Having spent a little while homeschooling my children in the past, I have tried many activities to encourage learning at home, particularly trying to find the more fun types of learning methods. The children are back in school now but we still use many of these activities to encourage learning at home and to get (often rather boring) homework done. So I hereby give you:
Ten tips for encouraging learning at home
1. Look out for everyday items that can help learning
Ben, our four year old, has learnt many of the countries of the world because Matthew drinks his coffee from this mug:
Weekend breakfasts usually look like this, with Ben and Matthew having in-depth discussions about the countries of the world.
We also have this Peters Projection map halfway up our stairs. Because it’s on the stairs, WHERE THE CHILDREN ARE NOT ALLOWED TO PLAY, they must be taking in the information by osmosis. Because they wouldn’t ever play on the stairs. Nope. Never.
I bought this Flag Puzzle at a garage sale recently
and after he spent a good long while playing it, Harry turned his bedroom into this:
which was quite possibly the best 10 pence I have ever spent (I’m talking about the puzzle here, not the ‘free’ wallpaper).
2.Make formal homework less formal and more fun where possible
Formal homework is often a chore in our house. You’ll remember William bored to sleep by his spelling homework. To get it done we try and make it more fun by making up games:
- Do spellings on the stairs – for every right spelling they move up a step, down for one wrong, if they get to the top, they get to do a ridiculous goal ‘run-around’ like the professional footballers do when they score. Or spell out words while trying to hop on one foot – this makes them really concentrate and everyone usually ends up in giggles. Or in A&E. Either way they’ll probably remember the spellings.
- We have spellings up on the wall by the kitchen table, even for the four year old who doesn’t have any school spellings yet – I have to think some up for him (at his request). Because they are right by the table the children test each other at suppertime, no persuasion needed, just their competitive streak coming into play.
- If they have a really boring reading book from school that they are complaining about having to read, I suggest they substitute it for one of our own. They’re still reading, they’re enjoying it. I’m not going to let boring books put them off early reading skills.
3. Do science at home
Let them do science experiments at the kitchen table. The DK Kitchen Science book is good for this and doesn’t require anything too arduous in the way of preparation. Ask for science kits as birthday presents. Harry got this one this year:
We owned those goggles already though. We’re that sexy.
4. Read books that will make your children laugh
We read books like Oh, Yuck!: The Encyclopedia of Everything Nasty. I secretly grimace my way through it, but the children love it and will continue to read it when I leave them with it. Read stories to them and make up ridiculous voices. Afterwards suggest they make a drawing/collage of the story to aid their comprehension.
5. Let them cook
preferably something that makes a bit of a mess (fun) and they will practice their maths (weighing out ingredients) and reading (the recipe) and hopefully their tidying up skills too. And they might be demolishing the kitchen but at least they’re not demolishing the rest of the house (or is that just us?). Plus it makes for cute photo opportunities:
6. Look for everyday tasks that help little ones learn
Young children can practice early skills by helping you with the laundry. Ask your child to sort lights and darks, to identify colours and count the items going into the machine.
7. Make learning ‘real world’
Ben writes my shopping list for me (although I might just have my own copy too) and the older ones count the money in my purse. They have to work out in the shop whether or not we have enough money. They’re practicing money counting skills, mental maths and budgeting. I do sometimes have to watch that my money doesn’t ‘wander’ from the counting table to their piggybanks though.
We get quite a few instructional books sent home from school, which is fine for practicing reading,
but I prefer to send them outside to make the real thing. Even if they do come in looking like this after they’ve cleaned themselves up:
8. Plan ‘spontaneous’ learning opportunities
Leave out one or two items they haven’t seen for a while or do something different to spark their interest:
9. Play games
When mealtimes get a bit rowdy, I start a round of ‘tricky questions’, age-appropriate questions for each child going round the table until they’ve had enough (or I’ve run out of enthusiasm). We usually start with questions on something they have studied in school, and then move on to mental maths or guess-the-country-using-landmarks, and then end up with football questions (or any other favourite hobby). The children love this game so much that when we get together with extended family now, I always have all the children clamouring round me asking ‘please can we do tricky questions, please, please’. I’m the popular aunt and it didn’t cost me any money!
10. Use the TV and internet
My children don’t get much screen time but I sometimes put on the BBC2 schools programmes (these are especially good if they are ill and really don’t want to do anything except watch TV) or use some of the extensive learning resources on the internet. Favourites in our house are starfall, the BBC learning schools site, EducationCity (subscription) and Mathletics (through school subscription).
We have two underlying elements to the constant learning that goes on. Firstly we encourage plenty of exercise before and after school – we walk to school if we can and, if the weather is reasonable, I send the children into the garden for ten minutes before setting off for school to run off some energy. We often come home via the park where we all run around playing football or we make a playdate with a friend if it means the children will run around more. Apart from being good for them, I find the children are more ready to settle down to do homework and they also have better days at school, where there is sooo much sitting down and waiting around in lines. And all that exercise means I can eat those Krispy Kremes without guilt.
Secondly we encourage the love of learning but explain what it will lead to. One half of me thinks children should learn just because they love to, but the other half of me thinks that encouraging a long term view of why learning is important will encourage them to learn. Matthew and I frequently talk about careers with the children, about finding something you love and working hard at it, while all the time making sure you work hard at school work so that you are well-educated with as many options open to you in the future as possible. We have explained the possible school options for the future and how that might impact their future careers. We discuss and arrange chances to do work worth doing and to try different experiences that might feed into their future choices. They’re learning, they’re finding out what they do and don’t like, they’re taking in important lessons about what real life is like. They may learn to spell through their innate love of reading but when faced with a long list of difficult spellings to learn for school it helps them to understand why it is important that they learn these things, not just for school but for life.
How do you encourage learning at home?
This post is part of the Friday Club Carnival, a weekly carnival held here. Here are the other entries in this carnival, please click through to read other posts about encouraging learning at home:
Cass at FrugalFamily writes about encouraging learning at home with activities to bring books to life.
Jen at Table for Eight writes about how she gets her children to do their homework.
Not So Single Mum at Diary of a (not so) Single Mum writes about encouraging her daughter in learning a new language after moving abroad.
Jax at Making it Up writes about letting children find out what motivates them and then finding ways to facilitate their learning based on the ways that suit them best.
The Friday Club carnivals take place every week. You can keep up to date with The Friday Club announcements by subscribing to the NotesFromHome RSS feed or subscribing via email, following @NotesFromHome on Twitter or liking the NotesFromHome Facebook page.