be learned with any depth.   It is deemed irrelevant whether we have an interest in these subjects or not – they are required.

I wonder why more people don’t notice that life doesn’t work this way?    Learning is rarely linear in nature when it is genuine, and if someone has a passion for a particular subject or activity, they won’t need to be told to practice; on the contrary you’ll have a difficult time keeping them from it.

For myself, my interests occupy me in waves.   Lately I’ve been on a reading spree.  I’ve also been taking massive amounts of photos over the last couple of months. Before the holidays I was sewing every day. Earlier in the Fall I made more hats than any one person should ever own.   Over the summer I went on another reading jag.   It seems to go in cycles.    And while I’m focused on one thing, I’ll do a little of the others.  I always have a book with me, but there are times that I’ll get on a roll where I’m reading 3-4 books a week.   During which time, other hobbies or interests get pushed out of the forefront.   But they never disappear completely.

This is why I don’t worry when one of my kids becomes totally focused on an activity, almost to the exclusion of all others.   Even if it involves video games (like Minecraft).   I know that this absorption is not counter to education, but is instead the very heart of it.    At some point another interest will take hold and pull into the lead as far as time spent.    The learning that goes on is not linear, but it is consistent.

And for those who argue that kids need to be able to focus on one thing (usually something they don’t like) for more than a few months in order to hold a job and succeed in the “real world”?    I believe those people are looking backward, and not forward to what lies ahead.

Life in a straight line is drudgery.     Excitement and fulfillment lie off the beaten path, in swirls and circles and crazy shapes; in following your gut, sometimes moving slowly and sometimes racing along.    False starts and dead ends are part of the journey – sometimes a very important part.

Don’t force a linear education on your kids.   Encourage them to learn in the method and shape of their choosing.    Their lives will be richer for it.

2 comments on “Take the non-linear path

  1. Being able to focus on one thing for as long as we want is a real luxury in this day and age. Grab it while you can! What interests me is that our minds do not work in a linear fashion. We think in the past/future/present in a flash, planning and remembering and realizing all at once, experiencing a myriad of “subjects” in our heads within a few seconds. This is a truer picture of the way our minds work, and it takes effort to explain our thoughts in a linear way.

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