Raising Motivated Learners: Space Exploration

Raising Motivated Learners SeriesOur goal as parents and educators is to work ourselves out of a job; to raise our children to become responsible adults.

Join us as we share tips on how to raise motivated learners and equip them with the skills to pursue the path the Lord lays before them.

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Long, long ago, in a galaxy far, far away. Wait… nope; that wasn’t where I was going with this. Sorry about that. I’m sure we’re all massive Star Wars fans, but outer space isn’t the only space worth exploring.

Sometimes you just need the world to take a step back and give you some room; an opportunity to think, explore, and create without people looking over your shoulder every second of the day. As parents we tend to hover. Let’s be honest, we do. We peer over our children’s shoulders while they are doing school, we structure their crafting projects, follow-up while they are doing chores, and manage their field trips. To raise motivated learners, we also need to take a step back and give them space.

Make Some Room – Once formal studies are finished for the day, our children like to have the freedom to be creative. The kids breathe easier, and mommy doesn’t worry about the status of the house, because we’ve made room for them. Our kids know where they can color and where they can’t. There are designated areas for computer usage (open rooms where we can walk by and see exactly what they are working on at any time), instrument playing, sports, and playing with toys. When everything has an assigned place, I am not pestering the kids with constant reminders of where they can do what and the kids don’t feel as if I am watching their every move waiting for mishaps.

Let Me Breathe – We spend a lot of time together as a family. I think this tends to be true of most homeschooling families. While we love being together, let’s face it, we all need a little breathing room at times. Kids need space, too! Not just space to do something creative with you, but space to be creative on their own. If we are constantly watching over our children, when will they learn to do things for themselves? If we hover incessantly, how will we discover what they are capable of? By continually providing all our children’s entertainment and learning venues, we are creating dependent learners who will always need someone by their side. In order for our children to be motivated learners, they need opportunities to explore on their own and be given the freedom to tackle their own projects. This doesn’t mean every endeavor will be a success, but that is a learning experience in-and-of itself!

Note: We are not advocating a ‘hands-off’ approach to parenting, where children have total freedom. Our children have specific guidelines as to what is appropriate and what is acceptable in our home. However, once guidelines are given, children should be allowed to explore creative endeavors within the given parameters.

Space is essential for the motivated learner, both physical and mental. The space to imagine, create, explore, dream and make those ideas become reality is an important step in the learning process. You’ve laid down the groundwork, now give that learner a little room and just see what they can do!

Time to Chime In: Speaking of space… The new Star Wars movie is currently being filmed. Are your kids excited to see it?

“Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
– Proverbs 22:6

Raising Motivated Learners: Encouraging Contribution

Raising Motivated Learners SeriesOur goal as parents and educators is to work ourselves out of a job; to raise our children to become responsible adults.

Join us as we share tips on how to raise motivated learners and equip them with the skills to pursue the path the Lord lays before them.

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We have a lot of responsibility on our plates, don’t we? There are dishes to be done, houses to clean, learning to be imparted, and mouths to feed. As adults, we contribute significantly to the lives around us.

We tend to think of learning as book work, but that is merely one facet of increasing in knowledge. One way we can help our children become motivated learners, is to include them in our daily lives. Through assisting us with meaningful household responsibilities and personal projects, our children learn even more. Just like us, our children need to learn how to positively contribute.

Worthwhile Tasks – Our children need to feel they are contributing members of our household. Instead of just floating through adolescence, why not include them in our daily routine? Each of our kids has a job in our home; they have assigned tasks for each day of the week and know what is expected of them. Their jobs are not menial and pointless; they are important and appreciated by all.

While at first these responsibilities seemed a drudgery for them and perhaps were not done as efficiently as mom would have liked, our children quickly learned how to keep pace with everyone else. Through practice and experimentation, they discovered faster and better ways to clean the areas assigned to them. The kids learned responsibility, organization, and the importance of routine.

They desired to be done quickly and, therefore, became motivated to work well together. They learned they didn’t like doing the job twice (when mommy didn’t think they’d done an efficient job), so they worked better. Our children learned to take pride in their accomplishments, motivated by a desire to entertain guests and family in comfort.

Personal Projects – Cleaning and organizing are wonderful ways our children can contribute, but so are personal projects. Our children help sew pillows, hang curtains, make table runners, craft toys, create Christmas cards, bake cakes, and more! Each of these projects taught them new skills and encouraged them to contribute to the family.

The process of working on personal projects teaches our children life skills and character; the desire to benefit others and see their finished work, motivates them to do more. When we, as parents, encourage our children in their personal projects, we are motivating them to be lifelong learners; fostering a creative, positive environment.

When our children see they are making an impact on the environment around them, they will actively find ways to contribute to the household. They will eagerly look for opportunities to clean, cook, and craft. When we provide our children with the skills and means to do so, we are teaching them to be motivated learners; learning how to be responsible adults and gracious hosts.

