Too late to learn?


A guinea pig. By Harry Stainton.

A while ago I was chatting with some other parents about home ed and one (who is against it) said that she feels like she missed out on art at school because she was focussing on sciences. She works with those sciences now in a great job she loves, but sometimes feels embarrassed because she knows so little about art. She was worried that if my children simply follow their interests (because we’re unschooling) they’ll miss out.

Now this woman is, I think, mid-30s. Yes, she’s got a very busy job. Yes, she’s got a family. But if she was really interested in art – genuinely concerned that she doesn’t know enough and wants/needs to know more – couldn’t she, you know, learn about it now?

I’ve been surprised at how often people’s questions to me about home ed suggest that there’s a window for education and once it closes – at 18 or 21 if you’re lucky – that’s it. No more learning will be done. Ever. You had your chance and you missed it. Sorry.

Now, even if that were true from a formal education point of view (which it isn’t – I went to university at age 27 and if I wanted to, I could go and do some GCSEs now, aged 41, couldn’t I?), that suggests formal education is the only way to learn. And it really isn’t. Of course it isn’t. If my friend wanted to know about art, but didn’t want to go back to university couldn’t she buy some books? Watch TV documentaries? Visit galleries and talk to the staff? I think galleries probably give talks and hold events, don’t they?

I assume they do, but I don’t know for certain because I’ve only ever had a vague interest in art. I can name a few famous paintings, may possibly recognise the style of a few famous artists (okay, a couple) (maybe just Andy Warhol…), but that’s it. It’s never bothered me, but if it did, I’d do something about it. Wouldn’t you?


4 responses to “Too late to learn?

  1. Completely agree with you – it makes me sad that (lots of) people seem to think that learning has to be done formally or that they’re *not* learning all the time (when they clearly are) or that it’s ‘too late’. Also, I don’t understand how her point about ‘missing out on art’ is supposed to be an endorsement of formal schooling?

    • It’s odd, isn’t it? Even when people ask (as they almost always do) ‘What about exams?’ well you can take exams any time, for the rest of your life! And, yes, I hadn’t even thought of that, but you’re right. I think her point was that they’ll miss out on things they would be forced to do in school? But as you say, that doesn’t always work, clearly.

  2. Absolutely! I have a friend who has been a dental nurse for years. She is now (aged 41) at the end of a course which will take her onto a degree studying mental health nursing. I think that is brilliant! I personally don’t want to do any more formal studying, I feel I’ve done enough courses but learning things – as you keep saying – is an everyday thing!

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