When I retired as Homeschool Teacher, I started blogging because I enjoyed writing and wanted to learn more about using the internet. I earned a Bachelor’s degree in Advertising, but that was right before the internet came to be, so my education didn’t include anything about it. I haven’t always enjoyed writing, either. I went to school before the days of word processing when writing anything, either by hand or typewriter, meant writing and re-writing, and using a bottle of Liquid Paper, to produce a paper worth turning in. All of that time, not to mention the tedious assignments, made me dislike it. In a seemingly short time, the world had changed a lot because of personal computers and the internet.
Inspired by My Students
I was inspired by my kids because they had learned how to learn. During their childhood, they had the benefit of the internet to look up anything they wanted, at pretty much any time. They didn’t wait to take a class, they figured it out theirselves. I’d been a little envious of that. When I was growing up, the only resource I had at home was a set of encyclopedias, and it wasn’t exactly up to date.
Nurturing the Love of Learning
One of our homeschool goals was for our children to learn how to learn. More specifically, we wanted to nurture the love of learning that they’re naturally born with. It’s the same principle as the common proverb, “Give a man a fish, and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish, and you feed him for a lifetime.” Every education is going to have gaps. We can’t know what the future holds for our children, or what they’ll need to know. Additionally, technology changes at such a rapid pace that by the time it’s in a textbook it’s out of date. But if our children learn how to learn, then they can learn anything. Knowing how to learn is more than a skill, it’s having confidence in one’s self to learn independently.
So how do we foster this independence? I don’t claim to be an expert, but I have some suggestions based on my personal experience.
There are a variety of approaches to homeschooling, and one of them, Unschooling, is child-led, and follows their interests. While many families follow that style of homeschooling, all families can implement its principles to some degree.
- In kids’ free time, during holidays, and school breaks, encourage them to pursue their interests.
- Make sure your children have free time. Don’t over-schedule them.
- Design a purposeful environment by providing your children with materials that are educational, wholesome, and are in keeping with your beliefs. Consider culling anything that doesn’t meet that criteria.
- As they mature, give them more responsibility in planning their classes and activities.
- If you see an aptitude, look for opportunities to nourish it through extra-curricular activities, online classes, clubs, or camps where they can learn more and meet others with the same interest. Look for a mentor or apprenticeship. Don’t be shy about asking fellow homeschoolers for ideas. You never know, another homeschool parent or grandparent may have just the expertise you’re looking for, or know where you can find it.
- Don’t get so caught up in following curriculum that it doesn’t allow kids to investigate other things. Learning is learning, and they learn better when it’s their idea. Like another famous proverb – “you can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink” – you can force kids to do homework, but you can’t force true learning. Learning is more than memorizing facts, it’s an internalizing or synthesizing of the information, being able to dissect it and recombine it in new ways, and explain it.
- Don’t underestimate your child’s desire or ability to learn. They will all have their own pace and capability, but God created us to learn. They’re like little sponges. If they seem unable or unwilling to learn, it may be that the natural love of learning has been driven out of them because current subjects or methods aren’t meeting their needs. Re-examine your method and materials to see if some changes are needed.
Carry On, Mr. Bowditch
Years ago we read a book called Carry On, Mr. Bowditch, by Jean Lee Latham. We’ve read a lot of good books through school, but this one was particularly inspiring. It’s a biography about Nathaniel Bowditch, who, despite adverse circumstances, found ways to learn the information he craved, such as borrowing books or finding apprenticeships. Primarily self-educated, he was a mathematical genius, and considered the Founder of Modern Maritime Navigation. Nathaniel Bowditch knew how to learn.
A steep learning curve can be exciting, yet stressful. I’m more empathetic about that now. I already knew how to write, but all of the technology related to blogging was totally new. Since the beginning of my blog, I’ve learned a slew of new terms and skills, and there were a few times that I needed to learn so much so fast that I felt like my head was going to explode.
Homeschooling my kids helped to revive my own love of learning, and watching the variety of interests they’ve pursued has inspired me to pursue my own.
Learning should be a life-long pursuit. At least I hope it will be for me. It keeps life interesting and my mind stimulated. What new things are you learning?
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