Creating Enthusiasm for Learning

Another entry to the series “Greatest Mistakes of Homeschool Moms“:

Mistake #12. They forget to create enthusiasm for learning. Enthusiasm comes from the Greek words “en theos” meaning “in God”. Learning in God should be exciting! Don’t be afraid to have fun in your homeschool. Use real books and hands-on activities instead of, or to enhance, your textbooks.

If all the children did was complete workbooks, drill sheets, and the like in our homeschool, we probably wouldn’t have gone this far.  It’s true that there is a need to instil in our students the responsibility to produce output that is measurable in terms of grades (and pages of fill-in-the-blanks or math exercises are the easiest way to do this).  However, there is definitely room for creativity in accomplishing this goal and still conclude that our children are, indeed, learning.

Making school exciting for high schoolers is seemingly the most challenging.  So, hopefully, the kids would have already had some flexibility for spontaneity, creative expression/output, and out-of-the-box ways of coming up with learning objectives in their younger years.

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reporting from the banks of the Nile River (5 years ago on our first round with TOG Yr 1)

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creating her own Sumerian ziggurat (TOG Yr 1. 2008)

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pyramid-building for pharaoh

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salt map of Ancient Egypt

In our case, I only began assigning grades officially in the high school years (some explanation). Thus, my older girls have had to be more diligent when it comes to daily seat work, regular quizzes or exams, and papers to turn in.  The dreaded stuff, yes, but if children are taught early to own to such responsibilities as part of learning, then there should be no problems when they are older.  For issues in this regard, perhaps you can explore the topic of discipline and/or teaching to a routine.

Freedom to pursue certain interests can add pleasure to the years before university.  Since we can plan out their subjects for the next four years, we make sure that our older girls are permitted to pursue courses that they have a passion for and drop those that do not engage them as long as they have met minimum requirement for that subject.  For instance, one of our daughters has an aptitude for languages and we have provided her the resources to be able to pursue this.  She truly finds pleasure in the mental exercise Latin studies provides (and dreams of living, even temporarily, in a French speaking country as well as reading some of the New Testament in Greek) and looks forward to her one-hour sessions online with the Lukeion Project.  Photography and videography are also some of her interests and so we permit her to dabble  in these pursuits to explore her creative side.

There was a time that the Les Miserables musical (way before the movie came out) sparked so much delight in one of our high schoolers that she pursued what led to a “unit study” of sorts on this topic.  She read Hugo’s novel (quite a number of times) and French history of that period, learned her favourite pieces on the piano, sang and dramatised the play with her siblings, wrote her own versions of parts of the story online, and came up with some artwork.  These kind of spur of the moment endeavours make “school” and learning interesting.  It inspires in our children the desire to pursue learning on their own in the fields God gave them capability for.  This is definitely something they can bring along the rest of their life.

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mixing her love for pastels and Les Mis

In these older years as well as during their earlier ones, the presence of living books in our school has definitely allowed our children to enjoy the printed word (or words on screen and audio books nowadays).  By definition,

Living books are usually written by one person who has a passion for the subject and writes in conversational or narrative style. The books pull you into the subject and involve your emotions, so it’s easy to remember the events and facts. Living books make the subject “come alive.” They can be contrasted to dry writing, like what is found in most encyclopedias or textbooks, which basically lists informational facts in summary form. — Simply Charlotte Mason

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Note: These books have been collected over the years. For more on how we “afford” these books, search for “Money Matters”.

Not only are living books (or “whole books”) captivating, they most assuredly create in our children a love for reading. Thus “content” subjects such as Bible, science, history or literature are viewed as “icing” to our studies.  They become the food for the children’s thoughts, their analysis and critical thinking, their writing and even their creative expression.  Moreover, when these content subjects share a common theme, what joyous education is achieved!

Personally, reading aloud to the children is my favorite fun thing to do.  Just make yourself comfortable, open a book, and start reading.  No need to gather art supplies, cut and paste stuff, or clean up afterwards (unless they are snacking or need to do something with their hands while listening… yes, this is possible for some children).  And how did we acquire all these resources? They are a testimony of God’s faithfulness in providing what we need as we endeavor to take His call for our family to homeschool.

Currently, in our Tapestry of Grace study of the Ancients, we are reading about Moses in Exodus, Egyptian geography and culture for history, and literary pieces set in the same time period.  Flipping through our Artistic Pursuits K-3 guide, we decided to skip forward to an associated project.

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Artistic Pursuits K-3 “mural” assignment

Creative, hands-on assignments take the dread out of school especially for the younger children who learn by doing and seeing.  They almost always eagerly look forward to craft projects or playing dress up in relation to content subjects such as history. In the same way, nobody will say no to a call to huddle to test whether our hypotheses are correct or to explore what we learn in science further.  Whether it is to perform an experiment or to work on crafts, there is always enjoyment when siblings study the same topic and come together to experience what they are learning.

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K-er’s part of the mural with his own take on read-alouds (Egyptian pyramid and Sumerian ziggurat)

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4th grader’s part of the mural

6th and 10th grader's joint effort

6th and 10th grader’s joint effort

Thus, even if these activities involve a lot of props and preparation, I make it a point to sprinkle these kinds of projects throughout the school year.  You don’t have to do them for each and every topic you study, of course!  Just pick and choose to add some spice when things are dragging.

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showing off their Egyptian creations (second round of TOG Yr 1, 2013)

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turning our mural into a “cave exploring” activity

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pretend archeologists or tomb raiders?

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5 year old waited with excitement for the dark to do this

I can always tell when our kindergartener who is a tactile and visual learner is enjoying his school.  He obviously prefers manipulatives and educational games to pencil pushing, enjoys creating things with his hands (whether coloring, painting, or building), and appreciates my introducing concrete connections in the things he is studying.

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phonograms out of clay

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counting by 2s

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reading about Noah and the flood

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Bible Study Guide for All Ages activity sheet on Noah

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counting animals by 2s

So, whatever it is that makes learning fun for you (field trips, note booking, lap booking, learning through daily practical things), remember to have time for them throughout  each of your homeschooling years!

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