Should Learning Always Be Fun?
Before I discuss why I do not believe learning should always be fun, I want to thank everyone who left comments, emailed, and/or prayed regarding my recent chatter. Your encouragement touched my heart and affirmed what I already knew, but tend to forget – that many families are in the midst of the same hard decisions, and I am abundantly blessed to have choices to wrestle with into the early morning hours.
In a nutshell, I chose to continue my work as a contributing homeschooling blogger at The Pioneer Woman while building my own base of homeschooling posts here. As the opportunities present themselves, I hope to find additional paid venues to write about my homeschooling experiences, and I may even finally convince myself to begin the homeschool book that has been mulling in my head for awhile now.
The choice to write full-time about homeschooling means I semi-retired as a web designer. I have every intention of maintaining relationships with my current and previous clients as they need me, but I will prayerfully consider the full “cost” of each future web design request before agreeing to the job.
With that bit of business behind us, I will move on to why I believe it is ridiculous to perpetuate the idea that learning can, or even should, always be fun.
On to the Business of Learning
Please understand I am not saying that learning can never be fun, or that finding fun ways to learn isn’t a good use of time. I regularly look for opportunities and products for the purpose of engaging my children’s interest. What I AM saying is that if kids buy into the idea that learning always has to be fun, they will be ill-equipped to handle the less exciting, sometimes stressful, but necessary aspects of upper level or lifelong learning that require a habit of personal discipline.
Recently, a girlfriend of mine shared an incident that happened in the weekly homeschool co-op class she teaches. At the tail-end of a thorough review of some grammar concepts, two of the students complained aloud that they were not having any fun. For most students, learning the foundations of grammar is not typically synonymous with a good time. Fortunately, this teacher frequently integrates various review games the students enjoy, but on other days students are introduced to new concepts, asked to learn a list of prepositions, learn why and where a comma is necessary, etc. In other words, skills they will need and use for the rest of their lives.
Learning to be a good listener, take notes, act respectfully toward teachers, and not disrupt others who are learning along with them is not necessarily fun, but certainly practical for the real world.
Fast forward five or ten years when the same two students begin their first job, and consider how responsive their supervisor will be if they express their boredom with an assigned task. Perhaps they become entrepreneurs and need to put in the long, grueling hours that most start-ups require. Will they have the ability and discipline to carry-out that dream if they did not grasp that learning is usually beneficial, but not always enjoyable? Here’s a tip: not if they don’t understand the value of taking advice from a mentor, or have the writing skills to develop a business plan.
Learning can be intriguing and even entertaining at times. Just yesterday I published a product review for Zometool’s Crazy Bubbles project kit that gets into the science of building, bubbles, and basic Geometry.
That said, learning, just like good parenting, is not always fun – on the contrary, it can be challenging work. As home educators, it is only when we teach our children both sides of the learning coin, then we equip them for today and tomorrow.