The Gift of
The key is teaching children “how to learn,”
meaning how to apply information rather than
merely collect it and regurgitate it.
Early in homeschooling, I read the biog- raphy of American physicist Robert Op- penheimer, the Director of the Manhattan Project, who was responsible for assembling and leading the team that developed and detonated the first atomic bomb. True, Oppenheimer
was a genius, but it was his “immersion method
of learning” that struck me. At age 5 his grandfather gave him a collection of rocks, and he quickly
learned to lisp all the difficult geological specimen
names. After several obsessions with architecture,
poetry, and painting, Oppenheimer, at age 11, returned to his rocks and began to correspond with
the New York Mineralogical Club via his newfound
So passionately and professionally did Oppenheimer pursue his correspondence that Club
members assumed Oppenheimer was an adult.
When they invited him to present a paper to the
Club, they were astounded to meet a 12-year-
old boy, whom they made an honorary member.
Throughout his life, whether at Harvard, Cambridge, Caltech, or Los Alamos, Oppenheimer
immersed himself in subjects: chemistry, physics,
foreign languages, sailing, and Sanskrit.