Sneaky Learning

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My Sneaky Learning Example for today was creating a scavenger hunt for my kids using these hearts. On the front of each heart was a letter to form the phrase, “I love you”. On the back of each was a rhyme with an underlined word, and a missing word that needed to rhyme with the underlined one. For example, ” To find your special treat, you don’t need to look too far. Why don’t you try looking right inside the _ _ _. (answer: car)” By following the clues it led them to their Valentine’s day gifts and they got a secret English lesson without them even knowing it!

I love learning! I love it even more when I don’t feel like I’m being “schooled”.  One of my main goals as a parent and teacher is to create an environment in which learning is a natural process and feels more like nurturing our minds then pounding in information. I’ll be honest, there are days when I feel like my kids are just going through the motions, and me too for that matter. Is that really learning? I think not.

Then there are days when it feels like we’ve hit “the zone”. They are interested, I’m enthused, everyone is on the same page and engaged and it just flows. I’m coming to learn that these days of real learning usually come when we are discovering information rather than downloading it.

Can we discover something new every day? Yes, I think so. Is it easy? Not for me! But step by step I think it will become more like second nature with practice.

Regardless of our learning and teaching styles I think there are some things that seem to help everyone be more engaged in learning. Here are some things that have helped us stay in the “the zone”, so to speak.

1. Rethink your Role:

We tend to think of learning in a student and teacher set-up. Of course we know that things run more smoothly for everyone if there is a clear definition of who is “in charge”, but I think we need to also consider what we define as “in charge”. Do people work better under a dominating leader? Or is there more cooperation and involvement when the leader guides rather than mandates? We’ve found it more helpful to have the “teacher” be a guide and invite the learners to participate and also invite them to “take charge” at times.

2. Questions:

This is a two way process. Asking questions of the “students” and inviting them to ask questions of the “teacher”. I’ve personally learned a lot through this method and it keeps both me and my children engaged.

In our homeschool we have what we’ve termed “discovery time”. We do this at least once a week and sometimes every day. It all starts with a question that I or my children have, it may be one that was formed during a lesson or it may be something we’re just curious about. Then we look up the answer(s) together in books or on the internet.

So maybe we didn’t follow “the plan” today but we did learn something that they were interested in and thus will likely not forget and will be able to apply to other learned information in the future. Besides when a learner takes action in their own learning process they become more successful because they are inviting the information rather than being fed the information.

3. Make it fun:

We’ve used lots of games and other forms of play in our homeschool.

My son saw very little comprehension or progress in his reading skills until we started using primarily games to teach reading and grammar concepts.

My first daughter wanted nothing to do with school until we started creating songs and creative dance to teach basic information (numbers, letters, sounds, etc.)

Both my daughters have become fascinated with math skills now that “Sammy the Squirrel” comes to visit and teach our math “lessons” from time to time.

My 2 ½ year old daughter has finally engaged in the learning process now that we’ve gone to teaching her with toys and manipulative objects rather than more rote methods.

My son can retell most every history lesson we’ve had since we started re-creating the stories of history with role-playing and diagrams/models. All my children have amazed me with their grasp of science since we’ve moved to an almost pure experimental method.

All in all I think that if we take more queues from our children we will find the child within us that is still hungering to learn. If we can tap into that desire and not be so worried about following a schedule and plan that we lose the excitement of learning something purely for enjoyment. Take luck and wish me the same!

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