I love to discover new things. Can you tell? From new ways to organize my home to a better way to teach math facts to challenging my own spiritual growth, I love it all. It keeps me young. It keeps me moving. But most of all, it keeps me teachable. School in any form---whether public, private, or homeschooling---will never be able to teach you everything. That's right. Never. There will always be gaps in our educations, no matter how "perfect" that curriculum or method claims to be. This is simply because we are human. We do not know everything. And we never will, no matter how hard we try.
But does that mean we don't encourage mastery or give up on education altogether? As the Apostle Paul would say, "May it never be!" In other words, no way! And yet how many of us have gotten into a rut because we have lost the wonder of learning and discovery?
My prayer for my children is that they will never be afraid of things that they do not know. I pray that they will not give up when they are stuck because they can't get a new concept. And most of all, I pray that they will not be afraid to wonder, dream, or imagine. All these things require a bit of willingness to try something new, to explore a new method, or create something that is uniquely their own.
While we are far from perfect, I hope that how we structure and live out our homeschool days will help my children cultivate a lifestyle of learning and most importantly, a teachable heart. I want them to be able to acknowledge when they don't know something, and yet not stop there. I want them to then have the curiosity to find out what they don't know, and then to share those discoveries with others.
How can we help cultivate this?
Have a positive attitude about learning and school.
I think this one goes a long way. Kids have a way of picking up our thoughts, especially our negative ones. If I grumble about schoolwork, they will too. If I say, we "have" to do school today with a groan in my voice, they will copy me.
I say this because I do it too. I have had to retrain my own heart and attitude by learning to say "we get to learn something new today!" (Even if I don't say it to them, I say it to myself!) I am learning to thank God for what He is teaching us and all that we are learning. It may take awhile to change our outlook, but this is probably the first step we can take.
Model it yourself.
Set aside time to read every day—if possible, in their presence. Each morning, my son joins me at 6:30 a.m. to read our Bibles together. If this sounds impossible, commit to training them how to have a quiet time. Kids can learn. I also like to spend about 20-30 minutes a day reading 10 pages out of a book of interest. When I commit to doing that, I have been able to complete at least one book a month. Again, we can set aside 20-30 minutes a day (after lunch seems to work well for many families) for a little downtime with a book. Just make sure you resist the urge to clean the bathroom instead!
Encourage reading as an enjoyable time.
I have recently been reading Honey for a Child's Heart by Gladys Hunt. In it she talks about the benefits of reading aloud to our children, to which I can readily attest. After dinner, most of us gather together in the living room (minus Anah, as she is usually getting ready for bed with Daddy). Janna has her crocheting or coloring in her anatomy workbook. Matthew is working on his yo-yo lists. Jonathan doesn't usually understand, but he's nearby. It is one of the best times of our day. In these make-believe worlds of Baker Street with Sherlock Holmes, or treks through Middle Earth with Bilbo, or escapes from reality into the land of Narnia, we enjoy time together.
In books, we learn how to deal with others, face issues in ourselves, or work through challenges. Even though it's "just" a story, we find so much to discuss and talk about. This is one of the best ways we have learned together with our children. We've enjoyed historical fiction, biography, fantasy, and so much more . We've made friends with the characters and rejoiced and wept with them. The kids learn to appreciate quality literature and discover new words. They have traveled to lands they may never see in real life. There's so much more to say, but I'll stop here. Go find a good book, gather your kids around, and start reading together!
Share what you learn or discover.
I love to hear what Matthew discovers about yo-yos. I don't understand it all, but he loves to tell me. Talking about it helps to solidify information and forces them to find a way to make their thoughts clear to their listeners. Some families even require their kids to come to the dinner table with a new fact that they had learned that day. I haven't gotten that far, but it's a good idea!
Get rid of the idea that school is reserved only for set hours.
I didn't do this with my older kids, so as a result, they sometimes "turned off" their brains when they finish their schoolwork for the day. I decided not to do that with Jonathan. Of course, that means that I often get requests to "do school" on a Friday night or after church on Sunday. In those moments, I have a little stash of activities that he can do independently. All I have done is find a good idea book or get suggestions from other creative moms, and then gather the materials needed for those ideas in a gallon-size plastic bag. Print out any instructions and keep it with your materials. That way, when your child is looking for something to do, you can simply grab a bag and let them work on their own or you can set aside some time to sit with them and play together.
If that's too much work for you, we have been happy simply reading a book together. No muss, no fuss, no planning. For him, he calls that good. For me, I hope to encourage his desire to learn.
Utilize waiting or traveling time with creative learning.
Listen to audiobooks in the car. (Our favorite is Focus on the Family's Radio Theater.) Play games on road trips while looking out the window at the passing scenery. Make up silly stories. Sing songs. Enjoy classical music. Personally, I limit electronic devices and video games, even on long trips, and if they really want something to play, I have invested in educational apps for our iPad. On short rides, we just don't bring them along at all. On longer rides, we limit it to 20-30 minute segments and then do something else.
I hope these ideas give you a start. But most of all, dear moms, it starts with me and you. And the love of learning will be a gift that will bless your children for years to come, even when they graduate from your school.