Children who love learning is not a happenstance — it takes some effort. As a parent, you can easily inspire and encourage a love of learning for your children; however, it's not anything you actually 'teach' them. It's a matter of creating an accepting environment rich with learning opportunities, in which children can develop ideas, express feelings, take chances, make choices, share opinions, gather information and most of all, simply have the ability to be inquisitive individuals. Furthermore, it's important for parents to set the tone by illustrating that learning is a life-long process and that just because you're a mom or a dad, your haven't lost your passion for it.
Most parents understand that it's important to do everything possible to foster learning in the earliest years of a child’s life — and that's wonderful! Showing an interest in their curiosity from a young age is the best way to nurture it and emphasize its importance. After all, curiosity certainly is a motivating factor — the more you encourage it, the more curious your children will become, and the more they will crave learning. However, as parents, it is also important to understand that just because a child turns five years old and you drop them off on the Kindergarten doorstep, you're not necessarily off the hook! That is, not if you want to ensure that your children enjoy success in education. Building a home where learning is a focus and has value is one of the best ways to grow passionate, life-long learners.
Beyond your enthusiasm for learning, you must provide an environment and opportunities that invite investigation and coax creative thinking. Here are a few simple ideas to help make your home learning abundant:
1.) If you do nothing else, encourage daily reading!
Literacy is the single most important piece of learning. Study after study has confirmed — homes that support a culture of literacy are those which produce the most academically successful students. When my children were young, we started a family tradition of reading at bedtime. Before developing independent reading skills, I read to them, and to this day they read every night before falling asleep. When children are young it's important to promote the activity of reading as something which we look forward to and that the success in reading a book is not about getting from front cover to back cover, as much as it is about discovering all the hidden treasures found on the pages within. I considered reading easier to schedule at the end of the day when everybody is winding down and getting tucked into bed. Trying to schedule quiet time for reading during the day was always like herding stray cats! Not to mention that evening reading has proven benefits for children, as well as adults. For instance, it reduces stress, promotes relaxation, and improves mental capabilities.
2.) Schedule special learning days and times!
It's effortless to get caught up in the day-to-day commitments of frenzied family life, so like the suggestion for evening reading, you might find it easier to set aside very specific days and times to provide learning opportunities. Depending on how ambitious you are, set one day or a couple of days aside on a monthly basis for learning something new. I would recommend starting slowly — perhaps the first Saturday afternoon of every month — and working yourself up from there. Once you get into a groove, it will be a day that the entire family looks forward to — with great anticipation! That day each month can be as extensive as a planned activity in your home — or as easy as visiting a local museum or taking a hike to observe nature. It's also beneficial to involve your children in the planning of the activity. Taking cues from what interests them, as well as vesting them in the plans, can also help ensure the success of the experience. However you structure your special day, and whatever you decide to learn about, one thing is for sure — the act of learning as a family will make an overall difference in how your children feel about and approach learning in the long run.
3.) Make collecting your home learning materials a hobby!
In other words, think about it all the time and don't wait until your scheduled learning day is upon you and have to rush out to gather the materials you need or the books you want to include. Just remember that all homes that emphasize the importance of learning always have the necessary tools on hand to facilitate and encourage it. I started with building an extensive library in our home with books for all ages. I also organized a pretty big craft closet with all the essentials — scissors, paper, glue, pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, beads, etc. You name it, and we probably have it. And most of these things I picked up when they were on sale — rather than when I was under pressure and willing to pay just about anything for them! I would also suggest starting a file, continually filling it with neat and nifty learning ideas. Board games are great to have on hand — especially those that encourage critical thinking skills. Bring art into the home by investing in a diverse music collection and displaying prints of famous artwork next to pieces created by your children. Think up creative ways to encourage curiosity for your children. The many ways in which you can fill your home with things that spark imagination is limited only by your very own. And trust me, you'll never be disappointed by the returns on your investment in tools that promote learning.
4.) Celebrate learning for the fun of it!
Truthfully, as I mentioned before, the best way for parents to emphasize learning, for the fun of it, is to lead by example. Children are great imitators; therefore, give them something to imitate. As a homeschool parent, you can just imagine how passionately I feel about homes that encourage and celebrate learning. It is so important, as a parent (and I mean to include any parent), that you communicate to your children that learning is fun and something that should be carried out every single day of life with enthusiasm. Funny story — inevitably, whenever we were out and about on any given week day someone would ask my children, 'Oh, isn't today a school day?' They would answer (always met with a bewilderment), 'We don't believe in school days because every day is a learning day!' Not that I think homeschooling is for everybody; however, I do wish this could be the mantra for all families! There is a real temptation for parents to rely on school for a child's education, but this is very dangerous. Children then grow up to believe that learning can only happen at school! In fact, the only thing that happens at school is graded learning — which is not necessarily effective learning and perhaps another blog topic for another day!
5.) How to choose the activity for your learning day!
Oh, my word — the sky is the limit — the world is your oyster! And there is no 'right' learning activity. Anything you choose to explore, discover, and learn about is 'right.' Assuming your children are attending school, you might want to check with their teachers. They are a wealth of information and wonderful ideas. Plus you can coordinate the learning opportunities that you provide at home with the curriculum they are using at school. For instance, if one of your children happens to be studying bugs, perhaps a family outing to the local insectarium would be in order. And remember, include your children's interests — passion always ignites learning! If you don't feel that you are a particularly creative person and the thought of creating fun, educational activities is intimidating, there are plenty of resources out there for you, and of course, with the internet, they are only a click away. Erica at 'WHAT DO WE DO ALL DAY?' has an ongoing list of activity suggestions that could prove very helpful for you! What I love about her list is that she is always updating it, has it broken down by age, and includes simple activities as well as some that are a little more complex.
The most important thing to take away from this article is not to feel overwhelmed by the thought of encouraging learning in your home. These are merely suggestions and places to start. Remember that no matter what you start doing today, it is likely more than you were doing yesterday, and there is the potential it will be less than you will do tomorrow. So just start — whatever you do will help your children in the long run and inspire them to love learning! The realized benefits are that children who love learning become independent learners, innovative thinkers, and individuals who seek knowledge with passion and zeal — throughout life. In other words, life-long learners. So, give this precious and meaningful gift to your children! Why not start today?
What are some of the ways you plan to make your home learning abundant? Please comment and share below!
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