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Making homeschool engaging - ignite a love of learning

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I've been reading "The World is Flat" that someone here recommended (thank you!). It has me thinking about careers of the future and what skills will help our kids. It seems like no matter what field they enter, they will need to keep learning. My question is, how do I ignite a thirst for learning? With some exceptions, the kids often just want to get their schoolwork done. They are doing fine and I think their challenge levels are right, but they don't have the love of learning that I would hope for. Ds was in a private school for K/1st and it really burned him out (before that, he loved learning for fun - after, he avoided anything that looked like learning. Now he is coming back slowly!). Dd seems to follow his attitude/opinions about academics and outside activities.


So, my question is how can I make homeschool more engaging? I don't think it needs to be "fun" (like Disneyland fun), but I'd love to find a way to pull them in and get them excited about learning. I'd love to integrate some subjects and make them more real. But I also don't want to remove the challenge level. Has anyone here been successful getting their kids inspired to enjoy learning (if they weren't in the beginning! I know some kids are naturally that way.)?

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Thanks, Dialectica! Do you have any advice for making learning relevant to everyday life? I'd love to do more of this.


I was just thinking I could find some hands-on projects - like making a clock or other useful item.


Also, I want to look into local issues that they may be interested in. Last year we talked about some local beavers and the controversy around them (the beavers were making a dam and some people were worried about flooding, others wanted the beavers to stay). The kids were really interested in this. Maybe controversies in general could be engaging? Something where there is no "right" answer, but worthy of discussion.

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I don't have any magic answers, but here are a few simple things that have made a difference with my ds (11).


Use curricula that matches their learning styles. What I enjoy is not necessarily what my ds enjoys.


Supplement with games, videos and activities.

(For example: We made bean bags and a giant poster board mat with numbers to make our own multiplication drill game. Learning the times table is more fun when it is a game! Ds likes to write his math problems on a giant whiteboard with lots of colorful markers instead of using pencil on notebook paper. We supplement with Life of Fred for fun. ds loves Fred. We added Sonlight's Discover and Do experiments to our science even though it wasn't our curriculum, because ds loves experiments. We have also watched lots of Bill Nye videos which were checked out from the library. Our library also offers travel videos. Studying a new country? Take a video tour. My ds loves Samantha Brown and Rick Steves videos. We play Prof. Noggins games for subjects that match or history and science curricula. We have several word building games ds enjoys. There are endless ways to practice spelling words that are fun.)


Demonstrate excitement. My attitude has a very real impact of ds's perception of things, especially if it is something new to him and he has not formed an opinion.


When attention lags, take a break. Sometimes ds just needs to run and play, sometimes he needs a snack.


Try a fun new location for school either once a week (Friday perhaps) or as an occasional surprise to enliven things. We have a burger and ice cream place in town that is pretty quiet and we can sit in a corner booth for hours undisturbed. (We buy lunch). Ds loves this. He also does school in the hammock, fort, tent, swing, my bed, at the park, at the beach etc.


Don't be afraid to follow rabbit trails even if it is not in the lesson plan. When they show interest or curiosity, explore that subject more!


Read great books to them. This lets them relax, explore new worlds in literature which may be too advanced for them to read themselves, and is great snuggle time.


If you are not taking fieldtrips or participating in any homeschool group activities, explore what might be available. It is fun to learn with friends. Conversely, if you are participating in many group activities or extracurriculars, examine your schedule to see if being busy causes you to rush though the day checking boxes without time to slow down and read together, play games, follow rabbit trails etc. (Sometimes overloading the schedule can make it difficult to enjoy any of the potentially wonderful things you are trying to offer. Find the balance that works best for your family.)



None of these ideas are unique to my family and I am sure there are many more ways to create excitement and a love of learning. Great question! I look forward to reading other's replies.

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Kind of thinking out loud now - I also want to expose the kids to more people who are passionate about something. I don't even really care what they are passionate about. I just want them to meet people who are excited about things. For example, a few years ago when ds was in school I arranged for a snake/reptile expert to visit the class. His enthusiasm for snakes was really contagious! I'd love for the kids to be exposes to passionate people more - in person, in videos, in books, etc.

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With some exceptions, the kids often just want to get their schoolwork done.

I have the most luck here when I think about each kid's exceptions. I honor areas of interest.


Maybe controversies in general could be engaging? Something where there is no "right" answer, but worthy of discussion.

I have written in other threads about how doing current events as a subject has been an incredible success here. Yes to reading about controversy, but also about real life around the globe. The kids discuss and debate the issues, and it is so much fun. And educational. Definitely engaging!

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There are so really great thoughts already here, but I wanted to add what works for us in addition to what other posters have mentioned.


I think for us, the biggest factor is my enthusiasm.  I'm really excited about American history.  I love it.  I'm having so much fun learning about it all over again and teaching it.  My two kids are just lapping it up.  They can't get enough.  Most days we do math, spelling, and reading "just to get it done" so that we can spend more time on history.  A few months ago it was science.  I'm a nurse, and I had a blast teaching the kids about the human body. 


I need to let DS lead the way when it comes to the stuff he doesn't enjoy as much. Reading, writing, and spelling are hard for him.  So he does spelling on the trapeze, reading on the ipad, writing- last week he painted his words and phrases on the easel instead of writing them with pencil and paper.  That makes it...not fun but tolerable for him!


I sometimes need to act a little silly to get DS in the mood to cooperate.  I'm ok with that.  When he does well with his handwriting (as in, I can actually read the letters), I pretend to faint.  He loves it and tries even harder. 


I think the lighthearted, playfulness helps make the learning more enjoyable. 


I also try to follow their leads.  DS is excited about flight lately, so we learned about the Wright Brothers, Ameila Earhart, and others.  He was thrilled.  DD loves the American girl stories, so that's what she does for reading right now.  They also are both super into legos, so last week we did math with legos.


I have found success with a daily walk.  The kids and I really benefit from the outdoor exercise each day before school.  Often we will review math facts along the way or chat about other things of interest.


Hope that helps a little.  I definitely don't expect them to enjoy everything.  It's ok if they don't.  I try to help make the things they don't love more tolerable though and try to find other things that they are excited about.

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