Life-long learner. I call myself that. Perhaps you do too. Here are some tips to help you teach your kids to be just that. How do you teach your kids so they want to learn, learn it well, and can teach themselves?

7

Meet their needs

In the absence of a dog,
my daughter loves to hug a duck on her
study break. Love-tank filled!

Get rid of obstacles. Tackle the easiest ones first. Are they hungry? Are they comfortable? Perhaps they are itchy or their belly aches. Maybe they need the heat turned up, or a window opened. Do they need a nap? Maybe it is time to put them to bed earlier.

Are they whining? This can be a tough one. Tired kids whine. So do kids who need their love-tank filled. If that is the case, time to refocus on the child, and not the lesson. It is amazing how quickly their attitudes improve after they have quality time or hugs with Mom.

Finally, are you encountering the dragging heels syndrome? Has the world gone to pot and is everything awful? Take a step back (not literally), and start asking questions, with the child understanding that there is no punishment for honesty.

You’re Sherlock Mom on the case, and you need to find out what is the malfunction. Frustration is a common culprit, but fear lurks there also, and needs to be brought to light with love and acceptance.

7

Make connections

An art museum is wonderful
for seeing images of the past,
through the eyes of those who saw it.

I have already related my most stunning educational defeat in my post about “I’ve failed as a teacher”, but I did not mention my greatest lesson that I learned in that overheated classroom. Repeat! You’ve had a great lesson, but you are not done. Review or repeat it tomorrow.

Even better, apply it to life. If you read about it, write about it, If you learned about leaves, look at them in the yard. Rub them with crayon on paper. Look them up in a field guide or key.

Think of each concept as a peg in a wall. To learn new material, you need to make connections to pegs that are already in the wall. Imagine a string tied from one peg to another peg on another wall, until you have a web filling the room.

Just like we learn about the web of life in ecology, where spiders eat insects and birds eat spiders, and so on, our brains are a mass of connections. The more connections you can make with different pegs, or concrete things like a tree, or abstract principles such as photosynthesis, the more new ideas will be firmly planted into long-term memory.

While we made dread the effort it takes, putting new ideas into our own words is key to this process. Instead of taking notes from a book verbatim, we have to push ourselves to consider what the author wrote, and ignoring their words, come up with better ones with our own style.

Sometimes I feel like a bad Mommy for pushing my kids to take this step, but I know that just copying words down has limited value. And our time is valuable, isn’t it?

7

Set them up for long-term success

 

 

Step 1. Take pictures for her. Talk about composition and light.

Step 2. Give her the point-and-shoot camera. Show her what to capture. Remind her of steps for a good photo.

Step 3. Hand her a manual camera and a list of subjects. Expect greatness!

Did you ever try to memorize a verse or poem? First, you practice saying it out loud, over and over again, Then you cover over the first line and from memory, you recite the first line, and read the rest. Once you have mastered that, you cover the first two lines, and recite again. On a roll, you repeat the process, until the whole poem is memorized.

Imagine that learning to learn is like memorizing the poem. First, you have to become familiar with the learning process, which sums up the elementary years. Schooling is a lot like a circus with Mom as the ring-leader, telling everyone when to perform which act.

Then, during middle school, you start to cover the first line of the poem, or give your child a checklist to follow, instead of waiting for your directions. You redirect their questions, so they are learning to troubleshoot, with you there to prompt them in case they are stumped. You haven’t left them, or stolen the poem away too quickly, but you are there to guide them as they get the hang of it.

And, how difficult it can be, during the high school years, to let them fail when trying the learning process on their own. Once again, you are not far away, but can share your own struggles, so they know they are not alone. You show them how to pick up the pieces, and try again. And when they emerge from their lessons, with their poem masterfully memorized, you know they can teach themselves for the rest of their lives.

All day, every day, I keep these thoughts in the back of my mind. Meet their needs. Make connections. Set them up for long-term success.

7

Meet their needs

7

Make connections

7

Set them up for long-term success

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