If one was to go to a public, non-specialized high school in this area and ask a random student what education entails, they’ll probably describe being in a classroom for hours on end listening to a teacher talk, absorbing the words in a textbook, doing examples upon examples on math worksheets or writing essays, or having to memorize things to pass a test. Maybe all four. They’ll also probably display some apathy. I often wonder why this is, that the word ‘education’ has become associated with drudgery, a lack of interest, counting down the minutes until the bell, and placing getting a good grade above everything else. We’ve always known that kids learn best when they’re excited and their minds are open. I’m a firm believer in encouraging as much creativity as we can in the classroom.
And yet… for some reason I’m watching Logan LaPlante’s TED talk and absolutely seething inside with anger. This is partly out of jealousy, admittedly; Logan is very lucky that he gets to do what he loves in his schooling and not have to feel stuck in the classroom setting, like I was. Sure, I thrived there, but all the same I look at his education and love of learning and I can’t help but think where I’d be today if I had that opportunity. This is a very tender spot for me. I would have killed to have been able to be placed in an elite arts high school or study music intensively at a secondary level instead of going to my public high school day in, day out with others that didn’t share my love and just took choir and band because it was “an easy A”.
The other part of it is because there’s that little doubt, born of the Essentialist within me, that he doesn’t talk explicitly about his curriculum and method. Is there one for him? If he continues on this path, is he going to learn everything he needs to before he graduates? There needs to be more structure than ‘ok, here’s the guidelines for what you need to learn this year, go.’ Planned lessons are crucial, and a teacher’s overseeing presence is extremely important. I don’t believe that we should give students complete freedom over what they learn, because not all of education is fun. I remember that in high school, I hated, hated, hated Algebra, mainly because I took it for three years straight and it always seemed like we were learning the same thing. I got tired of graphing functions. Yet I did learn from those classes, it’s knowledge that I haven’t been able to apply real-world yet but I’m sure one day I’ll need it.
And so this brings me back to my original point: we need to make the classroom a more creative place, in order to make the boring subjects more tolerable for students and to also foster a love of learning this material in the students who love it. Logan LaPlante was saying that he wants to grow up to be happy? Why don’t we follow his lead and foster things that actually make students comfortable and content in their knowledge and not just push everything on them and pray they’ll test well?
This article is wonderful in pointing out three ways that we can be thinking in order to improve what we do in the classroom: making, hacking, and playing. If our learning environment is more kinesthetic, creative, and intuitive, allowing students to not just absorb information but apply it cleverly, Math, Science, English, and Social Studies become interesting again.
And that is Hackschooling.