Are you overwhelmed with meeting the educational needs of your kids in new and creative ways? Are you always looking for ideas to help meet your child's individual style of learning? If you are, you'll love these tips. If not, you probably need these tips as well! I'm a huge believer in learning for life and teaching children the value in a lifestyle filled with learning moments. I hope you are too! Here are what I try to use with my children (now 17 and 12) in our daily lives to encourage their learning and growing.
Take it outside the classroom
Your children spend hours each day learning in the classroom environment, but this classroom environment is limited. Many of those hours are spent sitting at their desks, reading from books, and trying to absorb information they are hearing and seeing. This is good, but when you take the learning outside the typical classroom setting (and the need to keep 30 children behaving and focused-yikes!), you can offer different opportunities specialized with your kids' learning in mind. Your children can learn through making, crafting, hiking, cooking, talking, visiting...the list goes on.
Learn yourself; they will follow your example
Have you ever noticed that kids with parents who are physically active tend to be more active themselves? Kids who come from homes that value good nutrition usually make more positive food choices in general, even when their parents aren't around. And children with parents who choose to continue learning, even in adulthood, tend to make similar choices. So one of the easiest ways to encourage our kids to love learning is to love it ourselves. Take that photography class you've been putting off. Read a few new books. Practice a second language. Learn a new recipe. Basically, let your kids know you value education even for yourself.
Find interactive opportunities
Learning is always more fun when you don't realize that's what you are doing. Learning math by measuring ingredients for a cake is much more fun than memorizing ratios in school. Learning about nature by going camping and hiking is much more fun than reading about it. And learning about the science of space by visiting an interactive museum (and questioning a real life astronaut) is much more fun than watching a movie about space in class. While these interactive opportunities might not be available, or practical, on a daily basis, taking them as you can is essential.
Encourage their current interests, whatever they may be
Kids definitely go through phases. One week they are in love with all things Chinese, and then the next they only want to talk about England. Keeping up with these phases can truly be a challenge, and it may seem wise to ignore them or minimize them, but doing so could prevent a lot of learning possibilities. Levi went through a long phase where he loved everything archeological, including the Egyptians. We bought him books on Egypt, took him to see museum exhibits on mummies and the pharaohs, and did everything we could to encourage his love. Currently, he's into space. So those are the books he's getting and the exhibits we're seeing. And when the next phase comes, we'll encourage that one. Because we have no way of knowing which phase might be the one that eventually becomes his career...or which phase might help him learn to love something else. We just continue to encourage the love of learning in whatever way we can find. And always we try to be creative within it.
Many of these photos are from a sneak preview of the Space Exhibit that we were able to attend at the MN Science Museum. This was a special Media event that because of my "media" status I was able to attend. It had special hours, events, and perks not available to the general public. Although I may not have normally attended this function, I realized it was a great time to facilitate Levi's love of space in a unique way. He had a ball and it was worth every bit of energy!
Make learning their first, easiest choice for down-time.
When our kids get home from school, often their first instinct is to plop down in front of the TV or go online for fun. Usually, these forms of entertainment have little to no educational value. But as parents, we have the chance to change that first instinct.
Maybe the rule becomes that, when your kids get home, the TV goes on only if they are watching a set of shows you know to be educational. Or perhaps if they choose to do some cooking in their free time they can skip a chore for the day. Or maybe every day you and your children challenge each other to a game of chess. Try to make educational, learning activities the desired choice and you will raise children that love to learn.