Article originally published in Learning Through Living magazine, October 2019
There are many forms of love, and many I wish to foster in my children’s lives. I hope they feel the love from their parents resonating every day. I hope they find partners in life, if they so wish, and in whatever form feels best to them. I hope they love our world and feel responsible for their share of its stewardship. I wish they’d remember how much they love each other (especially when they take aim at each other with balled, angry fists!). And I dream that they will love to learn, and feel empowered to do so, on every day of their lives.
After our mothers, learning is probably our first love. As infants we are literally wired up to be loved and to seek learning opportunities. To grow our hearts and minds, simultaneously. And families are usually ideal breeding grounds for this atmosphere of learning love to spread and take root. Through my childhood home and family I learnt to love many things – reading great stories, identifying nature around us, making a beautiful garden and knowing its plants, baking and cooking tasty meals, family down-time with blankets and films, boardgames, open fires, blanket dens, making things for the home through sewing, embroidery and knitting, swimming, caring for animals, charitable giving, hosting in a comfort-curated home and Star Trek. These things run so deep I would name them all as my interests today, and as identifiable parts of the home I am giving my children. Not much else has made it on to the list. And I struggle to think of anything from my 17 years of formal education which I would call a love (aside from meeting my bestfriend/husband!).
As a young child I had a love for learning; for the discovery of new information and a feeling of being capable of acquiring any new skill. Somewhere after the start of school (or possibly in the preceding year preparing for school) that love died out. It was replaced by a desire to be praised for reading quickly and years above my peers, for getting through work with speed and for achieving the corresponding high marks and grades. I was labelled ‘academic’, ‘quiet’ and ‘studious’, and therefore my lack of interest in sports and much exercise excused. I would read voraciously, and enjoy it, but struggle to tell anyone the plot months later, and often whether I had even read certain books. I could cram for exams utilising my visual skills with mind maps, to regurgitate main points, but lacked original thought or reflection on any content covered. My learning lacked love.
Fast forward a decade, and as the idea of home education crossed our paths, I read accounts of families permeating their children’s lives with love and learning, hand-in-hand. A love of learning anything and the freedom to follow interests whilst learning how to learn! It took me a year of reading and deschooling myself to believe I, with my lack of interest in very much, could pass on a love of learning to my children. But as most of you will know, once you’ve swallowed the red pill, or fallen down the rabbit hole, there’s not much chance of going back. I knew I didn’t want to push my kids academically (unless they wanted it), I wanted them to know themselves and listen to their instincts and passions, and I didn’t want them to equate ‘school’ with ‘learning’. Learning *can* take place within school, but they are not the same thing, and the end of your years at school/college/university should not mean you are done learning, or even that it should slow down.
As a child my Dad travelled to Ireland for work, and brought me back one of their famous bronzed Cong love tokens, a three nostrilled rat. I loved this mythical, celtic charm, and the words on the back were committed to memory. It is only now, years later, they really resonate:
“The world my guide,
I live to learn.
From love alone,
I learn to live.”
Through my getting reacquainted with learning I have rediscovered love. A love I can show myself by following my interests with no regard to a quantifiable product at the end: No marks, career paths and praise, just for the enjoyment of it. I have learnt I can love something and be not great at it, and I will still keep doing it without wishing I’d get better, just to keep spending some of my life on something which brings me joy! In learning about Charlotte Mason and some of her approaches to education, in our home learning happens with careful care as well as wild passion: We live “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life” every day. We spread “an abundant feast of learning” and graze where our interests take us. We are passing on a need to love our own natures, as
“Self-education is the only possible education; the rest is mere veneer laid on the surface of a child’s nature”
And I am finally learning to love my own learning again,
“If mothers could learn to do for themselves what they do for their children”.
I have always enjoyed original writing and writing poetry, but have not shown that interest much love over the years as it wasn’t deemed a viable career option. Renegaded to limericks in birthday cards, English Language assignments, Instagram captions and eulogies. I thank Learning Through Living for letting me show myself a little self-love in writing this article.