… is a question I hear frequently – the last time being 1 pm Friday afternoon, from a DRC teen at the end of our mentoring session, when she decided to try to set up a pen tablet (which has never been functional) on one of the DRC laptops. My vehement response, per usual, was, “of course, why wouldn’t it count?” Her startled expression was all I needed to understand why she was asking the question in the first place.
Even though she has decided to take her education into her own hands at Deep Root Center, she, like most of us, still has the underlying, obsessively pesky notion that education is only valid if it fits neatly into one of those four main subjects. And, that it should come top-down from a teacher, textbook, or workbook and the specific content must be memorized long enough to be regurgitated on the final exam, because that is the only way to measure “real” learning.
My response to her, with that insight, was, “anything you are interested in pursuing is legitimate because it induces excitement and guides you to new knowledge and skills which ultimately lead to other opportunities for exploration. Once you have the basic skills, your education is whatever you want it to be.”
Installing the pen tablet on the laptop, along with, exploring GIMP (an open-source version of Adobe Photoshop) and learning how to use it, making pancakes after looking up the recipe, grocery shopping for a camping trip, knitting, discussing and debating what she found when researching Gandhi, and, conversing with a SLU student and another DRC teen about psychology were just a few of the activities she was completely immersed in that one day.
You will notice that none of the above endeavors was a formal class or from a textbook. She certainly wasn’t filling in worksheets or memorizing anything for a test. Everything was based purely on what she is interested in, and, she instigated every single activity on her own. If I began to number all of the tangible, as well as abstract lessons learned from those few examples, the list would go on for a very long time, and, you would probably stop reading out of sheer boredom.
Therefore, simply yes, if you are focused, involved, and motivated to ask the next question – it absolutely counts.
Maria Corse is the founder and executive director of Deep Root Center in Canton, NY. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in Anthropology from SUNY Potsdam and is a seasoned teacher with ten years experience in a non-public school in Canton. Maria firmly believes that all of life’s lessons can be learned through conversation, hands-on-experience, making mistakes, getting dirty, and playing. She is passionate about supporting youth to follow their interests while taking charge of their education and exploring all of the possibilities life has to offer. Contact Maria: firstname.lastname@example.org