Time to Chime In: I am so grateful to no longer be responsible for cleaning my children’s bathroom (shudder… laughing). Which task have you passed off, that you couldn’t wait to get rid of?

“Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
– Proverbs 22:6

Raising Motivated Learners: Tools, Not Products

Raising Motivated Learners SeriesOur goal as parents and educators is to work ourselves out of a job; to raise our children to become responsible adults.

Join us as we share tips on how to raise motivated learners and equip them with the skills to pursue the path the Lord lays before them.

 …..

It’s interesting, isn’t it? We buy fancy toys and gadgets for our kids, thinking they are going to love the hours of enjoyment ahead, and instead they end up playing with the boxes. Or, as is the case with my kids, taking what was in the boxes and using them for completely different purposes. Maybe we need to reorient our thinking; instead of buying our children products, we need to be buying them tools.

One way we hinder our children’s motivation to learn is by constantly handing them products; finished pieces for them to merely play with. If, instead, we handed them countless tools for them to make their own toys, games, playthings, and projects, we encourage them to think outside the box and take matters into their own hands.

Cameras – Our children have a small, fairly inexpensive, camera which they have complete access to. They learned how to turn it on, take shots, take better shots, record, and download all by themselves! They are learning to become better photographers through practice.

Computers – While I don’t recommend hours spent in front of a monitor (our kids certainly don’t do this) and would highly recommend strong parental controls be installed on any device, computers are a wonderful tool to have available. Using computers, children can explore the art of writing, researching, programming, organizing, coloring, and so much more.

Apps & Editing Software – Having a computer is great, but, let’s face it, you also need a few good desktop apps, mobile apps, and websites to help your children out. Here are a few we recommend and use often:

  • Word (desktop app, used for word processing)
  • Pages (desktop, used for word processing)
  • Adobe Photoshop (desktop, used for images/art)
  • Garage Band (desktop, used for editing & creating music)
  • iPhoto (desktop, used for photo editing & storage)
  • iMovie (desktop, used for creating & editing movies)
  • Dramatica Pro (desktop, used for writing)
  • Image Capture (desktop, used for photo)
  • Minecraft (mobile & desktop, used for creative)
  • Google (web browser, used for research)
  • Scratch (website, used for programming)
  • Free Typing Games (website, used for teaching & building typing skills)
  • Stop Motion (mobile, used for stop motion animation & video projects)
  • Snapseed (mobile, used for mobile photo editing)
  • Retouch (mobile, used for mobile photo editing
  • WordPress (desktop, used for blogging – of course!)

Reference & Research Materials – Tools aren’t just for creating, but also for increasing in knowledge. Our children have full access to several dictionaries, thesaurus, rhyming dictionaries, an encyclopedia, and idiom books. We have books on art, history, philosophy, government, and logic. If there is something they want to look up, we’ve got the tools to help them do it.

Tool Boxes & Broken Equipment – Sometimes kids just like taking things apart and finding out how they work. We discovered this when an old sewing machine called it quits. We decided to let the kids have at it! We took out a bunch of tools and let the kids explore! If we don’t happen to have any older electronics, or pieces of wood, available for our children to be creative with Goodwill is always a good source of inspiration. As for wood, we can always visit my father-in-law’s house and snatch a few scraps. Given limits, kids really enjoy using tools and being creative.

Guitars, Drums, & Pianos – We own several guitars, a very large piano, and were given a small drum set. While our children do have formal lessons on these instruments, we also make sure they have plenty of free time to explore the world of music. No rules, no timed practice; they are free to create, experiment, and record their fun.

Knives, Pans, & Fire (Oh, my!) – Why should adults have all the fun in the kitchen? As our children grow older and become more responsible, we are giving them more access to kitchen utensils and tools. We set up a few guidelines and parameters for them, but allow them to explore and have fun.

Scissors, Paper & Glue – Crafting has always been hard for me. Free access to scissors and glue, even for little people? Really? (sigh) As our children have proven themselves able to handle such freedoms (mainly not coloring on walls and cutting each others hair), we have moved their crafting materials so they are always available to them. No more waiting for mom to get paper, scissors, stickers, or anything else. They are free to take it out, use it, clean it up, and display it as needed.

Time – Ah… here is the big one! While all of the above are wonderful, truly; our children need access to free time. It can be tempting to fill their days with endless learning possibilities, pre-organized crafts, field trips, and other wonderful things. However, sometimes what our kids really need is free time. Time to simply sit, think, and create; even if it’s just in their mind.

By handing our children tools, instead of just products, we are handing our children a world of possibilities. We are teaching and encouraging them to seek out creativity; giving them the opportunity to explore. When children have this ability, you’d be surprised just how motivated they can become!

Time to Chime In: Do your children have a favorite learning application or website they want to share? Tell us all about your favorites and why we should be using them!

“Train up a child in the way he should go, Even when he is old he will not depart from it.”
– Proverbs 22:6