The Future of Learning

One afternoon on vacation, there was a storm coming in and Jacob and I decided to go down to the dock to read. We sat under the boat house with our books (I can write a separate blog about how much I love CAIS schools for required summer reading!) and were happily interrupted by thunder and the odd bit of lightening. I love a sunny day on the dock, but this time was also spectacular. Getting lost in a book – especially while cozy and watching the rain – is my summer time joy.

Jacob decided to do some fishing. Fortunately you can buy worms at the local bakery, and he had had a day of catching over 30 fish. But this afternoon, he was down to his final few worms so he had to use them sparingly. Plus he wasn’t having any luck. He came back to the boathouse for a worm, again, but this time, he put down his rod, sighed, went back to the dock and laid down by the edge. I was reluctant to stop reading, but I was amused at the sight of him in the rain.

“What’s up Jacob?”

If I close my eyes now, I can picture the scene – all was quiet on the lake, and the late afternoon drizzle made everything seem grey. But he stood there, with his arms in the air, venting about the fish, “I think the one fish is eating my worms. The same one fish!”

As a mom, what are your choices at this kind of moment? How can you not put down your book and join in the fun? So I grabbed my umbrella and had a look. We stood together in the rain, under the umbrella, studying the water, while he lowered his worm-filled hook. To our amazement, we saw at least five fish poke their heads out from under the dock.

“Wait here.” Jacob took off and returned minutes later with a net. He had a plan and the passion of a preacher: “You hold the fishing rod, Mom, and I will scoop’em.”

It was ridiculous. I stood, but I couldn’t manage to hold the umbrella and reel in the fishing line all at once. Jacob bent over the edge, while barking advice on how to get it right. I thought the fish were too low, but he thought I should stay quiet. “Really?” I asked, “Do you really think you can scoop up a fish?” Then he complained that I wasn’t holding the umbrella to cover him, even though he was already wet, and we argued some more. We remained in place for a while.

I had two thoughts I didn’t share – I should have conscripted someone to teach this boy to fish so I wouldn’t be in this position right now; and thank goodness no one can see me, holding an umbrella and a fishing rod, in the rain, supporting this crazy plan.

And that’s when Kevin and Kathleen arrived, laughing, with a camera.

Fortunately, she took over the fishing rod job, and the two of them concentrated. You have to smile at that. Kevin and I sat, amused, under the dock, shaking our heads. We believe – wholeheartedly! – in experiential learning, problem-solving and risk-taking. Like you, I have done a lot of reading this summer on how, for instance, blended learning will change education (see the recent article in The Atlantic). But at that moment, it came down to this. To what extent do you support kids’ crazy ideas? Are we bad parents for letting them goof around, wasting their time and not correcting them?

But guess what? They caught a fish.