A Lifetime of Learning

First of all I'd like to thank everyone who shared last week's blog!  I thank each and every one of you, but there can only be one winner.  Drumroll pleeeeeeeeeeeeaaaasssssseeeeeeeeee!  Congratulations Courtney Ewing!  I will get a hold of you in short order and get you your very own signed copy of Ma'iitso Rises.  Enjoy!

Since last week was so fun and people seemed to enjoy it, I'm going to go ahead and give away a free book this week as well.  Soooooooo, share away on facebook, twitter, your blogs, the newspaper... I don't care where, as long as I know about it I'll put you into the running!  Thanks guys!

OK, now that all of that business is out of the way we'll get onto the blog stuff, A Lifetime of Learning.  

My seven year old's mind is like a sponge.  We play this game sometimes called Questions, where I ask he and his brother questions, and they receive arbitrary points for correct answers.  They then can ask me questions in an attempt to stump me, which sometimes they do, and I lose points and they LOVE when I come in negative. My little one usually quits after a little while, but my older one loves it.  He is in 2nd grade and is capable of doing large number addition and subtraction along with beginning multiplication and division.  He reads five-hundred plus page books and comprehends them fully.  (He has read a lot of Ma'iitso Rises)  He can tell you who the Axis powers were in WWII and who their leaders were as well.  The same is true of the allies.  The kicker is, is that most of this information are things that he has decided to learn on his own.  I mean, he literally asked me to tell him the story of World War II on a ride home from Grandma and Grandpa's one day.  It took the entire hour, but I managed to fit a lot of info in there, and he listened to every word.  The reason I tell you this is not to brag or anything like that.  It's because, despite all of his knowledge, he managed to bring home a report card with B's on it and scored below average in a number of areas on his standardized tests.  This is 4+3 and simple reading comprehension.  He should blow it out of the water.  So, as we tried to understand why he did poorly on the tests and asked ourselves some of the standard questions:  Maybe he has adhd?  Maybe he has some kind of testing anxiety?  etc. etc., it reminded me a bit of a kid I used to know.

This was a kid that didn't study a single thing until minutes before tests.  He was a kid who, as a fourth grader, was told that his reading comprehension was poor, then, years later, went on to get a perfect score on the ACT in reading comprehension.  From time to time this kid would get a little out of control at school and his mom would have to come hang out with him all day, and THAT was embarrassing.  One time the kid didn't want to learn about something incredibly boring so he memorized Pi to 100 digits (3.141592653589793238462643383279502... that's all he can remember right now).  Another time the kid had gotten too many detentions one week, all of them for disrupting class, and was one away from getting in school suspension, which would have caused him to sit out of the next basketball game, which was a big deal to him at the time, and all he had to do was be good for two more class periods, but he was still dumb enough to throw a football across a classroom during the second to last period of the day, which he knew full well would get him a detention, and it did.  This kid once tormented a teacher until the man was inches from his face, screaming at him, then politely asked the teacher to please stop spitting on him, which earned him a detention.  He was a kid that spent an entire week hatching a plan to cheat on a difficult exam, but accidentally ended up learning the hated subject in the process.  Another time the kid wanted to read more books than the library would allow him to check out, so even though he knew it was stupid, he just took them anyway, and when a random locker search went down at the school, got three days in school for stealing books and had to sit out more of his beloved basketball.  As he got older and found different ways to vent his energy, learning subjects he disliked got easier, until college.  In college, much of what he was being taught bored him to death.  He would try to find ways around the boredom and in classes like Sociology 314 would only go on test days, essentially earn a 96% in the class, but since he didn't read the syllabus to see that there was an attendance policy, would receive a substantially lower grade.  By that age, for the most part, he was able to force himself to learn things, however, his gpa didn't exactly mirror his actual knowledge base.

Now, that little kid is thirty-five years old and I still love to learn new things all of the time, just like my son.  So, I guess the dilemma I wrestle with is how to make sure he understands that doing well in school is important, even if it is boring.  How do I relay to him that even though you don't feel like you're learning anything, you actually are?  I don't remember when that realization hit me, and I'm not sure if it actually ever did.  When I try to remember things I learned in college the gaps are substantial, although I know I had to have learned SOMETHING!  (Its also possible that has something to do with extracurriculars as well)  So, if anyone out there has a cure for boredom.  We're all ears!

A Lifetime of Learning is a concept that I've been thinking a lot about lately, but not the concept of forced learning.  As I got older I was certainly able to force myself to learn things I didn't care about, but the best way to gain knowledge is to actually want to do it.  So, I've been developing a few strategies to turn forced learning into fun learning and have received positive feedback from my test subjects.  You can look forward to some of those coming out in the following months.  Just remember that when kids or old guys get bored they do something like this, Potassium Video     What those guys did was to demonstrate the reaction between a small chunk of potassium and water.  What I did was about the size of a baseball and in a pond just outside of the high school.  Detention?  Nope.  Got away with that one.  Guess what?  You probably just learned a little bit about chemistry.  Learning is cool.

Posted on February 19, 2014 .