Learning Outside the Box

Post by an Engaged Home contributing writer. Edited and approved by Nathana. 

Learning is a way of life. We do a disservice to our children when we relegate learning and education solely to traditional school. Whether you homeschool or not, there are ample, valuable learning opportunities you can engage in with your children.  

Think Beyond Academic Achievement

There’s no question that being ‘book smart’ has value. However, children should develop plenty of other skills and traits. Though most schools try, it is not their job to focus on building character in our children. We can encourage traits like empathy and compassion through the books that we read with our children. But, even more impactful is the example we set, and involving our children in activities that encourage these traits. Right now, with the tropical storm Harvey displacing thousands, are you taking time to talk to your children about it? You can pray together, find items to donate, or raise money together to send to those in need.

Teaching your children to manage their money wisely is also something your children’s school may or may not touch on. But through your example and intentional teaching of your children, you can instill smart habits in them from a young age.

Appreciate Other Styles of Learning

There’s more than one way to absorb information, and your child might not necessarily learn from verbal stimulants. Aural learners prefer music and sounds, which is why finding audio support tools can be especially useful.

Visual learners tend to gain more from images and pictures. Alternatively, your son or daughter may be into kinesthetic (physical) education. If this is the case, making up games will be far more beneficial than any book. As a parent you can try out different methods to see what works best for your child.

Also, as you learn more about your children’s gifts and talents, you can encourage them to practice skills they probably won’t learn at school: how to use tools and fix/build things, how to sew, garden, etc.

Encourage Activity

Reading books encourages kids to develop their imagination and visualize things. However, it’s equally important to give them a chance to interact. Restricting their education to a theoretical development isn’t a winning solution for anyone. Finding ways to make learning applicable and hands on helps children really internalize and analyze on a deeper level.

For example, during family vacations you can make a point of talking about and visiting places such as The Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. or climbing Black Elk Peak after reading Black Elk Speaks. Investing in Megalodon teeth and other fossils encourages kids to understand what they are learning in a fun, investigative, hands-on way. This makes it all seem real, which will also spark a far greater sense of enthusiasm and excitement.

Promote Writing

While education should cover other aspects, there’s no question that reading and writing is integral. Nonetheless, reading books isn’t the only option. Encouraging kids to embrace their imaginations is key. This can be done by writing stories and completing various activities. I can tell you from my time in classrooms with different ages of students that students’ ability to write often lags behind their ability to read. Of course, they are connected. Those who read a lot tend to be better at writing. Still, there is a greater emphasis (in most schools) put on reading versus writing. Learning to write creatively as well as academically is important.

Fortunately, we have many resources–both books and websites–aimed at helping us refine our writing skills. As an adult, I still am pursuing growth as a writer. Encouraging our children to read and write fiction, nonfiction, scientifically, and creatively gives them a leg up, especially when they enter college.

Learning is not a one-size-fits-all endeavor. And while our children will hopefully learn a lot in school, that does not let us off the hook as parents.

What is your child’s learning style/personality?

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