As a mom that using an unschooling approach, I often find myself worrying that my kids aren’t learning enough. We have days when the kids seem to make excuse after excuse as to why playing Minecraft all day is the best choice for them. I would agree that Minecraft when used creatively, is a great educational tool but let’s get real, it certainly can’t be their only tool. I have compiled a list of 5 ways that I encourage my kids to learn, in hopes, it will offer some encouragement for you also.
Let your child lead the way.
One of the most valuable things I have learned during our 10 years of homeschooling is to trust my children to lead the way when it comes to education. It took me about 7 years of homeschooling before I learned this. I’ve gotten a lot of questions regarding how I was able to overcome the fear of failing my children and my answer is always the same, I haven’t. I fight this fear every day. But, I have learned to take a step back and trust that there is truth in the statement that “kids are natural learners.”
I remember the first real evidence I seen with my daughter. When she was 7 years old, math made her cry and not the whiny cry that indicated she just didn’t like it, there was frustration in her cry. After a week of tears, I made the decision to stop teaching math. For an entire year. It was difficult because I would constantly hear this nagging voice, “You’re failing her, she’s going to be so far behind.” But we stayed the course and the following year she was ready. She approached me one afternoon asking for multiplication worksheets. Worksheets? That wasn’t even in our learning vocabulary. But this was her telling that she was ready and that this is what she needed to learn. She conquered multiplication in less than a month and is now ahead of her public school peers.
Utilize gadgets and apps.
Apps and gadgets are a great way to encourage learning. We live in a day in age where information is literally at our fingertips every day. One of our favorite things to do is find new apps on our iPad that are fun and have some degree of learning and challenge. We have found several word games that encourage spelling and promote problem-solving and logic simply by searching the app store, most if not all have been free. The nice thing about using apps and gadgets is that my kids don’t even realize that they are learning.
Games have been a great way to encourage learning in our house. Games that use money will teach them how to count, “Of course you can be the banker!” is a popular mom statement when we sit down to play games. I am always encouraging my kids to take the lead by having them read the directions, set up the game and be the lead player, not only do they feel special, but you guessed it, they are also learning. There are hundreds of games on the market that promote learning, skill, strategy and problem-solving.
Focus on your child’s strengths.
When we focus on our child’s strengths we build confidence and this plays a huge part in learning. If we spend our time pushing them towards things that confuse them and frustrate them, we aren’t helping them. We are doing quite the opposite. No one wants to willfully engage in an activity that frustrates them. If we focus on building skills that come easy to them, they will naturally want to seek out more challenging things. Again, the nagging voice of the fearful mom creeps in and says things like, “that’s not how the real world works” or “I’m setting my child up for failure.” This is simply not true. You will not fail your child by building their confidence. You will not fail your child by focusing on strengths. If you find that your child is frustrated with a topic more so then enjoying it, maybe try to step back and give him some breathing room. Watch for queues and come back to it later.
Make learning part of everyday life.
We get so focused on subjects, schooling and staying on track that we forget what real learning is. Learning is everywhere, it’s in documentaries, grocery shopping, driving, reading (even if the only thing you can get your kids to read is the restaurant menu, count it as a win). In our home, we turn every opportunity into a learning opportunity. Creating an education for our children based on memorization, testing and book work is not real-world learning. Yes, they will be able to test well and can recite a history timeline in chronological order. But aside from memorization what are they really learning? We start each day in our house with the same question, “What do you want to learn today?” Give it a try, your child’s answer might surprise you.
As you journey through your child’s education remembers to breathe, you are not failing them. Just the simple fact that you are making the choice to take your child’s education into your own hands is a step in the right direction. Children are natural learners, it is our job as their parents to give them encouragement when we see a passion for a topic in their eyes and space when we see the frustration. Encourage them to seek out answers, encourage them to question everything, encourage them to fail and you will create a formula for guaranteed success.