Parents are driven by a fear of their children having gaps in their education.  We don’t want our kids to not know what they are supposed to know, to not be up to scratch, or to not be at the same level of their peers.  This way of thinking creates doubt and stress in our family. We start making decisions based on these parameters, we start pushing our children, we start nagging or complaining about them. The truth is – we all have gaps in our learning. My husband is a hesitant speller, I know nothing about geography and these are just two of the many areas where we both know we could learn more. And yet, we are ‘normal functioning successful’ adults.

We need to realise that there is no way our children will learn everything – there is no one on earth who knows everything. Once you know everything then there is no more learning to be done! How much of this thinking though is behind our fear of gaps. And yet at the same time, we say learning is a lifelong pursuit.

One way to balance the concept of being a lifelong learner and the fear of gaps is to make the distinction between skills and knowledge. I am happy for my child to have gaps in their knowledge as long as they have the skill to fix that gap! To me this is creating a lifelong learner.

Create a Lifelong Learner:

I want my children to:

  • Be interested in learning more
  • Be able to learn themselves

For our children to be interested in learning there are 3 things we as parents need to:

  • Be a Model – Are we a lifelong learner? Do things amaze us, do we say, “Wow”? Do we get excited when we understand something new? Do we set out to learn new things? Don’t underestimate the impact that how we live our life has on our children.
  • Expose the world – We need to expose our children to the fullness of the world around us. God has created an amazing world, which is full of fascinating people, animals, plants, so much of which has an incredible story to be told. We need to lift our eyes up and see beyond our backyard, and take our children there with us.
  • Make connections – Most times learning for adults is connected to real life. We have problems, we need answers. We need to make this connection for our children as well. Family life is an apprenticeship situation for our children.  We have them living beside us, seeing how we deal with life, how we solve our problems, how we learn. Our children will learn as they watch us and walk with us. When we invite our children into our world, we not only build relationships with them but we show them that learning is a necessary part of life.

By being such a model to our children we foster, or encourage, their natural curiosity about life.  We have introduced them to learning and engaging with the world they live in, people around them, and the things of God and His Word.

The next step is for them to learn from their world by themselves.  There are four skills that will undergird any study, formal or informal, in years to come.  Some kids move into these skills naturally, some need to be taught.  But these skills are the core of learning:

  • Raising questions – Remember back when the kids were little and they asked questions – so many questions. Why, why, why. They were on a pretty steep learning curve; they had so many questions they wanted answers for. Unfortunately we tend to curb this curiosity and dampen their keenness by being annoyed by their questions. And then we wonder why they don’t want to learn anything more than what we insist upon. Asking questions is the first step towards independent learning. Our children need to learn to ask good questions and to then go and find the answers.
  • Research – This is the idea of knowing where to go to find answers. There are many ways we can find answers to our questions:  you can go to another person and ask in real life, or you can find an expert who has written about your topic and see if they answer your question in their book, article, or web-page. Another aspect of research is to test and prove your thoughts. This is a very hands on approach that is equally valid. Determining who may know the answer, assessing answers we find against previous knowledge, reading to learn (rather than reading for pleasure), experimenting and asking further questions are the skills that will help our children in researching answers for their questions.
  • Respond – For knowledge to stick we need to interact with it. Once a question has been asked, and answers have been found our children need to respond, interact, with the new found knowledge. There are two type of responses – verbally where you talk about your thoughts, reasoning and further questions or internally where you ponder these within yourself. Both help us in processing the answers we’ve found. Responding will allow for further questions, judgements, connections, feelings and opinions. This is all a part of making the new knowledge a part of our long-term understanding.
  • Record – Any of our five senses can be involved in recording our learning. Admittedly we most often see writing/drawing as the mode of recording and yet we need not limit ourselves to this application only. Building, painting, performing, cooking, photographing, writing, talking, are all ways to record learning. When we take the questions and answers and create a record of our learning, we have the opportunity to find glitches in our thinking, and if necessary we start the process again with another batch of questions.

This cycle is called learning. These skills are used in pursuit of any field of knowledge – Bible, Science, History, Geography, Math, Lifeskills etc. We start with a question, we find answers, we interact with the answers and we produce something that shows we have learnt.

It is these skills, these learning skills that I want to ensure that my children have. This is what will qualify as their education. These skills will enable them to fill their own gaps! The challenge I find in my own home is – do I fill their days with knowledge, or am I training them to learn?


Further Reading:

Learning Process in a Homeschool Setting: When we homeschool we can create different learning opportunities and different teaching methods to make the most of these learning processes.

Remember that Learning is a Process not a Product:  Not all learning can be measured by a finished project. Watch for true learning.

Teaching Methods that Work in a Homeschool:  Choosing good curriculum and resources is only half the equation the other half is how you use it – find teaching methods that match.

Talking is a Learning Tool:  Talking is one way for children to not only process what they are learning, but commit it to long term memory.

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