Learning should be FUN!!
There are those who would disagree with me, but we must rise above the old world view of education and understand how children learn. Most psychologists would agree that children learn through playing and entertainment. If this were not so, developmental toys would never find their way into the home. Memorizing facts, dates and other information succeed in implanting a certain amount of information into a child's brain, but it fails to give them a well-rounded understanding of the whole situation. Many schools today strive to give students high scores on government mandated standardized tests by having students memorize material in a monotonous (and often meaningless) routine. However, they fail to realize that memorization is only one of the five points in Bloom's Taxonomy. From my own memory, I can recollect studying to memorize facts for a test in middle school. I achieved an A+ on the test, but had forgotten a good portion of the information by the following week. The A was only as good as the short term memory of the child. I strongly believe that children who are given the opportunity to have fun with learning retain more information over time, have a better grasp of the material and develop reasoning skills much quicker than those who memorize. Of course, memorization must be used with certain things, but there are ways to make these processes more enjoyable, if the instructor takes the time.
Instead of delving into the research of others regarding education methods, I will provide you with an example from my own experience. I was a Girl Scout leader for several years. Upon hearing that the movie Titanic was to be released soon, I excitedly told my scouts about the film. They had known of the sinking of the Titanic, but not one was entirely interested in the history, or even the movie itself. According to the scouts, they had studied it in school, but found the topic to be boring. A few months later, I approached them with the topic again. Almost every one of those children could tell me the history, dates and even central figures involved in the tragedy. It was not the class from which they learned this information. It was from their own entertainment. (Note: Yes, I do believe that movies (educational, appropriate and in moderation, of course) can play a role in education, when used in conjunction with a unit of study.) It became evident to me that it was not the topic that was boring to these children, but its presentation.
If you do not agree that the key to learning is to allow the child to have fun with education, then my services will not be for you. The entire basis of my home schooling and education philosophies revolve around the enjoyment of education. I suggest you find a more traditional method of teaching.
Learning is like an intricate web.
While public and private schools tend to separate learning into categories (i.e., History, English, etc), I believe that all sections are in some way interconnected. In particular, I tend to utilize overlap in English/Literature with History, and Mathematics with Science (and Writing with all of the above). By relating the information a child learns in one subject to that which is studied in another, an instructor can affectively reinforce the material and explore unlimited possibilities with the student.
To apply this, I occasionally combine subjects into themed units. This is not the only method by which I teach, but I have found it effective (and fun!) at times to have unit studies that last a week or more, and involve all subjects.
For example, take the unit: Native Americans. For a middle-elementary age child (grades 2-3), an instructor might devise the following outline for a curriculum:
History: Study, using specific age-appropriate books, history of migration to America and geographic areas relating to tribes. At the elementary age, all children really need to understand is the different types of tribes (not all Native American tribes were the same). One good hands-on project might be to have the child build different types of Native dwellings. For example, a teepee could be made from pretzel sticks, fruit rolls ups, etc. A mud dwelling could be made from clay, hardened mud, etc. Encourage critical thinking by presenting the student with several different climates and geographic areas of the Americas and have them decide what type of abode would best be suited to the region and why.
English: Study adjectives, nouns and sentence structures. Write a few dozen words (adjectives and nouns) relating to Native Americans on separate strips of paper and place them in bags labeled "Adjectives" and "Nouns", respectively. Have the student choose a word from each bag and create a sentence about the Native Americans using their words.
Literature: Read a book about Native Americans (such as The Legend of The Blue Bonnet, by Tomie DePaola).
Writing: Have the student write a story. Example: What if you were a Cherokee?
Math: Word problems using Native American ideas.
Science: What is fire? How did Native Americans make fire?
Computers: Have the student design a web page (with your help) about a Native American topic of their choice. (Example topics: The life of a Seminole boy, Hunting in the Cheyenne nations).
Learning is everywhere!
