It’s Not Studying

The Benefits of Not Studying

by Jean Hall

A mountain range of brightly colored, oddly shaped plastic pieces were sprawled across the entire den floor.  My 18- and 22-year-old sons were enjoying a last few days of sibling time before one moves north to college and the other moves south to marry his fiancé, and this playtime was thinly disguised as reassembling their old Bionicle sets to sell.

My youngest plunged his hand deep into the mountain and pulled out an orange bit the size of a ball point pen’s nib. “Set this aside – it’s Keetongu’s eye, and it’ll be hard to find later.”

My oldest picked up a fairly straight piece that looked suspiciously similar to the other 8 million pieces.  “We should do this set next!”

“Oooh, Axalara!” answered the youngest. “That would use up 693 pieces.”

I stared in amazement.  All I saw was an incomprehensible jumble, meaningless detritus, but my boys not only recognized the pieces, but could identify the sets by name and size.

“You’re judging us aren’t you?” laughed my oldest.

“Let me test a theory,” I answered.  “How many parts of speech are there?”

After a moment of silence, one ventured an uncertain guess: “Maybe six?”


But not as accurate as the size of the Axalara set they received seven Christmases ago (which we confirmed with Google).

“It’s amazing what you can learn if it’s fun,” said my oldest.

Their attention moved away from me, back to the serious business at hand.

The Benefits of Not Studying

It is amazing, isn’t it?  What if we taught Bionicles as a school subject?

  • Copied lists of names for spelling tests.
  • Memorized long lists of numbers and relative sizes of sets.
  • Assigned essays about the backstories of the characters.

I think I could study Bionicles for years and never master the volume of material that my boys devoured.  They ingested it.  Stored it.  Retained it even years later, when so many other facts learned along the way had been discarded.

It wasn’t studying.  It was fun.

I’m reminded of a favorite da Vinci quote:

Learning without desire spoils the memory,
and it retains nothing that it takes in.

My advice for homeschooling: have fun.  The kids will learn more.

Brave Writer Instructor Jean HallJean Hall is a veteran instructor of high school students and an expert at helping them become proficient in the SAT and ACT timed writing tests.

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