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The Art of Education: Part 3 of 4

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The Art of Education: Part 3 of 4

By Linda Dobson

ChangeAhead education

When we nurture children, we "lead out" their natural abilities.

I hope these posts lead you to  connect a  critical  message about  true education to our turbulent times and particular problems. Without connection, the message means nothing. With connection, you realize the key role only you can play in creating the solutions to the problems that daily destroy our children. Our lack of understanding is the only barrier between our children and a new foundation for a learning renaissance capable of vastly improving the quality of our personal, family, and community lives.

A dream, you say? Yes, it is. If we all change today, our grandchildren still won’t enjoy the full fruit. But they’ll see the tree growing. They’ll catch the scent floating on the breeze, and they’ll trust in the promise of a harvest for their grandchildren, the promise of education as art.

The cocker spaniel puppy licks ten year-old Jason’s cheeks and nose before tumbling onto his back for a belly rub. “Let’s call him Einstein, O.K., Dad? And, Dad, let’s build him the best dog house ever!”

Dad and Jason work on the dog house plans at the kitchen table long past Jason’s bedtime. The boy’s rough sketches take shape as Dad explains how to draw to scale, how to use the roof as a shelter for the doorway, and how to save some money on materials with careful planning.

The weekend finally arrives, and Jason escorts Dad to the lumber yard. “Get a pound of six-penny nails,” Dad tells the boy after they tie the plyboard and lumber onto the car. “And pick out a half-gallon of paint, too, please.” Soon the materials and tools reach from one end of the family’s garage to the other. Dad shows Jason how to measure and draw lines where the plyboard needs cutting. After a dozen mistakes, Jason turns the board over and tries again. This time he succeeds.

Over the roar of the table saw, Dad explains the necessary safety precautions with each step. They spend the rest of the afternoon hammering boards into place, checking for level and plumb, and making sure the tar paper and roof shingles will keep Einstein dry.

Jason applies the last stroke of red paint to the sign bearing Einstein’s name above the doorway as the sky slowly turns pink with the setting sun. The job is done.

Einstein  will  use  his  house  many  years.  Jason  will  use  his education for a lifetime.

Practicing the Art of Education

The art of education is practiced like any other art – the product reflects the inner being of the artists. A Picasso is not a Van Gogh is not a Matisse, yet all possess their own beauty. Who is to judge which is more precious, more valuable, more worthy? The Smiths don’t approach family centered learning like the Johnsons, and the Johnsons’ practice doesn’t look anything like the Dobsons’. The masterpieces turn out differently, yet each radiates its own beauty.

When education is art, the journey is the education. That means today – this very moment – is just as important as any other. Suddenly every step holds significance, not just the one that puts you over the line. It is as if, having driven the same route to the same destination for many years, you notice for the first time the flowers in the park, the smell of bakery bread in the air, squeals of delight from a ball game in the distance. When every moment has meaning, your senses awaken, your mind opens, you’re eager to proceed. Experiencing the journey allows the wanderer to reap a harvest of connection, of significance, of joy.

Education as art instead of business leads us gently to education’s true meaning, its natural rhythm. But if we’re not busy putting facts and figures into our children, what is it that we intend “to lead out?”

Children Possess the “Tools” for the Art of Education

Ironically, it’s those abilities that young children bring to life, delighting and amazing us with their natural, open expression. It’s the abilities we adults realize we’ve lost, though we can’t say exactly where or when. For the sake of brevity, I will list them: Curiosity, Imagination, Creativity, Inner Peace, Humor, Artistry, Self-Motivation, and Intuition. We are born with these abilities, witness the infant studying your face and smiling with recognition, or the toddler striving to perfect her walking technique, or the three year-old who shares a hug and a messy kiss at just the right time.

Were we to focus one-tenth of the time spent pursuing academics on nurturing what already exists, the remaining nine-tenths of our “school” time could be spent pursuing that which interests us, honing our unique skills. We would all be artists! Whether our life’s work includes creating poetry, building ice cream cones, or investigating homicides, each accomplishment would emerge a masterpiece, a reflection of the best inside its creator.

Watch a stranger in the act of creation sometime. If she loves her work, it is evident in her eyes, her voice, her heart. She radiates from within – fueled by a constant repletion of energy.

If she does not love her work, the evidence comes from the same places. Instead of drawing energy from an abundant, internal source, the act drains energy – it is a chore, a burden, and she might as well be scrubbing toilets (no offense whatsoever to any who may enjoy this task of service – it, too, can be enjoyed). Her heart feels no difference.

When we nurture children, we “lead out” their natural abilities. We bring forth internal energy that only needs an escape hatch. When acts of learning draw  the  energy  out  (acts  of  learning  being  those  acts  motivated  by curiosity, imagination, creativity, etc.), our lives improve in direct correlation. We feel healthier. We feel more content, foregoing the constant struggle for false success. We feel happier.

Many more of us could spend our lives “doing what we love,” shedding light on the joy and rewards of pursuing personally meaningful interests. Happier  parents raise  happier children. Happier families live in more content communities. More  content communities make for a healthier planet.

The Art of EducationThis series is adapted from The Art of Education: Reclaiming Your Family, Community and Self by Linda Dobson. The classic homeschooling book is now available in e-Book format at the link for just $4.99.

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