As a homeschooling parent, I want to give my kids the best education I can. But what constitutes a good education? Good is a subjective word, so I can tell you what I think constitutes a good education. I think in terms of results.

What do I want my kids to get out of their education?

I want my kids to love to learn. I want my kids to develop satisfaction by becoming "experts" on topics that interest them. I want my kids to wake up wondering what they get to learn that day. I want my son to research or ask me for help on how to spell a word because he's writing a story. I want my daughter to ask how to solve an algebra problem because she's studying bacteria. They should be able to read journals and make sense of them. They need to be able to be able to separate the chafe from the wheat when doing just about anything. My kids should understand how their community and country works and have a clue about what's going on in the world. My kids should be able to adapt to new technologies and changing social, political, and physical climates. I want my kids to be good contributing members to society.

What kind of education will accomplish this?

I'm convinced that worksheets, school bells, and long hours at school aren't the way to foster a love for learning in children.

Play is important for learning. A book called Einstein Never Used Flashcards talks about how play time makes little kids happy and the kids "catch up" with their peers by second grade, even if they haven't been in ballet lessons, swimming lessons, piano lessons, and a rigid preschool curriculum.

A blurb in the January 20, 2009 issue of Science called Report Calls for Fresh Look at What Happens Outside School reports of how important it is to learn science in informal settings, and that we learn science in many different settings. Schools are burdened with loads of requirements for teaching, and the love of learning might not withstand the bureaucracy of school.

An article in the February/March 2009 issue of Scientific American Mind called The Serious Need for Play makes a point that "free, imaginative play is crucial for normal social, emotional and cognitive development. It makes us better adjusted, smarter and less stressed."

I've read many other books and articles on how best to foster a love of learning in children, and I've developed my homeschooling program for my kids based on this.

The minimum

The kids have a minimum amount of "work" they need to do each work. They need to practice their piano each day, but I'm okay with they only practice for five minutes. They have to read each day. I don't track my daughter's reading, because she reads all the time. My son isn't a bookworm yet, so I sit with him and have him read to me for fifteen minutes or so each day. My son has to write a sentence each day and my daughter needs to write a paragraph each day. They also need to do some kind of physical activity each day. Both kids need to do some kind of math each day, even if is playing Monopoly with daddy or keeping score for a Scrabble game.

Besides the minimum, I have some goals set up for them. My daughter has to give me at least one book report a month. My son has some goals set up for learning to type.

All of these activities are their responsibility. If they do their minimum, they get to play, or whatever.

Documentaries

If my kids want to watch a documentary from the History Channel, NOVA, or the Discovery channel, I let them. I watch the shows with the kids so I can answer questions they might have, but if my 7 year old wants to watch a documentary on string theory, he gets to watch it. The kids pick up a surprising amount of information, and they understand much more than I'd expect.

The library

We go to the library a lot. If the kids want to play with the plastic jungle animals, I let them. If they want to look up how long a ladybug lives, I let them.

Field trips

If the kids ask to go to the science museum, I schedule it and take them. My husband and I take them to plays that seem appropriate. Basically, if the kids show a continued interest in a topic, if it is reasonably within our means, we'll try to help them get what they need to make sense of it.

My husband and I

My husband and I love to learn and we show that to the kids. They see us read regularly. They see us get excited when we learn new things. My kids see us become close to obsessed when we get into something new.

Does it work?

So far, it has. My kids love learning.

©2010, Gwen Nicodemus

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