Preparing for the Lifelong Journey of Learning

“Study without desire spoils the memory, and it retains nothing that it takes in.” – Leonardo Da Vinci

Every subject in school cannot be a favorite. I used to enjoy Social Science and Biology in school. Particularly, learning about the geographical demographics of a place, maps, climates, old civilizations, etc. Perhaps, this is why I signed up for classes in Anthropology, Human Behaviors and Astronomy at University. They were such fun, interesting and interactive classes. Apart for Art, learning about different cultures fascinated me. Learning about human psychological behaviors intrigued me. But I totally detested Math in school, I think I still do!

At different stages of school, I aspired to be a Social Sciences teacher, a criminal lawyer, an archaeologist, a fashion designer, a graphic designer. To think of it now, I was always role-playing in my mind and learning a new subject enthusiastically.

There was a time I was so intrigued by space (Oh I still am) that I wanted to be an astronaut. But going away from family sounded a bit too hard so I thought of being an astronomer. Unfortunately, it would require a lot of Math, and Math was never my best friend.

The only time I enjoyed learning Math was at University because the level of Math in American universities is equivalent to primary and elementary school Math of the Indian system. I got perfect scores in Math at university because I was great at Venn diagrams and pie-charts (no, seriously!) Today, as adults we know that trigonometry and algebra formulas are not going to help get a job, pay the rent, find a spouse or for that matter even catch a mouse!

On the other hand, my daughter enjoys learning Science and loves to solve Math problems. But she isn’t too fond of the Social Sciences. Sometimes I wonder how is that possible? Then I remind myself that she isn’t me and I’m not her. She is an extension of me but an individual in herself. She has the right to choose what she likes and develop her interests based on her own choices.

Making Learning Fun

So I try to make the ‘non-favorite’ subjects fun for here and try to teach her through story-telling, visuals and real-life examples. I tell her to relate what she learns, to what she has seen or experienced.

For instance, once she was confused when she was learning about ‘Terrestrial Plants’ growing in different regions. So I told her to remember the pine cones and coniferous trees she saw in Chicago (cold/hilly region), to think of the banyan and mango trees she plays around at the park in Mumbai (plains), to think of the rubber and coconut trees in the backyard of our house in Florida (hot and damp region), and not to forget the date palms and cactus that she sees here in Kuwait (desert region).

The next time she was learning about ‘Aquatic Plants’, she told me that floating plants are like duckweed that we saw in Bali, fixed plants are like the lotus we saw in Sri Lanka and underwater plants are like the plants we saw when we went snorkeling at Peanut Island in Florida. Instantly, I knew that she was learning and not just memorizing. She was reasoning and coming up with answers for herself.

Personally, I think this kind of learning is a bigger achievement than just getting good grades or a perfect score on a test. Integrating learning with experiences and memories will definitely help retain the information longer or forever.

Memorizing without understanding, and studying without the desire of learning will always make learning seem like a task. We must always reiterate to our kids that they should study to learn, and not just to remember until the next test or exam.

We should teach our children that learning is a journey and not a computerized input-output process. With so many living robots all around, we need to strive hard to nurture the human mind and heart, so that this world will be a better place for them to live in. A deeper understanding of what we learn will also help us become more compassionate towards each other and our environment.

Today, I enjoy the process of learning new things even more. One of the reasons why learning is still fun is probably because my parents never forced their aspirations on me or steered me in a way that didn’t interest me. I am indeed grateful to them for letting me make my educational and personal decisions.

The Progression of Learning

As life progresses and our thought process changes (or we get wiser), our interests change too. Currently, Nutritional Science and Religion interests me. A few years later, it may well be something else. So we must remember that learning is not limited to schools, universities and institutions. Learning can take place anywhere and anytime. Just like evolution, learning is an ongoing process so we might as well make it fun for our children and ourselves.

“Tell me and I forget, teach me and I may remember, involve me and I learn.” – Benjamin Franklin

 These are such powerful words that capture the true essence of learning. We must remember that the best part about learning is that the knowledge we acquire solely belongs to us and no one can take it away.

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