Challenging Quote

As I was organizing both my brain and my bookshelves for the upcoming school year, I came across this quote that challenges my thinking about education.

“Learning can only happen when a child is interested. If he’s not interested it’s like throwing marshmallows at his head and calling it eating.” – Katrina Gutleben

After I finished laughing,  I started thinking about how much time I’ve wasted throwing marshmallows (or having them thrown at me).  Although I generally consider myself “outside the box” when it comes to education, in reality, I’m not far outside the conventional box.  I still start every September with a new set of books and a new set of goals to finish by May.  Sometimes the goals are my own, and sometimes they’re actually shared by my children who must either catch my excitement and journey with me or get dragged along behind me.

My friend and fellow educational anarchist, I mean, homeschooler, said: I interpreted it to mean that the first step in teaching something was to excite the student’s interest, not that the student came with an innate interest in whatever was included in the curriculum.  I have witnessed firsthand the power of an interessted student in my own kids.  I have been a student all my life and have had lots of marshmallows thrown at my head (calculus ugh!), but I have also had the honor of being taught by at least two different people who were so excited by their work that they created an excitement in me for learning more.

What do y’all think?

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5 thoughts on “Challenging Quote

  1. I think your friend must be incredibly wise ; ) but inspiring interest and excitement is not an easy task with some kids and some subjects. So what to do? Usually if you love something your own excitement for the subject is contagious. It’s no accident that you’re raising writers. But I have no real love and excitement about things like geology, home economics, and spelling so how can I inspire my kids? Or how can I convince them that these things are necessary? Should I even try to convince them that I am a better person for knowing the difference between metamorphic and sedimentary rocks?
    On the other hand, I was fortunate enough to find a teacher that settled on dressing up kids in rock costumes and having a beauty contest as the best method of teaching geology. My kids will never forget Iggy the Igneous, Sandy the Sedimentary, and Marty the Metamorphic – especially after the swimsuit competition. So maybe we just have to work really extra hard to find ways to make things interesting for the kids? But life is not always exciting and interesting, should we force our kids to do mundane, busy work to desensitize them? Should we encourage them to always look for *things* that interest and excite them so they won’t settle for anything less? Do we give them lines like, “To be happy, don’t do whatever you like; like whatever you do” and then give them a list of Latin words to memorize so they will do well of the SAT vocabulary section?
    Do I keep throwing marshmellows and hope that they keep their mouths open wide?
    My educational philosophy (and yes we all have them whether or not we know it) is loosely based on Cindy Gattis’ Collaborative Learning Process found at http://applestars.homeschooljournal.net/the-collaborative-learning-process/; Five in a Row type book based interdisciplinary studies; and my own experience.
    Oh no, I was just going to read your blog for entertainment ,but now my mind is twisting and turning in a whirlwind of questions. I’ve got to reexamine my whole educational philosophy now!?!

  2. That quote was by Katrina Gutleben, who used to post as katgut on the Unschooling.com message boards. Barbara Lamping had a website claiming it (with nothing else on the website), but it was a false claim and that website has disappeared.

  3. Please change the attribution in your blog post above from Barbara Lamping (whose quote it is not) to Katrina Gutleben (whose quote it is). Please edit the blogpost, when you get a chance. Thank you.

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