Last year at this time we were firing questions at the kids at every turn.
When was this built? Who was the conquerer? What does that symbol mean? What elements of this culture did you feel at home? Who is that painter? Why is that important?
Between the two of us, Ron and I were high school teachers for almost twenty years. From our Catholic educations to our graduate school studies, we were classically trained in the art of cramming, testing, memorizing, and taking learning very seriously. Reading, writing, arithmetic, and right answers were our orientation in the world.
Travel has taught us how little we really know. We have found ourselves revisiting what we knew as children and turning to our own children for daily lessons.
- Children know that connecting with nature leads to inspiring questions
- Children know that inspiring questions lead to remarkable discoveries which then breed more questions.
- Children know to stop when it is no longer fun and walk away.
- Children know to come back to something after walking away with a fresh perspective.
- Children know that learning bursts from within in different ways for different people and no amount of “instruction” can change that.
- Children know that students and teachers are interchangeable and we are all both every day.
- Children know intrinsically that learning is exciting and engaging.
- Children start to forget the fun of learning when we remind them how serious this schooling business is for years on end.
We have been moving quickly and dealing with different currencies, customs, and languages every few days. Because of that, we have let up on the formal aspects of education and the most incredible things have happened. The kids attract the most amazing teachers in their lives.
In Berlin, Max really wanted to go to the Blackriver Shop (finger boarding). The rest of us had no interest but Max led the way. We arrived and learned so much from the founder. Timo was there, at the desk. He invited the boys to stay and “play” while we explored the street full of Berlin labels. He took care of customers while engaging the boys. He described how business had changed in the past ten years in a way that a 10 and 9-year-old boy could grasp economics. He gave them many things for free (stickers and posters) that made them feel special and he talked to them like equals. Although it was a skate shop (and I was hesitant), we all learned quite a bit about business acumen that day because of Timo.
The woman who owned the house we rented from in Slovenia knew how to make the most inspiring things. She taught the kids the process of felting and let them make their own dolls. She taught them about natural fibers and their history in the Slovenian mountain culture. She explained how she makes soap and willow furniture and remedies that they sampled daily. She did all of this with her talking parrot on her shoulder that repeated the lessons in case anyone forgot much to the kid’s delight!
The fishing experts Henry meets at every body of water he sees teach him countless lessons about fishing and so much more. He even learned about body weight in relationship to weather patterns from a paraglider that almost landed in Lake Bohinj when he was fishing! The teacher of the day almost landed in his lap, literally!
Teachers are everywhere and since we have stopped cramming, they are showing up in the most unexpected places. If I follow my children around as they welcome the world on many doorsteps, I think I will receive a whole new kind of education.