Education Empowerment

Learning is More Than School

It is back to school time, and some assume that “Learning” with a capital L can only happen in school.

But the truth is that a formal classroom can get in the way of learning. 

Have you ever sat through a class, a lecture, or other similar setting and realized that you have no idea what was being taught. Perhaps you were taking a vacation in your mind. Or perhaps you were trying to figure out a problem at work or at home. Either way, you were not learning what you were supposed to be learning.

The Greats Devalued School

In his article, Einstein: His Life and Universe, author Walter Isaacson shows the smothering environment of Einstein’s schooling. The school kept him from pursuing his own thoughts. It kept him from his creativity. So, he left. He began pursuing his own learning and found he could do more on his own than in a classroom. 

Orville and Wilbur Wright followed a similar path. Both began in formal school, but their parents allowed them to stay home often to pursue their own interests. Orville ended up dropping out of school and neither graduated from high school or college. Orville later said, “We were lucky… there was always much encouragement to children to pursue intellectual interests; to investigate whatever aroused curiosity.” Despite this lack of formal schooling, they went on to become the fathers of human flight. 

Orville & Wilbur Wright.

Seventeen US presidents were homeschooled. 

Oliver Demille turned Thomas Jefferson’s use of mentors into an entire education methodology. In his book A Thomas Jefferson Education, he advocates for children learning the same way that Jefferson learned, using mentors and the classic writing in their areas of interest.

Even Horace Mann, the father of American public education, homeschooled his own children.

Horace Mann.

Schools Could Change

Schooling can get in the way of learning. But it doesn’t have to. 

A student gifted in math, but behind in reading is going to be confused during reading and bored during math.

That is because formal schooling is prescriptive. The federal government, state bureaucracies, and school districts mandate certain subjects to be taught at certain ages to every child. No regard is taken for the interests or ability of each child. Mastery of a subject is not required. 

Instead, schools can become a resource for individualized learning by adopting a different model. I already mentioned A Thomas Jefferson Education, but here are some others. 

  • Acton Academies allow students to pursue their own learning on their own timetable. They make students the heroes of their education journey, teach them goal setting, and help them find resources to learn. Utah has four Acton Academies from St. George to Bountiful.
  • Breakout School focuses on helping students with ADD and autism. The students are allowed to learn at their own pace. This allows the students, especially the ones with autism, to quickly become experts as they pursue their own interests.

Schooling is not necessarily learning, and most learning happens outside of school. So if you feel that your child isn’t learning or doesn’t fit into the formal classroom, you have options. Find a learning model, new school, or even homeschool that matches the greatness and potential you see in them.