How do you learn?

Who I am, how I learn, what I believe makes up who I am as a parent, and therefore a homeschooler. There have been occasions where I’ve heard a snippet of an idea about something but I don’t have much interest so I don’t investigate. I may almost tune out to a person if they’re talking to me about it. I just don’t have a base of knowledge from which to hang further knowledge upon. Many months might go by and I’ll hear of that idea again. I might start to ponder it or ask myself, “What on earth are they talking about? Maybe I should find out!” but I may still just put it on the back-burner of my mind until I hear something of it again. Usually by this time, I am curious enough to go and find out a little about it.

I might use the Internet to learn the basic who, why, what, where and when of the idea. This alone doesn’t give me much though. It only gives me information, certainly not knowledge nor understanding. So I start to dig deeper. At some point this will usually involve me getting my hands dirty and actually *doing something* with the information I have gathered. Invariably doing this process I will make mistakes, I will have failures. Then character comes into play. I can either let these failures win and I can quit or I can learn from them and have another go. (Sometimes it is that I want to have another go but higher priorities take precedence but that’s what it’s all about- real life)

young_girls_28485_mdI recall hating Yr 10 at high school. I wanted to know why I just couldn’t study my subjects at home. Mum said, “Because you can’t. You have to go to school.” So I believed that. Then, a few years later I vaguely heard about the notion of NOT attending school and learning at home. I ignored the idea. A few years later, I heard of it again.This time, (after the seeds of idea had been planted in my mind) I started to actually think about it and ask those important questions – why do we go to school? Why do I have to learn between these certain hours? Who said I need to? Who said I have to learn THAT? and so on… It was during this time that I started noticing a lot of things that indirectly related to homeschooling. I was questioning. As the ideas swirled round my mind so did more questions and more seeking of answers.

After my mind was stimulated with these ideas I started to then seek out information. I started to delve deeper into the idea of home-based-learning. Then we made the decision to homeschool. It was during this time that I started to examine and elaborate upon that knowledge. See I couldn’t have expanded upon my knowledge earlier as I didn’t have enough information to draw upon and I hadn’t yet begin to *do* it- I hadn’t yet got my hands dirty. But as I incorporated my learned knowledge with doing I was in fact, learning! It is in APPLYING that learned knowledge that develops and furthers the learning process.

So how on earth does this make any difference to our homeschool? Plenty! My children can read all the good books found in the library…they can do all the worksheets I can print out but unless they have real life experiences in which to *do* (read: apply) then they will be stuck in the first few stages of learning. It is vital that our children learn to apply the knowledge they’re learning. It is vital that we give them real life experiences. Homeschooling affords us that yet do we make the most of it?

To learn we must create an interest. We can use books, real life, movies, hands-on activities- anything to create an interest. Then we have to help our children to investigate. But sometimes we can get in the way. Sometimes we have preconceived ideas of *how* this learning should look. Sometimes we can stifle their learning because it doesn’t look the way we think it should. When we do this, we interfere with their motivation. Yet motivation is essential for continued learning! What comes first in true learning: seeking the knowledge or motivation?

Asking questions is the best motivator for learning! When we use my lesson format (IDEA) I use the first step: Introduce: to introduce a topic and create an interest. Most times, this happens in the form of a question. I’ll ask a question, relating it to something the children may already know a little about. But other times, I won’t be the initiator. Every time a child asks that beautiful question, “WHY?” he has actually started his own lesson!!!!! From here the rest of the learning process can be expanded.

Have you ever put away the workbook or the daily lesson structure just to jump off and explore a topic when your child has asked ‘why‘? If not, I’d encourage you to do so. Just for one day, just try it! If you have, why don’t you share how that went for you? Did you learn anything about your children? Did you have fun? Did the process strengthen your relationship? Did you see any evidence that your child learned anything? Have you experienced how valuable ‘experience’ or doing is in the educational sphere of your child’s life? Please share, I’d love to hear from you.

You might also like to read Stages in the Learning Process.