Creating a Love for Learning
My favorite homeschooling days are not spent at our homeschool table in front of our computers. For me, that is the necessary grunt work we have to put in to have days where we can go to the zoo, work in the garden, go on a long hike, or pick up educational magazines to read as we leave for a road trip in the middle of the week when they otherwise would have been in school (and I’ve also grown to love being alongside them as they’ve mastered a tough question in math or aced their spelling test).
But don’t I value academics? Yes! I do. I did not realize how passionate I was about education until I was in college and realized how different it was from any other schooling I’d had. I didn’t do well in school. Not only did I get low grades, but I was also fidgety, frantic, and “too sociable.” High school was atrocious. I distinctly remember missing a couple days of algebra and never catching up again. I remember my chemistry teacher using up the entire class time to talk to the football players in class about their next game because he was also the coach.
That’s why, in college, I was floored when I realized I actually loved learning. The classes were exciting, and the professors inspired us. Math remained my hardest subject, but I kept a 3.9 GPA. You would think I underwent some transformative experience to go from barely graduating to mostly A’s, but it wasn’t me, it was my learning environment.
Now, looking back, I can remember countless learning experiences throughout my childhood outside the classroom (and yes, some in the classroom too). I remember the need I had to look up water bugs in our brand new encyclopedias (remember the door to door encyclopedia salesman?!) after being at a neighbor’s pool and watching the insects skirt around. How did they get there? I asked everyone around me, but no one knew, and no one cared. So I dragged out one of our encyclopedias and thanked God we had a W. I had to know.
Learning is everywhere.
I used to think that our youngest daughter was the only one who was self-motivated to learn, but I was wrong. She’s motivated by pushing the buttons on the computer and seeing the trail of green check marks at the top of her page when she’s done well. But all the kids love to learn. They’re constantly asking questions about space, or cooking, or cars, or kittens, or how the phone works, or the TV, or their DS, or the washing machine. They want to know about the different cultures in India and the Aborigines in Australia. They want to know so much that I can barely keep up with it all. In fact, I have been known to put a cap on their questions because “Mommy needs a break.”
There is a complicated mix of what our children need to learn, but a lifetime of opportunity to learn it. I want to give them a basic knowledge for how math works, what and where the continents are, how to structure a sentence to communicate their thoughts effectively, and what the story of Moses has to do with them. But more than that, I want them to want to know. Instead of simply teaching them math, I want to give them a reason to want to know math.
For instance, yesterday I picked out several magazines to take with us on an upcoming road trip. One magazine is all about model trains. My youngest boy is very serious about trains. There is a model train exhibit at our local botanical garden that we always plan to stay awhile and watch. I’ve never been a train person, but I admit it’s interesting to me to see how someone built the train, the tracks, and the city…for about five minutes. But my son will watch and run around the tracks by the trains all day if we let him. He catches every detail and makes note of how the wheels hit the tracks. Does he know there’s math involved in creating that? No, but I do. My intent with the magazine is to fuel that desire and guide it toward a project where we have to use math to understand how trains work.
Then there’s my oldest. She wants to write stories, but really she wants her story to be heard. All of that sentence structure and paragraph formatting that she’s been trying to learn will finally find some value in her life, and now it will stick. Life has moved her to a place of needing to pay attention to how she writes if she wants her story to be understood.
Voila. The veil is lifted and education is hidden in every nook and cranny of our lives.
Today, instead of bailing on our lesson plans to find something more interesting than grammar, we stayed put and this is what we’ve learned so far.
A conversation with our kids:
Me: Tell me one thing you’ve learned so far today.
Her: Life or school?
Her: OK, I learned what gerund means.
Me: What does it mean?
Her: OK, I’ll give you a sentence. Running is difficult. Running is your gerund, a verb that functions as a noun. “Is” is your verb.
Me: Tell me one thing you’ve learned today.
Him: That bonny means beautiful. I didn’t know that.
Me: Cool! How would you use that in a sentence?
Him: You have a very bonny dog.
We both laugh hysterically.
Me: Tell me one thing you’ve learned today.
Her: Ummm, I learned today that I could take a quiz without looking back at my reading because I’ve memorized it.
Me: Awesome! Can you tell me one of the words from it?
Her: It’s true people didn’t know what was on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean.
Me: OK, why didn’t they know that?
Her: Because they didn’t have a globe, and they hadn’t sailed there yet.
Me: Ok, so “globe” was one?
Me: Great job!
Me: Tell me one thing you learned today.
Him: Well, today when I was learning about farming communities, there were two Indians who helped someone I forget and then they all landed in Massachusetts. Isn’t that weird? And that a yellow question mark on my computer is a symbol of grammar.
Me: OK! Well, that’s great!
So my youngest and I have some work to do still today to put all those pieces together, but you see my point.
One thing I’ve learned today is that sometimes our children will surpass us when they learn words like “Gerund.” That was probably taught during one of my “sociable” times!