Most of us grew up in a traditional school atmosphere: desks in rows with assigned seating, a stack of textbooks stored neatly (or not so neatly) inside each desk. At math time, reading time, or history time, we were expected to find the appropriate textbook and quietly listen to the teacher. When each class was complete, we put the book away and in many cases, failed to think of it again.

Praise God for homeschooling. We now have the opportunity to provide our children with a different style of education than the one we had. But what style of education do we often choose? Far too frequently, we gravitate to what is so familiar: a textbook, a workbook, and a little desk that was purchased from a school sale. We have just set up a school at home that in many ways mirrors a traditional classroom style education.

Love to Learn

When my husband and I prepared to start our homeschooling journey nearly a decade ago, we created several goals for our children. One of those goals was to teach our children to love to learn. As we selected our curriculum method, my husband felt hands-on learning was a key to helping us meet our goal. I must emphasize that it was my husband who felt this way. I was still bent on using a traditional textbook method. But my husband knew what we needed. Over time I began to see how blended learning, with a simple, but effective hands-on approach, moved flawlessly into the rest of the day. Little by little, “school” started to creep into everything we did: our game nights, our vacations, Christmas celebrations, and even how we planned dinner. A love of learning was filling our home.

Do your children love to learn? Do you love what they are learning, or are you just busy checking off boxes and trying to complete all the worksheet pages? My husband and I believe that if we help our children to love learning, they will become lifelong learners. We actually consider this one of our safety nets. If we raise children who maintain a childlike curiosity and a joy of learning, there is nothing that they cannot do. Albert Einstein said, “It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.” As parents we should work to awaken and nurture that innate curiosity. We should also want our children to understand that learning and knowledge do not take just one form.

I Am. I Can.

Charlotte Mason, an educator in the early 1900’s, used the following motto with the children in her school: “I am. I can. I ought. I will.” But possibly more impacting are her words to parents and educators: “Education is an atmosphere, a discipline, a life.”

What is the atmosphere in your homeschool? What disciplines are you emulating for your children? Is learning truly a lifestyle in your home?

In Charlotte Mason’s Parent’s Review, written in 1935, Elsie Kitchling wrote, “We have a definite mission—to bring the fullness of life to the children. It is more possible to carry this mission in a home schoolroom.” This and the statements made by Mason resonate with me. Education is an atmosphere that we can create, but is also discipline. Our mission is to make our children’s education a way of life.

Many years ago I planned to teach my children with a traditional curriculum. I have since watched their love for learning blossom by combining the best of many methods into a strong, hands-on, lasting education. Maybe you have found this too. But possibly you are still searching. If that is the case, I encourage you to first pray, and secondly be ready to think outside the box. Do you realize you can teach multiple ages together? Did you know it is possible to combine subjects and shorten your school day?

Playing Together

All family members can take part in easy hands-on projects; and here’s the bonus—your children will likely also start to create their own projects and do them together. Without any direction from me, my kids have together played World War II battles in the sand box, built the Taj Mahal out of blocks, and acted out the Plymouth Rock landing. Their love of learning can be seen in their everyday play.

To take learning out of school time and into everyday life, consider these ideas. Buy toys and games that relate to what you are learning in school. Make a meal once a week which has been inspired by a school subject. Keep afternoon unstructured for free play. Take vacations to places that can bring real life to your school subjects. Create a Christmas unit study that ties in with your history studies.

It may take a little work, but in the end, your children can understand that learning should be found in all of life, not just within the confines of a textbook. That piece of lifelong knowledge, I believe, is definitely worth it.

First the homeschool student and now the educator of her own three children, Dawn Hudson sees homeschooling from both sides. This second generation homeschooler brings a “practitioners” bent into her home classroom, giving her insight into what works and what could cause unexpected problems. Dawn has worked for Focus on the Family, Christian Bookseller’s Association, and as a Colorado state legislative aide. Now Dawn works in her favorite environment: first as a wife, mom, and a homeschooling teacher; then as a voice of support to homeschooling parents. Dawn is an educational consultant for My Father’s World.

Dawn will be speaking at the 26th Annual Bay Area Convention.