Just Give Me An Answer!

Just_Give_Me_An_Answer“Mom, what’s the answer to this question?” I could see it in her face. It wasn’t that she couldn’t find the answer herself, she just didn’t want to exert energy in reaching it. “Well, how would you go about solving the problem? What would be your first step?” I replied. “Really, mom? Can you please just give me an answer?” As a matter of fact, no; no, I won’t.

I admit it. There are times I am a little tough on my kids. I’m not mean. I just like challenging them and pushing them to the limits of what they think they can do. While at times I am sure this is frustrating for them, hopefully one day they will see the brilliance of my plan. In my humble opinion, I believe constantly giving our children the answers is not a good thing. There is a time and place, to be sure, but we need to be on the lookout for always providing solutions without allowing our children to find them on their own. Instead of handing over quick responses to their questions, there are a few better ways to go about reaching the same end.

Make Them Find the Answer – As children learn new skills, they will often come across vocabulary and terminology previously unheard of. Instead of immediately telling them what a word means, we encourage our children to look the word up for themselves. The same goes for facts about topics of which they have little knowledge. If they want more information on Timbuktu, they go look it up! This saves them the headache of having to wait for mom and encourages them to be proactive with their education. Being an independent learner is important.

Have Them Try For the Answer – Often our children know the right answer, but are just afraid of being wrong. At others, I simply want to hear their thought process to see where they’re going off track. In these cases, I have them make an educated guess and tell me what they think the answer is. Once I see which direction their mind is heading, I can redirect, correcting mistakes and reinforcing skills already learned which would have helped them find the correct answer.

Lead Them to the Answer –  When learning new skills, I try to lead our children to the truth instead of merely stating it. We walk them through the process of finding the solution and allow them to answer the question for themselves. Through this they not only gain a better understanding of how they reached the answer, but it lifts their spirits to know they could answer the question on their own.

Give Them the Answer (and a Short Lesson) – When we’ve exhausted every other avenue, I will finally give them a straight answer. Sometimes simply looking up a word doesn’t help a child understand its meaning. Sometimes they try, but can’t find the right solution. Times like this call for a straight answer, followed up with a quick lesson on how I went about finding the solution or just better explaining what something means.

Of course, there are those times when my hands (and mind) are so busy that mommy forgets all of the above and gives a quick answer. (You should see my kids’ faces when this happens! They feel they’ve pulled one over on me and gotten off easy.) However, whenever possible, I prefer to avoid the easy route and encourage them to discover the answer for themselves. It is more rewarding for them, and offers a world of learning.

“And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.”
~ I John 5:14

Your Turn!: What resources do you keep on hand to help your children find answers for themselves?

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Raising Motivated Learners: Take Initiative

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.

 …..

I could hear them; the dishes being moved in the kitchen, the refrigerator door being opened many times. Just what were they up to in there? Knowing sleep was out of the question at this point, we wandered into the kitchen and got quite a shock. Our kids had made us breakfast. The food was cold left-overs from the night before and our kitchen was slightly messy, but, hey, they were trying; right?

To be motivated learners, our children need to learn to take initiative. They need to be comfortable with stepping up, stepping out (of their comfort zones), and moving forward; all without someone else telling them to do it.

Model – As always, our children learn best by example. Do they see us stepping up when people need help, volunteering our time and effort? How often do we visualize a goal and take the initiative to make it happen? If our children see our ambition, they are more likely to feel comfortable with moving in the same direction.

Opportunity – Our children cannot take initiative if we are constantly hindering them from stepping forward. Yes, there might be some messes along the way and it might require a little training on our part. However, by not allowing them to lead, you fail to train them to be good leaders or create lifelong followers.

  • Let Them Volunteer – When our children want the opportunity to help, we try to let them. The job might not get done right, the first time, but that isn’t the important issue at that moment. By volunteering, our children learn to put others first and gain new skills in the process.
  • Let Them Lead – How will our children learn to be good leaders if we never let them lead? Occasionally, it helps if we permit our children to be the ‘man out in front’. They can organize a field trip, babysit the little kids, cook a meal, or dole out chores. It doesn’t matter in what capacity they lead, just that they be given the chance and be taught how to lead well; with grace, humility, love, and kindness.
  • Let Them Plan – As our children grow, giving them opportunities to plan is essential. If we are going on a field trip, I encourage them to research the location and decide how the day will pan out. If there is a sewing project, I would expect them to organize a list of things they might need and determine if we have everything to start the project. By allowing our kids to be a part of the planning process, they are learning organization, thoughtfulness, scheduling, research skills, and more.

