Hands-on Learning, Part One of a Three-part Series
In chatting with some homeschool moms several years ago, the question came up, “How do you motivate your kids to do their schoolwork?”
One woman shared frustration over constantly battling with her son. She would send him to his room everyday to do his schoolwork, and when she checked on him later she would find that he had hardly accomplished anything at all. Some of the other ladies expressed having similar experiences in their homes.
I quickly realized that these really sweet, well-intentioned moms were missing the heart of home education. They were mistakenly equating education with completed workbooks. What was missing was the opportunity for rich learning experiences and the relationship-building interaction homeschooling can provide.
Thinking about my own family’s homeschool journey and what has helped us to thrive, I recognized the stark contrast between a home where completing curriculum is the goal versus a home where learning is a hands-on, multi-sensory, interactive adventure.
Yes, our children still need to complete their math problems and reading assignments, but there is a way to create an atmosphere where the joy of discovery and the thrill of deeper understanding are common in our homes.
You’ve undoubtedly heard the William Butler Yeats quote, “Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.” The goal of our home education experience should not be to cram a particular set of information into our children’s brains. Rather, when we waken interest and kindle enthusiasm, our children can develop a great love of learning that will last a lifetime.
An amusingly descriptive quote by Arthur Prince goes like this: “Education which is simply intellectual taxidermy – the scooping out of the mind and the stuffing in of facts – that kind of education is worthless. The human mind is not a deep-freeze for storage; the human mind is a forge for production.”
A love of learning coupled with an understanding that a child is created by God, and that He has a plan for his or her life, will provide a solid foundation of inspiration and purpose in each child. There are no limits to what one can become or achieve in this kind of environment.
We can avoid the trap of being consumed with “doing school” and, instead, focus on developing the love of learning in our children by incorporating hands-on learning in our daily home education enterprise.
HANDS-ON LEARNING IS MULTI-SENSORY
We were created to experience the world around us through our senses. Look for ways to incorporate the five senses ... touch, taste, smell, hearing, and sight ... whenever possible.
INCORPORATE MULTIPLE LEARNING STYLES
It’s helpful to know your child’s learning style so that you can find curriculum and present information to them in the way that will be most easily received for them. It’s also important to expose your child to all three styles of learning. The more ways they encounter information, the more apt they are to learn it, and the more adept they will be at receiving instruction in various forms.
- AUDITORY: Do things that involve the student listening and also speaking.
- VISUAL: Do things that involve the student seeing as well as representing in visual form (drawing, painting, writing).
- KINESTHETIC: Do things that involve physical movement and touch.
TEACH CHILDREN TOGETHER WHENEVER POSSIBLE
If you have more than one child, look for opportunities to teach them together. History, science, and literature are excellent subjects for teaching children of varying ages.
If you’re all learning about Ancient Egypt, for example, you can simply create more challenging, in-depth assignments for older children, while having younger children do activities that are appropriate for their age and ability.
Teaching children together saves preparation time and makes learning even more fun because it is something you are sharing as a family!
READ ALOUD TO YOUR CHILDREN REGULARLY
In all my years of homeschooling, this was one of the most revolutionary ideas for me! I had wrongly assumed that once my children learned to read, my reading aloud days were over. Thankfully, this notion was challenged early on by a friend of mine! Even up into their teen years, I have read aloud to my girls. We have shared quite an adventure together reading biographies and other great books this way.
Select some quiet activities to have available for your children to do while you read to them. My girls often enjoyed working on a project while I read (painting, drawing, knitting, making collages, etc.).
Reading aloud works well with children of varying ages. It helps expose younger children to new vocabulary and they have opportunity to enjoy literature that may be beyond their current reading levels. I regularly read books aloud that went with whatever we were studying for history.
INCORPORATING HANDS-ON ACTIVITIES INFUSES A LOVE OF LEARNING
Learning with lots of hands-on activities is a bit like making pickles! If you take a cucumber and dip it quickly into a bowl of vinegar, the cucumber might have a little vinegar on its skin, but it will remain unchanged. But when you soak a cucumber in a salty brine and spices, heating it and cooling it, and letting it sit for a period of time in that mixture, the cucumber becomes infused with those flavors, changing it into a new creation—the pickle.
Incorporating hands-on learning activities helps us infuse our children with the love of learning and a broader understanding of a topic as they are exposed to information in more and varied ways.
The act of reading a chapter and answering questions, for most children, is like being dipped in the information quickly and then removed. Minimal saturation occurs. If they read it, talk about it, re-tell it, paint about it, play a game about it, taste it, hear music associated with it, and get to show someone else how it works, that knowledge becomes part of their being—useable and alive.
For the majority of human beings, the following statement holds true:
I hear and I forget.
I see and I remember.
I do and I understand.
If I watch someone build a birdhouse, I’ve witnessed a demonstration. If I get the chance to build one myself, I’ve gained understanding and skill.
We make our job as homeschooling parents easier when we teach in a way that sparks interest and enthusiasm in our children.
You don’t need to invest a lot of time or money to make your homeschool experience a rich adventure. Look for little ways along the way to make learning a joy for your child. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes!