When someone makes the decision to homeschool, you can pretty well assume they aren’t striving for typical learning methods. For some reason, at some point in time, they’ve decided to go against the grain and take responsibility for their children’s learning. The beauty of homeschooling is it is completely customizable. There is never a shortage of learning opportunities, we just have to be willing to see them.
One of my favorite things about homeschooling is learning through conversation. Young children never have a shortage of questions as they learn about the world around them. Every question is a learning opportunity for both my children and myself. However, I have to be open to these learning opportunities. It’s easy to tune out the questions, or put them off when I’m tired, busy, or frustrated. I don’t have the time or the mental capacity to answer and explain every question my kids ask, I’m human, but I do try to come back to it. I try to keep the lines of communication open, and I want my kids to know that their questions and concerns are important to me.
- Teaches that they can ask me about anything. We’ve created a culture of curiosity and learning, but also of trust. They know that they can come to me when they feel the need to know more about something. This lesson can never start too early in life.
- Teaches that they are valuable and worthy of my time. Every time we tell a child (or an adult for that matter) that we cannot make time for them, we are telling them that whatever else we are doing is more important to us than they are. Now, that isn’t to say that we can or should drop everything every time our children ask for our attention. They also need to learn to wait their turns and be patient. However, we should also prioritize our use of time. How often are you putting your kids off? Are you putting them off for a tv show or something on Facebook that you could easily come back to later? Do what you can to find a stopping point, or let your children know that you will help them as soon as you are done, then remember to seek them out and answer their questions when they have your full and undivided attention.
- Better retainability. A conversation isn’t the same as a lecture. While a lecture can be easily forgotten because we are only listening, conversation involves engagement. We have to listen, process the information, then respond. This process stimulated a larger portion of our brains and helps us to better retain the information. Now, it does mean the child has to be engaged in the conversation, but it isn’t usually an issue when they are the ones asking the questions.
- Lays the foundation for communication skills. I’m sure you’ve heard that part of the problem with communication is that we listen to respond rather than listen to understand. By teaching children through conversation, we can teach them to focus on what we are saying rather than focusing on what they are going to say next. They already want to know more about the subject matter. Answer each question as they ask it, but then engage them to see how much they remember and understand. Keep the conversation going until either you are out of answers or they are out of questions.
- Encourages curiosity. Curiosity is fundamental to learning. If we are curious about a subject, then we are engaged and eager to learn more. It is what motivates us and drives us. Teaching at the moment that a child is curious about a subject helps them to learn faster and makes the learning process easier.
- Encourages a culture of learning. My kids aren’t the only ones learning in this scenario. I try my best to answer their questions with my current knowledge of the subject, but then it also motivates me to go back and learn more so I can help them gain a better understanding. One of my favorite things about homeschooling is the education I’m receiving.
The beauty of learning through conversation is that the conversations can happen anywhere and about any subject. I don’t need to prepare a craft or lug around workbooks. It doesn’t need to happen during school time, on a field trip, or at a nature center. It can happen anytime and anywhere. And the learning that is happening is amazing. My kids are sponges, always wanting to learn more. And they’re always happy to share what they’ve learned. I once had a conversation with my son about controlled burns and forest fires while on a hike at a local forest. My son not only rehashed the entire conversation for my husband, but he continues to bring it up and ask more questions about it. Often, it’s the same questions he asked during the original conversation. That’s ok, kids learn through repetition. It’s confirming the information for him, and helping him to have a better understanding of it. If he asks too often, I turn it around and ask him to recall what I told him before. Most of the time, he can repeat the answer, and I confirm that he’s correct. It just adds to the learning process.
We have to learn to be patient with our kids, and not trivialize their desire for more information. Even the simplest question can develop into a more complex understanding through conversation.