Learning is not limited to the classroom. Almost any situation or scenario can be fashioned into a learning experience. This can range from a well-planned field trip to a local zoo right down to a weekly trip to the supermarket. Educators can enhance routine activities (cooking, cleaning, shopping, etc) by involving the student and making the activity challenging. For example, on a routine trip to Wal-Mart, make it fun and educational by giving the student two or three items of your shopping list. Have the student reason out where the item might be in the store. For a mathematical adventure, give the student a budget and have him/her shop for two or three of your items, keeping below the budget. There is a multitude of activities that educators can tailor to their students, and it only takes a minute or two of planning.
No one is too young or old.
Education begins from birth. Too many parents assume that their child will begin his or her education in kindergarten. It is vital to a child's development that their parent stimulate and encourage learning from infancy. No age is too young to begin some form of learning, and many activities can be downgraded to allow young children to participate. On the other hand, any activity can be upgraded to fit older students of high school age, as well.
Take the subject: Math. Take the unit: Money. The following are just a few examples of how a good educator can upgrade or downgrade the same idea to fit any age or ability level.
Preschool: Allow the child to play with cash register and fake money toys. Encourage the child to interact with you by "purchasing" various toys and items in the house.
Young Elementary: Have the student make their own piggy bank (using any method of craft available at craft stores). Allow the student to collect loose change and learn the names of each coin, repeating the name of each as he/she drops the coin into the bank. (Note: this is one example of how memorization can be fun).
Middle Elementary: Using fake or real money, set up a school store once a week. Allow the student to purchase necessary school materials (such as notebooks, crayons, colorful erasers), using the money they earn (through whatever means the educator prefers--allowance, coins for grades or number of correct test problems, etc).
Upper Elementary: Give the student a budget and a list of materials to purchase. Allow the student, with your guidance, to determine which materials (brands, types, etc) to purchase and how to budget.
Middle School: Allow the student to open and manage a savings account.
High School: With college and the "real world" close at hand, all students must learn to budget and manage finances. Managing a checking account or credit card is a good way to teach students responsibility. Some educators may allow the student to assist them with paying one or two bills. Have the student set up a monthly bill organization system to track the progress of the bill, determine the interest and organize the account's information.
Every child CAN!
Almost every student has said, at one time or another, "I can't do it!" Often, home schooling educators, especially parents, can fall into the child's statement, easing up on the student's work or expectations. Some children, over time, begin to believe the statement. There is no task so difficult that a child cannot do it. With a bit of fun and excitement, any task can be a good learning experience. Educators must be willing to put forth the effort to show the child that he or she CAN!
Home Schooling does not have to be expensive to be worthwhile.
Home schooling is only as expensive as the educator makes it. With a bit of research, home schooling can actually be free! There is no need to spend thousands of dollars on expensive and highly marketed products. These products are only as good as the educator's presentation and interaction with the student. With guidance, I can help home schooling educators tailor their curriculums and programs to their preferences, and often, simply by utilizing the very resources of the internet. There are wonderful web sites offering a multitude of services, curriculums, and products, many at low or no cost. The trick is knowing where to find them.
Learning knows no seasons.
Education is a year round process. While public and private schools break for the summer, there is no set rule that requires home schoolers to break during summer months. Home schooling families may decide to take several 2-week breaks throughout the course of the year, rather than stick to the predetermined 3 month summer break. Other families opt to take 3 one-month-long breaks during the school year. Studies have indicated that much is lost over long breaks, and home schooling families can have the flexibility of developing a system that works for them!
Families that learn together bond together.
Whether you choose to home school your child or not, families that devote at least some time each week to learning together become closer-knit over time. Home schooling is as much of a learning experience for the educator as it is for the student, and there is a plethora of activities that families can enjoy together. Home schooling is a rewarding experience, allowing parents to give their child a tailored education that fits the student, and a chance to "get to know" their educator in ways that most children never will.
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