I am a homeschooling mama of two. When people hear this, I often get one of two responses. The first is “I could never do that.” The second is “I wish I could do that.”
Good news: You can.
Before the excuses start to flow of why one’s family has chosen to send their children to public school or pay for a private education, know that all families can create a rich environment for children to learn at home despite where and how they are schooled. One does not need to toss on a denim jumper and white canvas shoes and officially declare themselves as a homeschool mom in order to teach their children at home. (By the way, I have yet to meet a homeschool mom in a denim jumper appliquéd with the alphabet. Most lean towards expensive boots and fancy jeans.)
The school system has never claimed they can educate a child on their own. They want the parent to contribute and are happy when such contribution occurs.
As parents, we are tempted to think that school is where a child learns and home is where a child plays. However one cannot expect a single school system to contribute fully to a child’s desire to learn. The school system has never claimed they can educate a child on their own. They want the parent to contribute and are happy when such contribution occurs. Raising children who love to learn does not happen by accident. No parent sent their child out into the world expecting the child to figure out how to walk or independently use the restroom. Rather parents used their collective resources at home and at secondary locations (i.e. preschool, Grandma’s house, church nursery) to teach and reinforce these skills in children. The same should be done with learning. Building a home environment where learning is valued is one of the best ways children can be equipped for the future, regardless of where they receive their education.
Simple Ways to Support Learning at Home
1. Read…then read some more.
The best thing a parent can do to support learning is by creating an atmosphere of literacy in the home. These days, technology rules our lives.
Homes have multiple computers, tablets and smart phones. Books are ignored in favor of social media and reality television. It is time to unplug and pick up a book as a family.
Create a literacy-rich home by stocking rooms with books. Keep seasonal books in a basket in the family room for everyone to enjoy after dinner.
Read to kids at bedtime. Select a chapter book to work through together as a family. Post a reading log on the refrigerator to keep track of what everyone is reading. Plan weekly family outings to the local library (where books are free!) Know that books are essential when it comes to the development of a child and make reading a priority in the home.
2. Know what is going on in the classroom and supplement.
All too often parents simply send children out into a learning environment with the assumption that everything that needs to be taught and absorbed will occur in a seven hour day. Teachers want parents to know the school day is merely a jumping off point when it comes to education. When parents take interest in what their child is studying in the classroom and then supplement this learning at home, genuine learning takes place for the child.
Supplementing classroom learning at home can be done in a variety of ways. Perhaps children practice basic skills such as math and handwriting through workbooks at home. Family trips to local museums whose programs coincide with history or science lessons is another great way to supplement learning at home. Taking time each night to learn new pieces of geography with the family’s globe is an excellent way to reinforce a teacher’s lesson at home.
3. Create a (fun!) home learning center
Children are visual and kinesthetic learners. They learn by being able to see, touch, and feel items. Creating a place in the home to house learning materials is another simple way to extend learning in the home. A home learning center does not have to look like a desk and chalkboard set-up in a dark corner. Rather it can be a place in the home that holds educational board games and interactive toys. It may be stocked with a diverse music collection and fun instruments for the impromptu family band night. Art supplies are readily available in a home learning center for curious hands to paint and create (the perfect activity for kids while supper is being prepared).
The home learning center is a place where children know they can explore and create with mom and dad. It is also a place where projects can be displayed. Setting aside a shelf where nature finds can be laid out and examined serves as an excellent enhancement for the home learning center. The home learning center may just be a basket stocked with all of these things. Often times, space in our home is valuable and attempting to carve out one more area seems impossible. Be creative with where learning materials are displayed in the home. Know that a home environment that is rich with educational materials provides an excellent way to create life-long learners in children.
4. Set the Example
Children will come to understand that learning is not merely an 8am-3:30pm job for twelve years when they see parents still involved in the learning process themselves. Set the example for a love of learning by being a life-long learner. Parents who allow their children to see them learning, whether by reading or stepping out to appreciate the Arts, are setting the standard for learning. Learning does not merely occur between the months of August and May within the walls of a schoolhouse. Rather learning is a life-long pursuit. The best way to instill the importance of learning into children is to be a life-long learner oneself.