When kids love to learn, teaching is easy. That phrase is so easy for me to type. I've typed it a hundred times in the last few months, yet for many parents, the idea is so elusive. They just can't seem to convince themselves to let go and watch their kids grow.
The truth is that letting go and watching them grow is the most rewarding thing a parent can do when it comes to teaching kids at home. I'll admit that it took time for us as parents to adopt this philosophy. Annette was much quicker to embrace it than I was, but looking back, it was the best thing we could do for our kids.
Let me illustrate. Our eight year old daughter has blossomed as a reader over the last year, yet she still enjoys listening to me read aloud to her as well. Even though she is perfectly capable of reading chapter books on her own, she still comes to me every night and asks me to read to her. Lately she has been bringing me a series of biographies called Who Was...
So far we have read about Eleanor Roosevelt and Louis Armstrong. Those who know me would probably associate me more with country music than with jazz, but secretly, I enjoy a little jazz. I also enjoy learning about history. Because of this, I have enjoyed reading both of these books with my daughter. The truth is that I read to her at night because I want to learn about the people. These biographies fascinate me. What might look like an eight year old loving to learn is actually her father enjoying the process just as much, although not without putting in some hard work first.
About this time last year, I was reading her a series of books about fairies. I struggled through one chapter a night, dreading the next night when I had to read more fairy books. Now that we're reading fascinating biographies, I read four or five chapters a night and only stop because she needs to go to bed. We would both go on longer if time permitted.
The lesson here is this. I read what I hated so she would develop a love a learning. I read to her what seemed like a hundred fairy books because she enjoyed them. Parents often think that reading books like the fairy books has no value, but that mentality only serves to kill the love of learning. Allowing my daughter to read what most would consider to be stupid books, led her to a place of true learning and discussion. It led to us making pancakes on a Saturday morning with Louis Armstrong playing in the background.
This week our family is living in our trailer on a small patch of dirt and gravel outside the livestock barns at the Southern California Fair. Our kids are busy all week caring for their animals and showing them in several different shows.
One of the things that we like best about homeschooling is the ability to do things like this. For the most part, the kids are able to greatly reduce their typical school-related activities and focus on the task at hand. On the first day of the fair this year, two of our kids won the first place blue ribbon in showmanship for their guinea pigs. As the winners of their respective classes, they get to move on to Master Showmanship at the end of the week.
Master Showmanship requires that the participants show all of the animals in that category. Since our kids won for small animals, they will be showing guinea pigs, rabbits, dogs, chickens, and turkeys, even though they only prepared for guinea pigs. This means that regular study is required throughout the week. As a result, they have been reviewing dog and rabbit breeds and have talked about chicken and turkey body parts. They are doing all of this because they are motivated. They are doing it because they enjoy it. And that is the essence of a Love of Learning.
We don't have to nag them about studying to prepare for the big show on Friday. They do it because they enjoy it. They are sharpening their minds by studying. Who cares if the information is not listed in the standards? What's important is that they are learning how to learn and they are having fun in the process. What better way for a child to learn than to want to learn?
Give your kids a reason and they will blossom right in front of you. Help your kids find purpose for learning and your life will never be the same.