I like this quote from Karen Andreola in her latest blog post, Glow of Intellectual Life.
I grew up studying facts for a test, and did fine as I was good at memorization. However, the things I've really learned and that have stayed with me are things that I had time to think about, ponder and relate to.
I've tried to educate my children with understanding. More than memorizing exact dates for historical events (except for things like Independence Day, etc) I wanted my children to have an understanding of what life was like during those time periods, what things lead to historical events, who the people were that were involved. This makes history relate-able and makes them able to understand that every day we are living history.
We've read for most of our education (and I do believe I have educated myself in this process) - historical fiction, biographies, autobiographies. We've used very few textbooks.
I like my kids to tell me in their own words what we've read and we discuss it. This gives greater understanding than predigested materials.
It has kept us enjoying our learning, to help us to become life long learners.
How many of you feel that you have become experts in an area (tea, gardening, cultures, languages, art, homemaking) due to your interest in that subject and your own learning of it? I know I do!
I maintain that if our children can become fluent readers, they can teach themselves anything!