A Spoonful of Tips Helps the Learning Go Down

Are you ever torn in your homeschooling? You want your children to enjoy life, but you also want them to learn something! It’s no doubt a tricky balance. While your children might enjoy certain learning activities like projects or an interview assignment, they may find quizzes or tests painful. It can be the same for subjects as learning activities. In addition, while some students prefer to study alone, others prefer group work. So, how can you balance all these different variables?

Challenge your child without being too challenging.
One piece of the puzzle is to get the level of difficulty right within a subject. Each subject has a unique path and goes through various levels, such as beginner, novice, expert, and master. Is your child suffering because she’s trying to master a level 2 concept before mastering the level 1 challenges? Is your student trying to sound out words before mastering letter sounds? Sometimes a student has to fail a few level 2 challenges before discovering a learning gap. AOP tries to eliminate these learning gaps with worry-free academic placement through free diagnostic tests.

Provide clear instructions.
Another common source of frustration can be confusing instructions. If a single learning activity has 20 steps, consider breaking it into two different assignments or even more. We often learn one small step at a time. At the same time, just because your child may think the instructions on an assignment or question are confusing doesn’t necessarily mean they are, so don’t be too quick to swoop in and play hero as the instructor. Instead, challenge your child to figure it out on their own by suggesting a new strategy. You might also need to ask the student to read the instructions again carefully and ask you a specific question. Many times, a child can ‘get it’ and be their own hero when they do this.

Simulate a real-world challenge.
Students crave variety, and a powerful way to provide this variety is to simulate a real-world challenge. Instead of asking students to solve 50 abstract algebra problems, ask them to use those concepts to invent a life-saving drug or land a person on the moon or develop an economic model that reduces inflation? These hypothetical scenarios can help the student forget about the “I’ll never use this” problem, engage their imagination, and tap into their creativity.

Keep It Short and Sweet (KISS).
Just like milestone markers on a tall mountain path, smaller, incremental academic victories build excitement and maintain a sense of hope for the student. The average student can learn much more from a series of short iterations rather than one grueling event. Design your learning activities in such a way that doesn’t stretch their attention spans beyond their breaking points. Beware of burnout risks and consider using breaks in frequency and duration to mitigate the risk of a student giving up for good on a given subject or learning activity. Of course we want to stretch their attention spans and develop their focus, but pushing too hard, especially on a topic of minimal interest to your child can do more harm than good.

“A spoonful of sugar helps the medicine go down.”
When applying the advice of Mary Poppins to homeschooling, the medicine is practical knowledge and the sugar can be a simulating a real-world challenge, providing clear instructions, or using short iterations. Doing so should hopefully help our children to enjoy learning, while also challenging them. Because every student is different, we must adapt and vary our learning activities in such a way that mitigates burnout risk while making our homeschooling lessons stick.

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