Earlier this month, our family reached a new milestone: both of our daughters are now in public school – all day, every day.
This has been a bittersweet transition for us, but it has been made easier by the fact that both of my children genuinely love school and are endlessly enthusiastic about learning. As a former public school teacher, I know that raising children who love to learn doesn’t happen by accident.
It is an unfortunate stereotype of the public school parent that we have chosen this approach to schooling by default or because we are lazy and want to leave the education of our children to the paid professionals. The reasons for a child to be in public schools are as diverse as a public school classroom itself, and most public school parents I know want to support our children’s learning in any way we can.
Many families do all that we can to foster and nurture learning in the earliest years of a child’s life, as well we should. But when our children begin spending their days in the classroom, we aren’t off the hook! Continuing to build a home where learning is nurtured and valued is one of the best ways we can equip our children for life after graduation.
5 ways to support learning at home
1) Read, read, read
Photo by slightly everything
Creating a home with an atmosphere of literacy is the single most important step for supporting learning at all ages and stages of life. This is not just the bias of a language arts teacher showing through – study after study confirms that homes that create a culture devoted to literacy are the homes from which the most academically successful students come forth.
If your family’s schedule is too full to incorporate the other ideas on this list, then I would encourage you, above anything else, to make time for reading. Reading a book is the springboard for all kinds of enrichment possibilities: math, science, social studies, art. Rather than viewing reading to your child as the act of getting from the front cover to the last, instead consider the treasures hidden in those pages that might excite your child to want to learn more.
2) Explore educational approaches
We too are a public school family. (Though I often describe us as Waldorf-inspired life learners who supplement with public school.)
The realm of homeschooling overflows with educational approaches. Just ask anyone who has recently begun homeschooling, and they’ll confirm that there is a dizzying array of philosophies and curricula from which to choose.
So why should homeschooling families have all the fun? Like Erin, I’ve always been drawn to a Waldorf-inspired approach to life. Even if my children don’t learn at home full-time, we can still choose the aspects of that particular educational approach as a filter through which we emphasis learning.
If you’ve never done so before, take some time to explore different approaches to education. (The Methods and Philosophies page at Simple Homeschool is a great place to begin researching!) Anyone involved with public schools would agree that one of the biggest drawbacks to the public school classroom is that no one teacher can teach to the specific learning style of each student in class. The beauty of a learning-rich home is that parents can supplement their child’s learning in a way that meets their specific educational needs!
3) Provide balance to and supplement for classroom curriculum
Photo by Ishrona
Whether your child is in early elementary or nearing the end of high school years, you can and should be familiar with what your child is learning in the classroom. And most any teacher would confide that there simply isn’t enough time in the school day to do justice to the learning material.
Ask your child what he would have liked to have known more about and explore those topics together! A chapter on the formation of mountains might inspire a trip to a natural science museum. A particularly fascinating work of literature might encourage a little digging to discover what popular culture was like at the time that piece was written. A unit on the color red could initiate a neighborhood scavenger hunt for all things red.
Listening and responding to a child’s interests helps further instill the idea that learning is fun and is never, ever limited to a classroom.
4) Collect home learning materials
Home learning materials sounds pretty formal, but really, it’s not! Homes where learning is emphasized contain tools that encourage education.
Build a home library. Invest in a diverse music collection. Display prints of famous artworks next to framed pieces of your child’s own art. Play board games that encourage critical thinking. Fill blank spaces with bon mots – good words and clever thoughts that make everyone in the family stop and think.
The number of ways to fill your home with the stuff of learning is limited only by your imagination, and you will never be disappointed by the returns on these investments!
5) Celebrate learning for the sake of learning
Photo by Ha-Wee
As you might guess, I feel pretty passionately about homes where learning is encouraged and celebrated. I know first-hand the temptation in thinking that school is where my children learn and home is where we play. The truth is, a playful approach to learning all the time is one of the very best ways we can equip our children for lifelong success.
Truly, the best way we can instill in our children the importance of learning for the sake of learning is to be life-long learners ourselves. As you go about your days spent with children at home, model for them the joy and fulfillment that comes from learning new things all the time.
These are the treasures they will take with them long after tassels are turned on mortarboards and graduation gowns are hung neatly in the closet. And more than anything they will learn from a textbook, these are the lessons they will draw from when the day comes for them to start growing families of their own.
What schooling choices have you made for your children, and how do you create an environment for learning at home?
This post was originally published on August 29, 2012.