January 13, 2014
01) A Sailor’s Escape
In the time before people flew, a teenage boy sat by the docks and dreamed of a sailor’s escape. Little is known of his life back then, of the home and family he left behind to board a steamer in Aberdeen and sail into a new life. My grandfather was fifteen when he joined the Merchant Marines. I can only imagine the excitement and fear he must have felt on his first voyage away from the familiar. Were he to have kept a journal in those days, I’d read it gladly, to learn of my heritage, of risk and rewards, of disappointments and dreams. And while his story is lost to time, my own is still fresh for the telling. And, so I’ll write this book, for my own daughter to read someday, and perhaps her children as well.
My voyage will be quite different. While his involved shoveling coal and staring off at an ever-present horizon, mine will take place on a comfortable chair, imagining a very different destination. To say the world has changed since my grandfather was a boy is, of course, an understatement, but one essential truth has not changed: we still don’t teach children how to think for themselves. The school lessons he left behind in rural Scotland weren’t very different from those my daughter learns in her progressive Quaker school. We’re still teaching at children, not with them. We’re still requiring them to memorize without much reason why.
My dream is to change this, if only a little. During the next year and beyond, I’ll leave behind my familiar life of high dollar software contracting for something leaner and more meaningful. With barely enough money to pay the bills and eat, I’ll create a software world that my daughter herself can use to kindle and grow her love of learning. She’ll explore abstract concepts in relevant, fun ways. She’ll learn to collaborate, to teach those around her. Most of all, she’ll learn how to think, how to solve problems creatively, not because she was assigned a task and will get in trouble if she doesn’t do it, but because she wants to keep going, because the lesson is hers.
Learning is the highest form of play. So let’s make a game.