I just finished a book that has challenged me in a way no other book has before (excepting the Bibe of course). "Education of a Wandering Man" A Memoir by Louis L'Amour. Louis L'Amour has been one of my favorite authors since I discoverd him many, many years ago. I've read most of his books and own a number of them. But up until now, I had not read his memoir. Oh if only I had read it years ago. L'Amour spends about half the book telling about places he's been and things he's done and the other half telling about books he's read. He starts out his book by telling how, at 15 years old, he left school for two reasons. To get a job because he needed to make some money and because public education was holding him back from learning. And with that, he traveled around the United States and parts of the world, working on ships, in saw mills, boxing, hoboing, working any jobs he could find and reading, always reading. He kept lists of the books he read and through most of the 1930's, he was averaging over 100 books a year. And these weren't kids books either. He was reading histories (of the U.S. and the world), philosophy, archeology, ecology, anthropology; everything from Aristotle to Luke Short to Nietzsche to Dostoyevsky to foreign authors who's names I can't even pronounce. He read everything he could get his hands on... and then he started writing. He started out with short stories, getting many rejections before a few newspapers and magazines started printing them. As his work became more popular, he started writing full-length novels. He got married, had kids, bought his own place and started a personal library which grew to over 10,000 books. Before his death in 1988, he won the Congressional Gold Medal (the first time an author had been awarded it) and President Ronald Reagan awarded him the Presidential Medal of Freedom. To date, more than 200 million copies of his works have been sold.
The thing that has challenged me the most is how he went about his self-education. I've never known anyone to read as much as he did or have the ability to retain that knowledge. Some of the jobs he did as a young man weren't only to make some money but also to give him experiences that he would later write about. When he wrote, he drew on many past experiences and knowledge from experts that he'd read because he didn't ever want factual or material errors in his books. Not a day of his life went by where he wasn't learning something. He has challenged me to be the same way. You don't have to be in school to be learning (and in a lot of cases, school actually prevents or at least slows learning). The world is at our fingertips, especially in our technology-saturated society. If someone wants to learn about something, they need only open a book or fire up their computer.
This is one of the many reasons why my husband and I have decided to homeschool. We don't want our children held back or forced ahead. We want them to be able to learn at their own pace and learn about the things that interest them. Of course they'll have to learn things they probably won't like as much, but I want to try to show them that all learning can be fun. I want the freedom to call of school for the day, pack the kids into the car, and drive to Dodge City for a hands-on lesson about Wyatt Earp and the cattle drive days. I want to show them how animals are born, not by watching a video or reading a book but by having them help with the birth of animals on our little farm. I want to help them plant a garden and teach them science while watching the sun and watering the little seeds until green shoots appear. And then I want to cross the prairies with them alongside Laura Ingalls Wilder. I want to march to Lexington and Concord with them and listen as we hear, oh so faintly, the shot that was heard round the world. We will sail with Columbus, conquer with Alexander the Great, travel with Ulysses, and, when our studies are done, solve mysteries with the Boxcar Children, Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys. I want my children to have an incredible education that will continue throughout their lives. It will not be easy and I'm sure there'll be days when we will question our decision to homeschool. But we will persevere for the sake of our children.