Encouragement

  • Support Them – Our kids need to know we not only welcome their initiative, but we want it. If they ask for advice, we give it to them. If they need direction, we advise. No matter what, we let them know we believe in them and show appreciation.
  • Remind Them of What’s Important – Should our children lose their way, we gently remind them of their goal and why they chose to step forward. By helping them refocus, we encourage them to keep moving.
  • Recognize Effort – All acts of initiative won’t be successful; I know mine aren’t! This doesn’t mean we use the opportunity to ridicule our children. They may not have succeeded this time, but they did learn something along the way and should be applauded for giving it a try.
  • Let Them Know They’re Needed – As our children mature, we should be clear about areas in which they are not only wanted, but needed, encouraging them to take initiative and tackle them for us. People are more likely to step up when they know their efforts are worthwhile and meaningful to those for whom they are being done.
  • Reward Success – Positive reinforcement lets children know they are on the right path. When they succeed in some area of leadership or volunteer work, we need to let them know they are doing a good job. This does not mean we over indulge them or break out the band for every accomplishment, that would spoil them and lead them to believe this is necessary each time. However, there is no harm in letting them know their work was done well and did not go unnoticed.

Sure, you might end up with a mess and messes are sometimes a pain to clean up, but memories are being made and the lessons being learned are worth far more than your clean house. Allow your kids to take initiative, it creates learners who are motivated to not only tackle what’s before them, but to seek new goals.

It gets better over time, I promise. That first cold, take-out breakfast was just the beginning. The next year it was french toast; the year after that a menu was involved. This year, we got the works. Yeah… it definitely gets better.

Time to Chime In: What scares you the most when you think of your kids taking initiative?

“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: 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.

 …..

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.

 …..

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

Raising Motivated Learners: Twenty Questions

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.

 …..

Remember those days; the ones where your kids asked twenty-million questions about everything around them? They wanted to know what made the sky blue, the birds sing, the flowers grow, and why people got mad. If we’re honest with ourselves, those questions could become tiring after a while. Just how many questions can this little person have? When will the questions stop? Perhaps you’re there now and wondering these things even as you read. Allow me to encourage you with this: If we are doing our jobs right, our children will never stop asking questions and, trust me, that’s a good thing!

One of the swiftest ways we can kill a child’s motivation to learn is by discouraging questions. Being curious and seeking answers is one of the key methods of learning. If we want to raise motivated learners who are prepared for the future, we need to cultivate their curiosity and encourage them to seek the answers.

Lead Them to Ask – I’m sure you’ve heard it a million times, but our children follow our example. If we want our children to be motivated learners, we need to be motivated learners. Our children should see us question the world around us and find the answers. Don’t be afraid of being curious, asking tough questions, and researching for truths. Your children will see learning never stops and understand knowledge is a lifelong endeavor.

Teach Them to Ask – Most children are instilled with curiosity and the motivation to learn. They want to find answers, but don’t always know the right questions to ask. As parents and educators, part of our job is to help them ask the right questions and show them where to seek the answers. As we teach them to read, we ask them questions about the book; modeling questions they should ask themselves in the future. As we explore nature, we ask questions and share thoughts; modeling questions they might be asking. As our children see us question things around us, making sense of life, they too will learn how to ask questions and seek answers.

Note: Don’t be afraid to re-word questions our children ask, sharing how the question should have been worded. Part of learning is not just in asking the question, but in asking the right ones. In addition, don’t be afraid of not having answers! Our children need to see us model humility, understanding adults don’t have all the answers. However, use this time to lead them to the person (or resource) which does.

Encourage Them to Ask – As our children begin to grow curious, we need to be open to their questions. While exploring and learning, it helps to ask if they have questions, if they understand everything being learned, or if they would like to share their thoughts. As the questions come, we need to be patient, understanding, and open to hear more.

Applaud Them for Asking – One way our children understand their curiosity is not only welcome, but wanted, is to applaud them for their efforts. Thank them for their questions, congratulate them on asking great questions, commend them for asking questions you hadn’t thought of (hey, it happens!), and pat them on back for seeking knowledge. When our children see we reward their efforts, they are more likely to continue and, therefore, become motivated to learn about the world around them.

Let us be clear… being curious and seeking knowledge through questions should not be confused with questioning authority; these are separate issues entirely. Our children are encouraged to continually be seeking knowledge and are free to ask any question which comes to mind. They are not, however, free or encouraged to be rebellious. Our children are allowed to ask why we do something and should expect an honest answer, but, at the end of the day, they are expected to obey authority unless proved to be immoral.

Questions are a good thing, even if they can try our patience at times. By modeling, teaching, encouraging, and applauding curiosity, we are helping our children become life-learners, motivated to pursue whichever path the Lord sets before them. Let the questions commence!

Time to Chime In: Are there questions your children might ask that you are afraid of; which ones and why?

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