Our family has been a ‘learning family’ for as long as I can remember. Even before we removed our children from their private school and brought them home for their education, they were always curious about animals, space, letters, books, drawing, and more! Since my husband and I are often trying to learn new things ourselves, it has been a relatively easy transition to help our children to do the same thing.
Now, when I say “easy” that does not mean that things always go smoothly in our homeschool. We have our rough days just like anyone else. Some days my kids are not so interested in learning, or at least what I might consider to be learning. If that has happened to you, you are not alone! I hope these ideas for encouraging independent learning are helpful to you as you endeavor to make the transition in your own homeschool.
Visit the library and check out lots of living books.
In our home, it has been the living books that have held the interest of our children. The pleadings of “One more chapter!” or “Can we read our literature book before completing our math?” are always good indications to me that my children are interested in a topic, and learning. Any time we visit the library, I allow my children to choose a few books that they are interested in reading. But I am always sure to pick up a few myself to place in our book basket. It never fails that my children will end up poring over those books about Egypt, snakes, knitting, drawing, preparing vegan meals, etc. on their own out of pure curiosity! Not every book is a hit, but my children are usually able to find something that strikes their fancy, and often a new season of total immersion in a topic is born. All of that, simply through the exploration of a basket of books.
Keep a good supply of art supplies at hand.
My two eldest children have loved to create art since the very beginning of our homeschool journey. Since they were so interested, I have always kept lots of markers, colored pencils, paints, beads, glitter, sequins, paper, scissors, glue, and the like, on hand. Those two would choose how-to-draw books from our local library, bring them home, and get to work practicing drawing horses, cars, insects, faces, dogs, cheetahs, plants, and more. They have become pretty talented artists after 9 years of steady practice and honing their skills. Over the years I have watched them be creative in other areas, as well, such as photography, writing, and graphic design. All of this I think is due to their early access to art supplies. They caught the ‘creative bug’ and haven’t let it go since!
Subscribe to streaming services and allow your children to watch documentaries or channels like Food Network.
I’m not advocating allowing your children to watch TV and movies all day, don’t worry. But I am encouraging you not to discount the learning that can take place through a documentary, a cooking show, and even an educational cartoon. We recently turned on Food Network while my two youngest girls were playing nearby. I never would have thought to see my 4 year old daughter, who is on the autism spectrum, become so excited about food. She sat up straighter, made comments, asked questions, and was at rapt attention for the entire broadcast, not something that usually happens with her when it comes to tv or books. This interest has followed into our daily lives, as she now is very interested in watching me any time I am preparing a meal. She loves to help me when she can too. I believe, for her, that food and it’s preparation will be a fabulous way for her to learn. A spark has been ignited. You never know what might spark your child’s interest, so encourage your child’s interest in quality programs, rather than dismissing them with the thought that tv will “rot the brain”.
Has your child expressed an interest in a particular topic? Help him to begin his research, and then leave him to it.
Perhaps your son is interested in modern history, Chinese culture, Native Americans, or the Holocaust. Help him to find appropriate materials with which he can conduct research, and then leave him to it. Motivation from within, that comes from an interest in a topic, is the best way to get a child learning, in my opinion. Help him to find lessons, lapbooks, literature, and movies that cover the topic. He will devour those resources, absorb a ton of information, and he’ll be able to satisfy his natural curiosity with your full support and encouragement, rather than enduring the pressure to explore a different topic which you may find to be more suitable but bores him to tears.
Don’t box yourself, or your child, in to one way of learning. Think outside the box and allow her to use non-traditional methods to learn about a particular interest.
Today’s homeschooling world is much different from the days of those who began the homeschooling movement.There are many terrific curriculum packages available for almost any subject a homeschooled child, or her parents, could dream of studying. This is a true blessing! However, be sure that you encourage your child to use non-traditional resources for learning about her topic of interest, too. Each child learns differently, and I believe that gleaning from several different types of resources will allow your child to dig deeper into the subject of interest, and to retain more about it, as well.
Sometimes the books or supplies you bring home that you think will be THE thing to get your child learning on his own, won’t be worth a second look to him or her. However, if you give it a day or two, or perhaps even a week or three, you may discover that your child has come back around to that book of maps, the model car kit, or the pair of roller skates that you brought home and have let sit in the corner unattended. When a child does not express interest right away it doesn’t have to mean that he won’t become interested at some point. In the same way, realize that your child simply may not ever take an interest in that particular item, and learn to be okay with that.
It can be tempting to ‘test’ our children to find out what they are learning through their independent studies. I encourage you to resist the urge, and to simply wait. When your child is truly engaged in what he is doing and learning, he will eventually come to you to tell you what he has discovered, to show you what he has built, and maybe even to thank you for that ratty old pair of used roller skates you thought he’d never use…and to tell you that they are the best gift he has ever received.
Wendy’s heart’s desire is to encourage women in marriage, mothering, and home education. Whatever it is that God has called you to do, He will equip you for the journey. Wendy believes that He has great plans for you! No matter the adversity you may encounter, His plans are good. HE is good. Always. Be sure to connect with Wendy on her blog or on social media so that you can receive the encouragement she offers.
I would also love to invite you the community inspired by this series, as we strive to inspire, encourage and empower our readers in everything homeschooling.