Learning is not just something that happens at school, and learning is not dependent on formal lessons. A family that is involved, interested, and curious can learn all the time.
The best way parents can encourage learning at home is to be learners themselves. When parents read, kids read. When parents have many interests, kids develop interests and hobbies too. Parents show positive attitudes toward learning whenever they try to master a skill, research a new topic, or spend time at a museum or concert.
An important way you can enrich your child’s education is to follow up on your child’s interests by providing materials, books, and experiences. With imagination and a creative use of available resources, even parents on the most limited budgets can offer active encouragement.
For example, if your child’s interested in rocks, look for colorful picture guides in the library or on the Internet, or visit collections in local museums and nature centers. Take him to local gem and mineral shows. In addition, he can collect and organize pictures of rocks and minerals from magazines and advertisements, and arrange his collection in a homemade display case. There’s no limit to the ways you can follow up on your child’s interests. Help him find activities that meet his needs, and allow him to explore a hobby or skill as fully as he desires.
If your child wants to pursue an academic subject, encourage him to go beyond the school’s lessons. A child who likes the challenge of math can be introduced to puzzles, chess, or new computer software. There are many math games, puzzles, and curiosities for children available in libraries, bookstores, and on the Internet. All will stimulate a child more than the “educational workbooks” often marketed to parents.
As your child grows, you can also help by talking regularly to him about his schoolwork, his interests, and current events. Discussions can revolve around sports, the environment, history, popular entertainment, space exploration, fashion, music, or animals. As long as the subject is interesting to your child, the talk will be valuable. Listen carefully to his opinions and questions. That way, he’ll come to see himself as an important part of family talks.
Learning doesn’t have to be parent-initiated. A child can teach his parents and siblings a new skill or share a new fact, and he can learn from his siblings. To enrich your child’s education at home, tell stories, encourage him to tell you stories, make regular trips to the library, get your child his own subscription to a children’s magazine, and leave a child’s dictionary and encyclopedia out. Increase your child’s vocabulary by using new words. Go to the zoo, museums, nature centers, concerts, events, and children’s plays together. Watch educational programs, particularly ones on nature.
Make learning a pleasurable, shared experience, and your child will join in. Don’t give negative judgments about his progress or compare his achievements to his siblings’. He’ll do better without pressure, including the stress of being over-programmed.
Finally, a fun, loving, and nurturing home will help your child develop a life-long love of learning.