On the heels of Marilyn Boyer’s great suggestions in the last post about helping an unmotivated learner, this post reminds homeschooling parents that our freedom allows us benefits the classroom doesn’t. We should not feel bound to operate like a classroom, which can be very stifling to many children, suffocating their natural curiosity and love of learning.If your child thrives in a structured, class-room setting, by all means give it to him. But if he doesn’t, the world is his classroom; don’t deprive him.
We must remember that the school classroom functions as it does NOT because that has been found to be the superior method of education, but because that is the only option for mass-producing students. It contradicts, in fact, the evidence that children learn best in a realistic, life-like setting, with hands-on experience.
As John Taylor Gatto reminds:
“It is absurd and anti-life to move from cell to cell at the sound of a gong for every day of your natural youth in an institution that allows you no privacy and even follows you into the sanctuary of your home demanding that you do its ‘homework.’
‘How will they learn to read?’…When children are given whole lives instead of age-graded ones in cellblocks they learn to read, write, and do arithmetic with ease if those things make sense in the kind of life that unfolds around them.” From Why Schools Don’t Educate
So, what does a “lifestyle of learning” look like from day to day? Different for every family. But, upon many requests, I thought I’d offer some practical ways to encourage your child to utilize his curiosity about his world. The ideas are really endless. I’d love to hear YOURS!
- Simply expose them. To books, to conversation, to places, to people, to animals, to cooking, to building, to nature. We simply cannot underestimate a child’s ability to take in, process and store information–something inherent at birth. This begins at birth and the fewer distractions like TV or phones, the better for motivating them to learn about their world.
- Listen and watch. A child learns things best in the context of what interests him. Find out what that is, give him experiences around his interests and then look to see the learning opportunities. For example, my 8-year-old son loves building things and he loves large machines. And by “love” I mean he’s obsessed. We have let him build a playhouse (with a little help from Sis), supervising his use of the saw and nail gun. It has taken quite a bit of thought about measurements and angles and my husband has been able to really show him the importance of “squaring” the frame, etc. It’s an excellent exercise in problem-solving. That geometry makes sense to him whereas if I handed him a geometry worksheet right now he wouldn’t have a clue.
- Bait the house with books. This is my favorite. I leave books on art, science, animals and other subjects lying around and sometimes an older child will pick it up and become absorbed and even begin to read and explain it to a younger one. Or when someone crawls up beside me, I open it and start reading. I just ordered a set of “Nature Friend” magazines from Ebay and I’m excited to see how they like those too.
- Let them learn from other people. Do you have friends or family who have a particular trade or skill? Would they mind some of your children hanging out to observe? If that isn’t an option, there are great videos that teach different skills for children who show interest.
- Build vocabulary naturally. Being intentional about the words we use with our children is the best way to build their vocabulary. Random words on a worksheet are much harder to memorize than if they learn the word in context of life and language. Conversation is the best way to improve communication skills. Something, in our technologically-filled lives, that takes deliberate attention.
- Focus on the traits that matter. Any time you research for “most important qualities of a successful person” or “qualities employers look for”, or something similar, the results that turn up always focus on character and NEVER include test scores or degrees. Do we take that to heart and intentionally teach and train character? Communication skills, problem-solving, and integrity rank at the top of almost every list.
LIVE. That’s the way to a superior education. Here is part of our check list, academically speaking:
- Can they write well, speak well and convey their thoughts well? What are some activities that will facilitate these?
- Are they numerate? Do they know how to handle numbers, do they understand fractions and how to work out number problems? As they get older, do they know how money works, do they understand debt and interest and budgeting? Very important.
- Can they type?
- Do they have a good grasp of history and the workings of the government? We especially want them to read biographies from great men and women of the past.
- Are they exposed to art in a variety of forms, and music? (If they show giftedness/interest, are we doing what we can to help them excel?)
- Do they have a heavy dose of common sense?
Charge ahead with confidence!