Tuesday, October 25, 2011


It took me awhile to understand why certain "educational" activities made me cringe a little. Putting together poster displays for a report, making anything out of self-hardening clay, preparing for a classroom's Thanksgiving feast (complete with decorations and a craft activity); all of these things make my stomach turn a little. They always have, here's the proof from years ago! And, after a year with Ambleside, I know why.

At Ambleside, I was taught the difference between activities which are fun and those that are deeply satisfying. Fun activities leave you with a temporary 'high' and a quick crash, basically sugar for the brain. While deeply satisfying activities give you a true sense of meaningful satisfaction. I'm often too strong of an intuitive to enjoy the fun, because I can see the crash coming. Hence, my avoidance of theme parks. I much prefer a day in the country next to a pretty stream. One leaves me exhausted at the end of the day and the other leaves me tired, but refreshed.

This fun vs. deeply satisfying way of classifying things carries over into all aspects of education. You may be wondering, really - is it wrong to have fun?? Of course not. We all need a little fun in our lives. But, I hope that my children will have a taste cultivated for the deeply satisfying and learn to choose it over the fun when given the option.

So what does this look like in an educational setting?

I feel like so many well-intentioned parents and educators run around getting the life sucked out of them thinking that's what it takes to create something memorable for the children. They have no idea how life-giving it can be to keep things simple, meaningful and worthwhile.

And so, before planning, we have to ask ourselves, "How will the children grow through this activity?" "What will happen if we don't do this? - Will they still learn as much?" "What will the (emotional, financial, energy) cost be?" Ultimately, will it leave parents, educators and students feeling deeply satisfied? Or will it result in a quick crash afterwards?

What are your thoughts? Does too much fun leave you feeling burned out? What do you find deeply satisfying?


  1. I completely agree. I was so proud of Annika when she was overwhelmed and not impressed with Disney World. Yes, she had fun, but she would completely prefer a trip to a country setting. Our school is not the same as Ambleside, but I am impressed with Annika's teacher this year. He has found many wonderful ways to make meaningful projects that have more substance.

  2. That's so great, Amanda. You are such a good mother - taking your girls out to the country and to cool, underground caves :) I'm so glad that she has a good teacher, that makes all the difference.