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My 17 yr. old daughter wrote this essay as an assignment for an independent study course she is taking. I loved her message so much that I have asked for her permission to share it on my blog. Oh how great is the importance of desire in learning!

The Colors of Learning

Personal Narrative Paper

by Lydia 

I did not like reading as a child. It was a chore. My mother taught me to read and I grudgingly learned. I remember sitting at the table impatiently waiting for my reading lesson to be over so I could go outside and play. On our weekly trips to the library, my mom would try to show me all the exciting and wonderful worlds waiting for me in the books there. My sister knew about books. She would spend hours reading, leaving me with no one to play with. No matter how I begged or pestered her I couldn’t get her to leave her book. I grew to resent books; they were nothing but trouble. I was tired of being bothered by my mother and sister about how wonderful reading was and I was fed up with constantly being told how they were quite confident that one day (when I had grown up a little) I would see that they were right and I was wrong. I was not going to let that happen; I determined that I would never be caught reading a “chapter book.” Everyone would simply have to learn to accept me the way I was. They would see that I was just different from everyone else. I was going to show them that I could get along just fine without reading. And then… disaster struck.

Our home has always been filled with books and one day I happened to pick one up. It was a chapter book but it had beautiful, full page illustrations. I was looking at the pictures when I happened to read a couple sentences. I was interested and I read a couple more. Suddenly, to my horror I found myself reading. I snuck into the bathroom, locked the door, and guiltily read the whole book. After that I wanted to read, although I wasn’t quite sure how I could go about it without admitting to my mother that she had been right. I saw what I had been missing and since that day I have found countless hours of joy through reading. It was not until I had a sincere desire to read, a desire that came from me, that I began to actually benefit from reading.

Whereas my experience with reading was a sudden discovery, my experience with music was quite different. I always enjoyed music. I played the violin and I loved it. The reason I loved it was not because other people were impressed when I played or because it pleased someone else. I genuinely enjoyed music. It was beautiful and magical. I would spend hours practicing, working hard. I longed to feel my fingers fly effortlessly across the strings and to hear the music the way I envisioned it. I wanted to make music so badly it almost hurt. I didn’t always enjoy practicing, but I did because I had a vision of what I could have if I put in the effort. As I continue to work and progress I learn to appreciate the music even more and my desire to continue and my passion for the music grows.

I’ve never been alone in my education. Learning often begins by seeing the vision of others. My interest in drawing began with tracing paper. I discovered that if I put a piece of tracing paper on top of a picture and traced the lines, I could copy it with satisfying results. I collected dozens of pictures which I would then copy, carefully tracing the lines. At the time, I felt a little guilty for stealing those artists’s work. But now, I look back and realize what I learned from them. The reason I wanted to copy the pictures was because they were so beautiful. I wanted to be able to create that kind of work but I couldn’t at the time, I didn’t have the skills. So I borrowed other people’s work. I borrowed their vision and imagination and I learned from them the feeling of seeing an image come together on a piece of paper. After a while I was no longer satisfied with copying lines and I was able to move on to create artwork of my own. Experiences like these have led me to think of education as an adventure with many different things to discover and explore.

Louis L’amour is one person who has been an example to me of passionate learning; he once wrote “All education is self-education. A teacher is only a guide, to point the way, and no school, no matter how excellent, can give you an education. What you receive is like the outlines in a child’s coloring book. You must fill in the colors yourself.”

Without colors, what’s the point of a coloring book? The information is nothing without the meaning behind it. There are so many things to learn and there is so much understanding to be gained. I have found that when I am motivated by the expectations of others I lose the opportunity to experience the beauty of what I’m learning. I learned how to read but I never appreciated it until I understood the purpose of books.

Once I began to catch the vision of why people write books, I saw the ideas and imagination of someone else and the new and fascinating worlds that a book contained. After I discovered this, I had a meaningful reason to read.  I began to see the value in the things I was studying and I began to get a glimpse of the purpose behind the information.

I have learned that in order to succeed, I need a sincere desire to learn and a curiosity for life and learning. I’ve heard it said that education is not just filling your mind; it’s learning how to think; and I would add that it is learning how to see. There are so many things to discover if I can just let go of my pride or self consciousness and learn to discern what is worthwhile. As a girl I discovered the worlds, the ideas, and the beauty that can be found in a book. Reading was no longer a dry old chore but an exciting adventure. As I continue to search, new things continue to open their doors to me. I begin to see the music hidden in a bunch of dots and lines, the vision behind the brush strokes of a painter and, as I discovered as a child hiding in a bathroom, the pictures and stories behind the words of a good book.

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