Six years ago, when my kids were just six and four-years-old, I shared the lazy girl’s guide to home education. At the time, of course, this was a bit of a risk. I was relying heavily on my experience as a child, since I hadn’t been homeschooling my own kids long enough to see any clear results from this philosophy.
But it resonated with me deeply. I knew in order for them to own their education I would need to let them drive it. I knew that educating my children wasn’t about me transferring some body of knowledge from my brain to theirs. It’s virtually impossible to actually retain information you care nothing for, information you think you don’t need.
Further, I saw from the very youngest age that children want to learn. Now that I have a baby again I’m struck by this anew–he is constantly exploring, discovering, experimenting, tasting, feeling. And he learns so quickly! No one has to coach him to grab everything in sight!
Sadly, this hunger for learning often dwindles the more time they spend in school. Several school-teacher friends of mine shared that by 4th grade they see a dramatic decline in student’s interest.
This is tragic! Their hunger for learning should be increasing as their mental capacity increases, just as one’s physical appetite increases as the physical body grows. If appetites are dwindling then something is terribly wrong!
I can honestly say now, six years later, my kids are more hungry for learning than ever. They are constantly learning.
As I type these words I see several documents open on my computer: Dutch is writing a new bug encyclopedia, Heidi is writing another story about her favorite created character: Arisuac, daughter of Coyrot, sister of SunDew. My phone tabs are equally cluttered with bug research and cat breeding information. When I swung by the library last I found twelve cat encyclopedias on hold. As I type these words late at night Heidi is up doing MindBender logic games.
They are obsessive learners.
And I see them learning and growing in non-book ways as well. We just built a deck together as a family. They both carried lumber, set concrete stones, leveled boards, drove screws. They learned the whole process, and now when asked, “What are the two critical things, when building a structure?” They’ll shout, “Level and square!”
The building process was interesting to them because it was real. It was a real deck, with real tools, that really mattered. Even if they’re reluctant at first, kids enjoy taking part of things that matter.
We also listen to the Brant Hansen Oddcast every day as a family and that has sparked loads of learning, great conversation, and laughter.
Now at night before bed they beg for what they call “Comedy Workshop:” Someone names a topic and we all have to come up with humorous improv lines or puns. Sure, this isn’t “schoolwork,” but I love that they’re learning to think on their feet without stressing about perfection and also learning about humor–all the education in the world won’t amount to much if you haven’t learned to laugh!
By sharing all this I certainly do not mean to imply that we’re just rockin’ it in every area. We have our weak areas, like anyone else. But I can see the hunger for learning increasing as the years go by, and that, to me, is success.
So as I revisit this lazy girls’ guide six years later, I see the three key components and still wholeheartedly agree these are the key. They are:
1. Give Access.
If something is hard to find, hard to get out, and hard to put away, kids will avoid it. Half the battle of education is making excellent educational resources accessible to them and giving space to let them have free reign.
What begins as exploring soon becomes studying as their little brains develop into young adulthood. Maps, encyclopedias, classic literature, games, field guides, educational coloring books, art supplies, music instruments, magazines–all of these are just waiting to be devoured by eager minds.
2. Create Order.
I would say this is my biggest challenge over the years. I am constantly working to organize and maintain helpful systems of order so that we can thrive.
How many eager educational moments have been frustrated by not knowing where something is, or having so much other housework to do that learning constantly takes a back seat. When we are orderly, we all enjoy the learning process so much more.
3. Allow Boredom.
Hands down, if there was only ONE piece of educational advice I would give to a new homeschool parent it would be this: Allow boredom. From the youngest age, our children were never permitted to use “the b word.”
In fact, in their 10 and 12 years, they have never said “bored” or “boring.” I’ve never even heard them say they have nothing to do. If there’s a book to read or a world outside to explore, there’s plenty to do!
It is not our job to entertain our children, and if we are with them (modeling an eager-to-learn attitude) and giving them access to rich and nourishing materials and environments they’ll become voracious learners.
They won’t become mentally lazy because of constantly having things done to them or information coming at them. They’ll learn to go get information, experiences, discoveries. Their minds will be accustomed to active learning, which is the most satisfying kind.
I don’t know about you, but I often struggle with second-guessing and wondering if I’m “doing it right.” It’s good to revisit these simple principles and remind myself to trust the process.
If our kids’ love of learning is increasing, let’s relax about the details, and celebrate the fact that healthy appetites are growing, and this is good.
Your turn: What are your children obsessed with these days? How do you encourage them in their desire to learn?
If you enjoyed this post, check out Jamie’s book, Introverted Mom: Your Guide to More Calm, Less Guilt, and Quiet Joy.