Schools cannot and do not educate for life. Schooling only provides a foundation for a life of learning. So, no graduation can or should signal a point of arrival or the end of learning.
Living is learning. If we aren’t learning, we are just existing.
The richest lives are lived by those who engage with the limitless learning opportunities that life provides. Learning opportunities come from so many directions and they offer kids (and adults) continuing personal development.
From “Let’s sign up for this online puppy training course!” to “Think that’s cool? Let me show you how to do it.” to “Oh! I loved this book! Wanna give it a look?” And from family members to neighbors to chores, early jobs or career experiences, every moment provides children and teens with fabulous fertile ground that enriches and nurtures their young lives.
What’s of primary importance is that children be taught, at school and at home, that learning something new in any moment is their forever and always choice. Recognizing a learning opportunity offers children the chance to discover new ways to live joyfully. “Bored” kids just may not have learned that empty time is THEIR time, an open invitation to engage with and explore the world and its inhabitants.
Valuable learning comes naturally to children from their explorations and inquiries about everything they encounter. For example, when arguing about some goofy thing, my mother used to tell my brother and me, “Why don’t you two go outside and run around the house a dozen times?” We actually did that once, but before our sixth circuit something occurred to us about life in our neighborhood, and our day disappeared into investigating “what was out there.”
Beyond what children can experience directly in their own environments, most of the riches of the world await them all through the constantly expanding offerings available from their public library, book mobiles, or the Internet.
Reading from any medium provides a universe full of unique intellectual paths forward into futures that no child (their teachers or parents) can yet imagine. Invitations like, “Why don’t you wander around the library a dozen times and see what you can find?” or “Let’s go online and search for something you’ve always wanted to see or know about. We can learn together.” go a long way to encourage habits of lifelong learning.
Teachers’ and parents’ roles are to show children how we take advantage of every learning opportunity. Before the end of each school day or during dinnertime, simply tell kids what you learned today. Then ask them, “So, what did you learn/discover/wonder about today?” The conversations that ensue will be delightful, and that’s how education for each of us becomes lifelong.