back to {un}school: 5 ways to inspire the love of learning


back to (un)school

“We can best help children learn, not by deciding what we think they should learn and thinking of ingenious ways to teach it to them, but by making the world, as far as we can, accessible to them, paying serious attention to what they do, answering their questions -- if they have any -- and helping them explore the things they are most interested in.” ― John Holt


Children are born with an innate desire to understand the world around them; they are curious, want to discover, and learn.

Whether your child goes to school or is homeschooled, the concept of real learning can and should be taught by you, their parent.


Yes, there are teachers, texts, assignments, and grades for most children, but the heart of what it means to LEARN goes so much deeper than what can be taught in a classroom.  The core of learning comes when a child (and adult alike) is free from fear, open to discovery, and curious.  Inspiring our children NOW to love learning is one of the greatest gifts we can give them.


Here are 5 Ways to Inspire the Love of Learning in your Child:

1. Don't compartmentalize the concept of "learning" to be exclusive to your child's education at school, the education from homeschooling, college, etc.

We do our children a disservice when we only refer to "learning" as taking place in a classroom because they will only connect learning with someone else's agenda over subjects and assignments.  Real learning takes place when your child feels comfortable, relaxed, and open-minded, and interested.  It can take place in school, at home, at the lake, or through a telescope in the backyard.  It can happen anywhere, at anytime.

As parents, our personal understanding and concept "learning" is quickly picked up by our children. We can inspire them to love learning by speaking of school, homeschooling, unschooling, etc., as a means for real learning to take place, not the be all, end all.  Learning can and should go beyond their formal education.  It should be exciting and thrilling throughout their lives, beginning now.



2. Help your child to regularly recognize their interests and natural curiosities.  

For our children to really love learning it means they need to begin at a young age to follow their inner voice, their innate desire to understand their world.  By helping them recognize their personal interests/abilities, we can assist them in their path of discovery which always leads to learning.  Try sitting with your child once a month, once a quarter perhaps, with pen and paper and help them verbalize what excites them.  Once you know what your child is passionate about (science, bugs, architecture, geometry, cooking, etc.) you can assist them to make real learning happen and often.

As your child is encouraged to explore what he/she is really interested in, they will feel confident in themselves that they can personally find satisfaction through their discoveries.  You are there to assist and guide.



3. Create a year-round environment for learning.  Move away from the idea that learning starts in September and ends when schools is out. 

Your child will be learning throughout the rest of his life.  Create a safe environment for him/her to be excited to learn year round.  You can do this by treating learning as a thrilling, personal experience by not assigning the term "learning" to just what happens in school/homeschooling and is "turned off" over the summer.

Here are a few ways to create a year-round "love of learning" environment:

  • Plan a regular family night to the library, through all the seasons of the year.  Let your child be free to choose the books he/she finds interesting and make it a special family tradition.  As the parent, teach by example and load up on a pile of interesting books yourself!
  • Plan family trips, holidays off of school, and free weekends around a particular field trip, location, or activity that would further your child's interest in a particular topic.  Dig deeper than the local children's museum.  Arrange a personal tour or experience that fits your child perfectly.
  • At the beginning of the year (or school year), make a list as a family of the things you want to do/explore together as a family based on what everyone is interested in.  Review the list regularly and fill in your calendar with those activities for the year to ensure they take priority over less interesting trips/activities.



Think outside the box as to what learning looks like.  Try to remove the preconceived notion that learning looks one particular way and that way is how all children should learn.

If you are a parent you know that all children have different personalities, ways of internalizing the world, and different skills and interests.  Learning, then, will look different from one child to the next.  And more importantly, real learning happens beyond worksheets and assignments.  It happens out in the world.

When your child spends hours of his free time building with blocks, he is learning many lessons that are answering his internal questions about how he relates to his world.  When your child can't get enough of particular history books (that's my Johanna with Pompeii at the moment), don't stop her engaged reading time in order to switch topics during homeschooling to fit in math.  See that the most important learning is taking place now.  Anything else would be a distraction from real learning.



Put your child's education first. 

I love hearing about the mothers who take their child out of school for a day for a family trip.  A family-planned field trip to see or do something that the child/children are excited to do.  You are the foremost example and leader of your child's education.  Be open minded.  DO what feels right.  Listen to your heart and your child.

If your child is getting burned out or struggling with their confidence in the school/homeschooling setting, do what your motherly intuition is guiding you to do.  Take something off her plate--an extracurricular activity, give her more of your time after school, etc.

Real learning in school or without won't happen if your child is struggling internally.  Fill her cup.  Patch her knee.  Make the best decision for her beyond her attendance record or test score.  How we respond to our children and their needs greatly affects how they see themselves and the world around them.  Don't allow school or homschooling to take away from your child.  Only permit it to make something more of them and if that is lacking, step back and reevaluate.

Perhaps a day away from school/homeschooling to drive up to the mountains.  Perhaps a day to sleep in, collect leaves in the yard, and have a needed quiet day of reading, snuggled up to your child.  Prove to your child that they and their needs come before any other teacher's requests or deadlines.



Overall, be confident as the parent, inspire your child to love life, learning, and to trust themselves.


Here are some excellent resources to encourage your children to own their own education:

[amazon_image id="0471349607" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]Guerilla learning[/amazon_image]


[amazon_image id="0465084990" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]Free to learn[/amazon_image]


[amazon_image id="1475239068" link="true" target="_blank" size="medium" ]Project based homeschooling[/amazon_image]

Go out + live boldly!

the sleepy time gal