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Homeschooling: Focusing on Learning, Not Teaching

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Homeschooling: Focusing on Learning, Not Teaching

By Linda Dobson

From One Homeschooling Parent to Another


Get some of those great books from the library or bookstore on kids’ fun science experiments, and do them with your kids. Don’t even think about quizzing them on what they’re learning; just let them have fun and learn whatever they learn. The main thing they’ll be learning is how much fun learning can be.

Lead them in relaxing and enjoying life. Toast marshmallows for no reason, read poetry aloud, make real hot chocolate from scratch – create memories. Extending an already long school day isn’t going to make your child a better learner but enhancing the quality of her experience of life will. I shudder to hear that people have passed on taking their kids on an interesting trip for a few days because they might “miss something” in school. What on earth could they miss in the course of a few days? I’ll tell you what – the joy and fascination of new places and experiences they could have had on that trip! There’s a big, fascinating world out there, and all too few kids get a chance to take it all in. The most important part of homeschooling for us was being together as a famliy and exploring our interests together out in the real world. This can be done whether a child is homeschooling or not.

~Lillian Jones, veteran homeschooling mom

A key to effective learning, say homeschooling parents, is to habitually focus on helping your child learn. This is because there is a world of difference between the act of teaching a child and the act of assisting his learning process.

“Children don’t need to be ‘taught’ as much as they need a rich environment with tools and opportunities to learn,” says Lillian Jones, who began homeschooling her now grown son, Ethan, when he was seven years old. “We all learn in different ways,” she explains, “and we are the ones who instinctively know theĀ  most about our own methods of learning.” (See a collection of Lillian’s favorite articles on this subject at Best Homeschooling.)

Carrie Morgan cultivated this habit at the same time she put together and began living her own definition of education. “I realized that almost everything on my list was much more a matter of appreciating and using what one learned than it was a matter of what one could be taught,” she says. “Learning something, that act of discovery, allows my children to claim it as their onw, a powerful incentive to keep going and really hone the skills they value.

See also Keep the Joy of Learning Alive Even If You’re Not Homeschooling

“For example,” Carrie continues, “one day, when he said he had nothing to do, my son saw the book on volcanoes I had picked up from the library and he leafed through it. He was fascinated by the ‘mountains with fire coming out of them,’ immediately went on the Internet to find out more, and was still looking for more information months later. If I had sat down and ‘taught’ my son all the scientific facts about volcanoes in the dry and dull manner textbooks are noted for,” she says, “he probably would have yawned and forgotten about them as soon as we moved on to earthquakes.”

When you cultivate the habit of focusing on learning, thoughts about “teaching” fall by the wayside. Although it may be tempting at first, you’ll soon find little, if any, need to do an impression of ol’ Mrs. Bunson, every second grader’s nightmare, in your living room. The focus on learning eliminates much of the insecurity parents feel about their ability to assist their children’s academic progress, because it doesn’t require any specific knowledge or training. Indeed, upon closer examination, what at first appears as selfless, sacrificial lives of homeschooling parents are merely lives where the families move ahead by assisting their children’s learning process.

Does this all sound rather simple? Good, because it really is.


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