Eleven seventh graders and one teacher are clustered around three white tables in the middle of a small room, the walls adorned with maps, a white board, and a picture of Gandhi at a spinning wheel. We are discussing Gandhi’s religion and how it influenced him in his philosophy and life. Ideas bounce around the table, but I have run out of things to say. Our limited information comes from a few days of teacher presentations, class discussions, and short articles that our teacher handed out it class. All of the information is very school-like, interesting, but minimal because of the time limitations.
After a few more ideas fly by, my mind drifts to my Gandhi book that I had picked off the shelf yesterday. It was The Life of Mahatma Gandhi, by Louis Fischer. I had gobbled the first few chapters up, taking in all the information I could about his death, the Hindu religion, and nonviolence. That information comes back to me and my hand shoots up. His relationship with his very religious mother led him to read the Gita and other religious texts when he was in law school. The Gita taught him to not feel temptation, which contributed to him being able to stay non-violent and peaceful.
Then class is over, and instead of the learning about Gandhi being over too, I have the Gandhi book in my hand, ready to be read. I was more confident in class because I went deeper in this subject, but more importantly, I learned that I can go deeper in my learning. I may not ever need to know about Gandhi’s relationship with his mother, but learning to love and to go deeper with a subject is a skill that I will want in my life.
I homeschooled until 6th grade, and I was taught at an early age that learning has no beginning or end, that you are constantly learning. We went regularly to the library and explored the Library of Congress, Folger Shakespeare Library, National Gallery, and all of the museums on the DC mall. When I homeschooled, learning was an all day experience. It was not confined to a small classroom, but opened up to the whole world.
I learned when I was homeschooling that the world of learning is a mansion. The teacher’s job is to hand you the key and bring you to the entryway. However, there are so many more rooms to go through. They may not be neat and tidy like the information that your teacher presents you, but there are endless closets, drawers, and nooks and crannies to explore..
So, I challenge you, don’t let the mindset of having school work be the only way you learn take over. This week, month, or even semester, take something that you are learning about in school, or are super interested in, and find a book about it at the library, or read an article, or talk to an adult (other than your teacher) who knows about it. Dig into the subject even deeper--be an explorer, a researcher, an adventurer, a learner--and see what you find. Good luck!