Written by Kris Bales of Weird, Unsocialized Homeschoolers
We’ve all heard that children have an innate sense of curiosity and a love of learning. I don’t think any of us intentionally set out to squash either.
Sometimes we do it, though. We often don’t recognize the role we play in putting out that fire of curiosity.
Are you guilty of any of these?
1. Being overly critical
Pointing out every flaw in our kids’ work is one of the quickest ways to squelch their enthusiasm for any topic. I confess guilt in this area when it comes to my oldest daughter’s writing. When checking her papers, I used to mark all the mistakes.
Now, imagine you’ve just poured out your thoughts on paper for another person to critique only to have that person pick it apart mercilessly. Yeah, I still feel guilty about the way I used to grade her papers.
Instead of pointing out every mistake, choose one or two areas of improvement for your child to focus on and one or two areas to praise.
For example, maybe your student isn’t consistently using the correct punctuation and capitalization in her papers. Focus on correcting that and ignore the misspelled words and grammar errors for now. (Maybe sneak them into her spelling assignment next week.)
Praise her for the captivating tale she told, the interesting facts she included in her report, or how neatly she wrote her final draft.
2. Being unwilling to help
Sometimes we frustrate our kids and leave them floundering when we don’t provide enough support. We may be worried that we’re not encouraging academic independence or afraid we’re offering too much help.
Yes, I suffer from guilt in this area, too. I have a bad reputation in my family for giving my kids great examples of possible topic sentences for their papers, then telling them that they can’t use my examples.
I mean, seriously, coming up with a strong topic sentence is often one of the hardest parts of writing. What’s wrong with letting your kids use your idea if they’re having trouble coming up with one of their own? Through your modeling, they will learn to formulate their own topic sentences.
It’s okay to be your child’s scribe, writing down the story or report he’s dictating if the physical act of writing hinders his creativity.
It’s okay to work through a couple of problems in your child’s math text if he’s having trouble grasping the concept.
It’s okay to read aloud to your struggling reader or let her use audio books.
It’s okay to let your student use a multiplication chart if they’re struggling to memorize their times tables. (They sink in eventually. Really.)
You didn’t refuse to hold your baby’s hand when he was learning to walk because he needed to do it on his own. Don’t refuse to help now. He won’t always need to hold your hand.
3. Labeling topics as educational and non-educational
It’s taken me awhile, but I’ve come to realize that just about any topic can be educational. I finally understood this when I decided I was tired of trying of cram information they didn’t care about in the least down my teens’ throats.
I realized that it really is possible to follow an interest-led style of homeschooling all the way through high school.
His interest in video games has led my son to pursue coding with very little input from me.
My 16-year-old has become fascinated with special effects make-up. That has led to all kinds of research on the techniques and tools of the trade. The FX make-up she’s been creating is going toward an elective credit, but the research skills she’s using are valuable for any topic.
Look for the educational value in the topics that captivate your kids. And don’t discount the topic if the educational value isn’t readily apparent. Instead, look for ways to tie that interest into the skills and concepts that are important to you.
4. Allowing your schedule or your curriculum to dictate your day
Your schedule and curriculum are both tools for you as the educator. They are not the educator. If a topic captures your student’s interest, follow that rabbit trail! Some of our best learning has taken place outside of our regular curriculum and lesson plans.
I’m a big fan of tweaking curriculum to suit my family’s needs. We often look for more hands-on ways to cover a concept – such as making an edible cell model instead of labeling the drawing in the book. Or playing a card game to practice math facts.
Two of my biggest goals with homeschooling are fostering a life-long love of learning and teaching my kids how to learn anything that interests them. Sometimes that means deviating from the lesson plans and the curriculum.
Just remember: You’re the boss, not some schedule or textbook! And also keep in mind that no matter how we may have squashed our kids’ love of learning in the past, we can always start again tomorrow.
What are some ways you encourage a love of learning in your homeschool?