Our family has been homeschooling for well over a decade. We’ve learned a lot through the years on what works well for us, and what absolutely does not. I thought we’d share a few thoughts from our experience, on how we encourage our homeschool children to learn.
As we all know, children are born wanting to learn. They love to learn. We cannot stop a baby from learning to talk, or a toddler from asking, “Why?” But we can discourage their love of learning until a child no longer wants to learn.
When we began homeschooling nine years ago, I was on a sure course to discourage our four children from loving to learn. I ordered a full textbook curriculum based on price and ease, not on content. I sent them to classes for subjects I thought were too hard to teach. Our children were bored, wiggly, and grumbled about doing schoolwork. My attitude about learning changed when I realized we cannot make anyone learn anything.
We consider why we want our children to learn a certain subject.
Now, in our homeschool, we (hubby & I) first consider why we want our children to learn a certain subject. We don’t teach simply to pass a grade or earn a credit, so we ask, “Why does he or she need to know this?”
Since we cannot teach everything in the span of a child’s education, we think: what information is important to us? In our home, history is a high priority. But we don’t teach as much science as another homeschool might. You’ll decide what’s important in your homeschool.
Always keep in mind the doors you want open to your children when they’re older. For our family, we wanted every door open, but didn’t worry about the advanced doors (eg. we’ll prepare them for college entrance, but not for Ivy League entrance — that’s up the child). Keeping this in mind, basic academics needed to be covered, so our kids have had math up to algebra, and science including chemistry. But our family’s passion and interest has been primarily in literature, practical skills, and history, where we have gone far beyond what would be taught in basic academics.
We seek the masters.
After we figure out our end goal, we search for the masters. The “master” might be a famous speech writer, a biography author, a seminar teacher, or Mrs. Mary across town. We try to find a way to connect our child with the “master,” by enrolling her in a sewing course with the town’s heirloom seamstress, by signing him up to listen to the WWII veteran speak on Tuesday night, or by checking a biography out of the library.
We add in plenty of hands-on learning activities.
Then, we think of hands-on activities for the child. As much as possible, we place the child in touch with the subject. We will flip over a log to look for the spiders we are reading about in a famous naturalist’s journal; we’ll visit an old fort where Geronimo was held captive; we’ll play an interactive online game on the subject; or we’ll drive across down to talk to Mr. Jones whom we’ve noticed is smart with his money.
We are examples of people who love to learn.
How do we most effectively encourage our children to learn? We follow their example: We love to learn. We are mindful of wasted time and though it’s important to have downtime each day, we know that we can get it through reading a book as well as (better than!) we can through reading social media. A walk in the woods up the road is just as relaxing (more so!) than switching channels on the t.v. We are not consistently wise in this area, but try to keep it in mind more often than not.
The children can be our teachers here. They know how to learn, naturally. They can help us remember what it’s like to love learning.