Happiness…. What is it? Most of us will probably define it as something that we all strive for, something that is even listed as one of our “unalienable rights” in the Declaration of Independence – the right to the pursuit of happiness. The Webster’s Dictionary calls it
a : a state of well-being and contentment : joy
b : a pleasurable or satisfying experience
Amidst all the talk about happiness, including countless seminars and books, it appears to me that we don’t always put a high enough premium on it when it comes to the world of education. It seems we have forgotten that happiness is also an unalienable right of children and not just adults. So often we see kids dragging themselves to school, experiencing little joy from the process of learning, even though education is one of the most wondrous of life’s experiences!
This saddens me, and makes me very determined to work for a change! The incorporation of happiness and joy into the process of learning is grossly undervalued in most of our educational systems today. Our lives are so short; this is a reality I have just recently experienced again with the death of my father. Why would we spend extended periods of time in self-imposed misery when we don’t have to? Sadly, most kids don’t have any say in this whole process of imposed joylessness. They get dragged to school with no choice and the frustration that creates can spill out in the form of a variety of undesirable behaviors.
There are many enjoyable and engaging ways to learn. The industrialized method that we’ve been using for the past century is, increasingly, not one of those. Wouldn’t it be more engaging for students to learn through experiences, projects, apprenticeships, and from people with a passion for the subject than to spend an inordinate amount of time practicing for a test? If an adult wants to learn something, they find someone who knows the subject, spend time with them and learn in a hands-on, experiential way–why is it not the same for kids? When teachers are saddled with increasingly large class sizes, required to spend many days testing and many more preparing for these tests, and required to cover all subjects, it is virtually impossible to engage every child in the most inspiring way. Putting aside the fact that it takes all the joy out of teaching, there are other problems with that model as well. If that teacher really is not a fan of Math, do you think it will not come through in her teaching? If she freaks out when she sees a bug, do you think her Science class will take a hands-on approach, or be the best these kids have ever had? Of course not! Everyone has their limitations, and someone who does not enjoy a subject isn’t the best choice to be teaching it.
At Learn Beyond The Book, we have taken many of the problems we’ve seen in traditional schools and created solutions. Not only are all our classes taught by individuals who are highly passionate and knowledgeable about their subject, but also by kind, compassionate individuals who think of the children as whole human beings, engaging them as individuals and encouraging them as a group. We see children as resourceful, and value their input as part of the educational process. We create classes where they feel embraced and respected as they actively participate in their own learning, where they more easily remember what they’ve learned, because they were engaged in the learning process, not passive bystanders!
Learn Beyond The Book maintains small class sizes to create an intimate and safe environment where kids can try things, fail, learn from their mistakes, succeed, and celebrate each other’s successes. What is the result of all this? Happy kids who can’t wait to come to class! It’s a win-win for students, teachers, and parents. All the kids attending are either homeschooled or hybrid schooled, which combines independent learning with several of our classes. We provide support to homeschooling families and high quality class options to families who enroll in home-study charter schools. Homeschooling parents love this system because it provides them with some free time and a break from the feeling that they have to become an expert in every subject, especially the ones they do not enjoy themselves. Many times we’ve even seen parents become more interested in learning about a topic that they previously didn’t find interesting, because their kid has been so inspired by a class and shared their excitement with a parent. Our teachers enjoy teaching because they have freedom to teach the kids in the way that they best learn, considering all the different personalities and learning styles in their class, and without being bound by stringent testing and grading standards. Our students have a great time learning and doing it all surrounded by good friends and a supportive, less competitive atmosphere. It is all so exciting to observe!
In my experience, happy teachers teach more effectively, and happy students are more efficient learners. Many of our families have remarked about the change they see in their kids when they are learning in our more happiness-inducing atmosphere. Imagine how your child might blossom in such an environment.
If you are interested in a different kind of learning environment for your children, feel free to check out our website and all of our Fall classes.