Engaging the Reluctant Learner

Young children pick up language and new skills in a seemingly effortless fashion. They are naturally curious and eager to learn. Just think about how many times your young child asked you “why.”

Somewhere along the way, many children appear to lose that natural curiosity. They stop being excited about learning and begin to see it as work. Sure, there needs to be a certain amount of that. We can’t all go about only doing what we want to do. But we also need to encourage the natural curiosities and interests that our children have.

This doesn’t mean that you’re throwing out that great science text you purchased. It means instead that you entertain your child’s natural curiosities as well. One of my sons wants to be a veterinarian when he grows up. We selected a science textbook this year on Zoology. He is learning important science principles at the same time he is learning about the animals he loves.

At other times, he simply wants to interact with animals for a few minutes. He asks for a “Brownie Break.” Brownie is his guinea pig. We take a few minutes to love on Brownie, then get back to work. He’s loving looking at animal webcams at the National Zoo, too. Sometimes, I just keep that on my computer while we’re working so he can check in on the Giant Pandas from time to time. By sharing in his interests and taking time (even in small increments) to allow him to engage in those interests, he is then more likely to engage in other tasks.

My children also like to teach each other sometimes. When they ask, I put that into our plans for the week. The catch is that they have to decide what they are going to teach and do all of the prep work for that. All the while, they’re learning even more than they’ll teach.

I recently saw an idea online that we are just now starting in our homeschool...a Wonder Board. We’re using an extra white board for ours. When my children have something that they are wondering about, they write it up there. I either incorporate that into an existing lesson (if appropriate) or plan for a time to address those wonders. Sometimes this means that I need to be learning, too, if it’s a topic that I don’t know much about.

The key is to find what your child is interested in and then find ways to incorporate that regularly in your homeschool. It can be a curriculum or something less intensive. But if we can find ways to reinforce and encourage our children’s natural curiosities, they will be learning so much more without even realizing it.


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