Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Father Learns Best

My sons, Jarrett and Trevor, and I spent a warm, breezy Father's Day out a my parents' farm in Lena, Illinois. More than just social visits with my parents, these are also opportunities for us to learn more about nature, agriculture, and life without traffic jams. While my mom breaks out beef sandwiches, pickles, and potato chips for lunch, my dad and I cover our usual discussion topics.
What's the price of gas in Lake County? How are the Bears going to do this season? What did you think of the latest Sandford book? After looking at the sky, he checks area weather using an app on his iPad.
"Those clouds don't look too good, but there's nothing on the radar", says dad.


As sure as "death and higher taxes", mom will always have several varieties of potato chips on the lunch table, and my dad will attract "weather events" like ants to a picnic blanket. Before deciding to get into teaching, I studied geography and meteorology in the hopes of becoming a professional storm chaser. I had a couple decades of experience on my side because almost every family vacation, and nearly every major holiday was impacted by my dad's meteorological voodoo. My dad has been linked to flash floods in Florida, tornadoes in Minnesota, the Polar Vortex of this past winter, and the upcoming chaos of El Nino. If you want rain on your parade, just invite Terry Schuetz to the festivities.

My dad, who turns seventy-three this August, did not go to college, yet he is a prodigious life-long learner. A voracious reader, I will put his expertise of U. S. History up against any professor I've had. My parents, following retirement, purchased their sixteen acre farm just a few years ago. Their education now resides in the fields and forests that surround their small country house. Every day presents new challenges, and new projects. This week, it was cutting up a fallen cottonwood tree, rescuing a lost racing pigeon, and keeping young rabbits out of the vegetable garden.


My parents, even in their retirement years, are becoming increasingly self-sufficient because of their ability to read, research, connect, and problem solve. Their evolutionary life-style change is proof that they are not afraid to learn new things. Despite relocating to an area of less than forty people per square mile, my parents are more socially connected to their new community. A steady stream of friends stop by to swap stories over cups of coffee. Like my parents, these neighborly visitors discuss interesting projects, tough challenges, and simple rewards associated with life in the country. Apparently, personal learning networks (PLNs) are alive and well in rural Illinois.



If you are learning, then you are growing. My mom says people are like trees, we can continue to grow our entire lives. I am fortunate to have happy, healthy parents who value and share their learning experiences. Every day includes problem-based education, every day includes genius hour, every day is about passions and relationships, and every day is about self-assessment and reflection. We learn new things with every visit to my parents' interesting, engaging, "real-world" classroom. My parents have proven that learning opportunities are everywhere, and are embedded in our everyday lives. We seem to spend a lot of time and emotional energy fabricating a curriculum that lacks relevance, meaning, and longevity for many students. As educators, there are no limits to what our students can accomplish when we put learning, and relationships, first. My parents are great teachers, and my dad, as you can see, is an accomplished learner. Happy Father's Day Dad.

Related Reading



Lifelong Learning Institute - Harper College



3 comments:

Kristina Stary said...

Thanks for a great read this morning! Loved it!

Jen H. said...

I like what your mother said about trees - we can continue to grow our whole lives. Thanks for reminding us through this story that there are many ways to learn and be connected.

Robert Schuetz said...

Thank you Kristina & Jen,
I am realizing there are so many interesting stories out there, and you don't have to look to far to find vivid examples of life-long learners. Thanks again for the connections.
Bob