By Leah Hasse
As an adamant lifelong learner, I often feel like a kid in a toy store bouncing from shelf to shelf as I marvel at the resources available to me. Two of my favorite websites are Khan Academy and Coursera, and they could both keep me busy for years with the massive inventory of free classes they make available online. I’ve taken classes on everything from physics, to fine art, to computer programming, to music theory. I find ways to learn through actions in my garden and my art, among other things. When I’m out for a run and I want to quit, I tell myself that I am learning to preserve. In short – I love to learn.
I largely regard my need to regularly learn new things as a positive quality, but sometimes I’m left wishing I was one of those people who just always knew what they wanted to be and happily stuck with it. Sometimes I feel like a Jill of all trades and a master of none. I’ll take a chemistry class here, and read a book on architecture there. I know a lot about a lot of things, but not enough to be employed in the field. The more I learn, the more I realize there is even more to learn – more questions needing answers and more stones waiting to be turned over. Each concept I grasp unleashes a wave of new mysteries. Every answer leaves me a little more… lost. Despite being occasionally overwhelmed, I love the journey I am on and am grateful for every iota of knowledge I have been fortunate enough to acquire.
I think of my two young boys and what I hope they receive from their education. As cheesy as it sounds, I really want them to be happy. We primarily think of being educated as a way to eventually make money, and I of course want them to be secure, but the journey of education is so much more than that: it’s this magical cocktail of acquiring knowledge through multiple mediums including first-hand experience and observation.
I want my kids to be able to question and explore. I hope that they feel free to plunge headfirst down the rabbit hole and emerge knee-deep in something they never thought they’d be interested in. I want my kids to get what they can from all forms of education, because learning is not just academic. Learning is also everything and anything else. It’s growth in its truest form. Learning can be a means of looking in the mirror, of seeing who you really are and what you’re really made of. It is continually confronting yourself when the negative self-talk of not being smart enough or capable enough starts to creep in, and being brave enough to keep moving forward after a disparaging failure.
We talk about how education is the key to unlocking a better future and how it transforms lives. But when we think of learning, we often think of children sitting in rows of desks, filling in bubbles on a test. Today that’s part of it, but I believe if that’s the route taken, it should be supplemented with opportunities to get out and do things, because real learning is the willingness to be uncomfortable on a regular basis. To question what you know as fact, and to untangle opinions from the web of truth. It’s unabashedly accepting that you may not be, and probably aren’t, right about most of what you know (or thought you knew). It is falling and getting back up, and asking for help from those who have been on the journey a little longer.
Both my boys go to a lovely German Kindergarten where they have autonomy over their day and are free to explore their interests. They are given guidance, while also being trusted to guide themselves. I am thrilled that this school is their first taste of “education,” and that they are in a supportive environment that both cradles and pushes them as they grow. Neither of my kids see school as a burden. Instead, it’s a place of wonder and exploration. I know that they are extremely fortunate to have this experience, and I am excited to see how it will shape them. I hope that in the years to come they maintain this sense of wonder and desire to keep on learning.
Leah currently lives in Germany with her family. She loves everything related to the outdoors, and can often be found hiking or camping with her husband and two children. She enjoys traveling, studying languages, and taking random classes online to learn new skills. She hopes to use her writing to bring people together and to challenge biases surrounding motherhood.