The one time I bought Sage a workbook I think he was about nine. He was more suspicious than enthusiastic and thumbed through it listlessly. He gave a half-hearted go at a couple of the exercises, and flipped more pages.
Suddenly he came fully to life.
He had stumbled upon a sequencing exercised titled "Let's Build a Robot". The "instructions" were out of order and the activity was simply to rearrange the text into the proper order. I was surprised how excited he was, but felt a little smug in seeming him get so stoked on a workbook. See? This can be fun!
I think you see where this is going.
He read for a minute, flipped forward then back a couple of pages, and then looked at me confused.
"The instructions are incomplete. I think there's a page missing or something. I don't get how you're supposed to be able to build a robot from this."
When I explained to him that you didn't really build a robot but just rearranged the incomplete instructions he looked at me with a face that said, in essence:
"That is the lamest thing I have ever heard."
He never used the workbook again.
There are many ways to learn. We learn by wondering, reading, creating, questioning, exploring, watching.
And here, in our world, we learn mostly by doing.
Does this mean workbooks are bad? Not at all. Lupine loves to have math worksheets printed out and can lose herself for hours in a workbook filled with puzzles and exercises.
Because learning is not a one-size-fits-all experience.
And I believe – with the right attitude and presence of mind – learning happens all the time.
So when some friends who go to school asked Lupine what she did all day and she replied with a shrug, "Nothing, really." I have two responses. First, I freak out a teensy bit that maybe I'm not doing enough after all (interwoven with "I really hope they don't tell their parents she said that"). Second (after I calm myself down) I realize that learning is such a natural part of her life that she doesn't even notice it happening.
Without ever "doing school".
Just through curiously, wakefully engaging in this life.
Sage did end up building a robot not long after that fated workbook experience. It was as satisfying a project as you could expect. He recently found a second-hand robotic vacuum that he is taking apart to see if he can reuse parts from it to build a customized robot as well.
And the learning continues.
In so many ways.
In the past few weeks, as it turns out, we have spent time experimenting with cheesemaking, blacksmithing, knitting, sewing, pattern design, meat-grinding, confectionery, woodworking, electronics, small business launching, and the buying-and-cooking-of-veggies-we-have-never-tasted-before.
And it turns out that "nothing" that we do all day? It's really something after all.