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Sunday, December 8, 2013

On the Importance of Relevant Learning

Human beings have been learning since the beginning of time and that knowledge has been shared from generation to generation through oral tradition.  At some point, when a culture’s knowledge base grows beyond what can be conveyed through that oral tradition and what one man (or woman) can teach another, there’s a need to record information and share it in a more efficient way. 

Writing comes to be. 

It’s interesting that a culture doesn’t actually develop writing until there’s a need for it. 

Some cultures never will.

It’s also interesting that different cultures, far from each other, develop their own way of writing and even printing information.

It seems as though there’s something universal about it.  Not in the sense that everyone eventually does it, but that if the need arises, man turns to writing.

Relevant Learning Sticks! Homeschooling Hearts & MindsI have seen this tendency in my own children.

At some point each of them has had the realization that through writing they can convey meaning in a way that they can’t through simple conversation.   

They’ve discovered that written words last and spoken words are forgotten.

And they know that written words can be shared across the world and through generations---they are bigger than spoken words.

It was after this crucial realization that each them embraced writing.  Before that point, writing was a pointless chore.  After that point, the idea of writing made sense.

This was an important developmental shift.  And it doesn’t just happen with writing, but with most of the skills that we try to teach our kids.

It is so much easier to learn something when you desire to know it. 

It’s so much easier to stick with something that’s truly challenging when you “get” the purpose for your toil.  If you are motivated to do something, you will work and work at it.

Suppose someone handed you a list of names of things you’d never heard of before and told you that you would be tested on your ability to spell them at the end of the week.  How much of yourself would you want to invest in that?

Probably not very much, I’m guessing. 

Children are little people. 

Help them to spell the things they want to communicate---and they will spell them.  Even if it’s hard for them, they will work at it until they get it, because it’s relevant.

When I hand my 8-year-old a worksheet with full of addition problems (I admit it, I do this sometimes), it is a nearly insurmountable task for him.  It’s hard and he doesn’t see the point in it. 

Indeed, what is the point? 

Now, let me be clear here, I’m not talking about making it “fun.” 

I’m talking about making it relevant.

He may actually learn all his math facts after doing boring worksheet after worksheet, but at what cost?

Will he enjoy the challenge of tackling more difficult (and profound) mathematical puzzles? 

Or will he learn to hate math as that thing with endless boring worksheets full of numbers?

I’m rethinking the way we do some of our more mundane homeschooling tasks, not because they aren’t “fun” enough, but because unless my kids see the relevance of what they are doing, they’re doing it because I said so…

…and that’s no way to raise independent thinkers.

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4 comments:

  1. Susan, you nailed for me one of the issues I have. I couldn't put it into words. I don't want to make learning fun. I mean I don't want my children to grow up thinking that everything has to be fun and entertaining. Sometimes we do have to do things that are not fun. But I do want to make learning relevant. I want them to see the point. Thank you for this article!

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  2. Thanks for commenting, Tess.

    There are those who think that kids aren't mature enough to see the relevance of things---I know they can, it just takes a little more work to do it that way sometimes (and sometimes it takes less work because I can quit nagging them if they see the point ;).

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  3. I agree with Tess. I think the challenge at times can be knowing how to make it relevant for them, but this is definitely an important thing to strive for.

    @A Slice of Homeschool Pie

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  4. Yes, it's a challenge. There's not "curriculum" for that. ;)

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