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  • An Invitation to Learn, Simplified

by Kathleen Smith August 09, 2019

How do we instill a love of learning in our children? The simplified answer is to create learning and a learning environment that they love. I know that task might sound daunting at first!

I must admit, as a new homeschool mom, this concept terrified me. When I thought back on my own early elementary days, most of my learning took place at my desk, with the infamous green chalkboard and notes to copy and practice.

Now, I love a good chalkboard, but that type of learning didn’t entice me to question or want to inquire more.

One thing I knew for certain going into this journey was that type of sedentary learning was not the type of learning environment I wanted to create for my children, at least not right off the bat.

Luckily, after my own studies in Elementary Education and an early position in the field as an elementary school librarian, I got to see what it is that kids crave... Affirmation, Stimulation, and Inspiration.

learning-through-play

When it comes to teaching my own two sons, I question what can I do to reach them? And how can I do so in a way that will separate me from the safety net title that comes along with being their mom and transform into the teacher that challenges them academically.

For us, it all comes down to creating spaces and an overall environment that promotes learning in the most inviting way.

Mind you, my oldest is entering Pre-K this fall, and this is my first stint at homeschooling, I’ve tried to narrow down three key ideas to implement inquiry based learning, an invitation to learn, in your own home. 

CHOOSE TOYS CAREFULLY AND INTENTIONALLY

wooden-old-school-truck

To choose toys and resources carefully and intentionally, I first had to purge and store toys that were not often played with or did not have a purpose to challenge them. Smiling Tree Toys shared a great blog on how to declutter and green your playroom which included purging your toys. I recommend you check it out HERE.

I created separate spaces for the “fun” toys and the “educational” toys.

For every toy new and old, I asked myself... "What will this teach my boys? Are there multiple uses? Is this a toy that they can share and use as they continue to grow?”

For instance, our hundreds of Hotwheels cars were moved to the basement playroom, but I kept their Old School Truck from Smiling Tree Toys in their common space in plain sight. For one, this toy will reinforce the concept of sharing. It can be used for racing, it promotes dexterity and mobility for my youngest (age 1), and can transform itself into a staple piece for many mini lessons for my oldest.

GET ON THEIR LEVEL

play-based-learning

Literally! Display your chosen purposeful toys in areas at their eye-level. Pair them with lessons and resources that fit them. Create a beautiful landscape of activities that they can dive into independently. I generally pair a mini lesson (matching, counting, etc) with some themed sight words, a few sensory tactiles (glass beads, wooden letters, blocks, beans, stones, anything!) and a toy that goes with that theme or lesson. Sometimes we create this space in their school room, our coffee table, and even outside. 

HONE IN ON THEIR INTERESTS AND SKILLS

wooden-spell-well-name-puzzle-learning

Challenge yourself and your child by thinking about how you can involve something they love or are great at with a concept, lesson, or skill that is new or needs improvement. Can you involve their favorite toy to get them excited?

Play-based learning is big at our house, but following directions can often use improvement. So I set up an area where Ashton has the chance to play with his favorite truck, and follow directions based upon speed (and the sequence of a traffic light).  I combined a skill he needed improvement upon (listening to directions) with his favorite toy (his brother’s old school truck) and an inviting learning space full of colors, tactiles (bean bags and wooden shapes) and a little freedom. 

Little did he know that this was a big lesson very intentionally introduced. He had so much fun with the playful setup that the learning came easy. Purposeful toys, a pretty, engaging space welcoming him to learn and play, and a little thought to combine items he loves with lessons he needs…. we’ve got ourselves a winner. 

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I encourage all parents, homeschooling or not, to challenge themselves to create an engaging learning space like this to see how their child interacts and focuses. I guarantee you they will be so eager to engage with the open-ended materials and the learning will become second nature for them, and for you!



Kathleen Smith
Kathleen Smith

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