Diana's Homeschool Blog

Welcome to my homeschool blog, which offers insights into loving learning, loving your family, loving history, loving homeschooling, and enjoying your life! With your cup of coffee in hand, take a break to laugh with me, to have your heart refreshed, to be reminded of how cool your kids really are, and to consider the amazing adventure of being a homeschool mom. AND, if you are interested in the History Revealed curriculum, be sure to check out my Teaching Tips!

The Power of Enjoyment in Learning

The Power of Enjoyment in Learning

Well here's a wild thought for you:

In the seventeenth century, a Christian teacher named John Comenius, came to believe that it was possible for students to enjoy learning.

Okay, before we get into that, let's talk a bit about some of the educational ideas that had come before.  In order to give you a foundational grasp of this, I'd like to quote a bit from the eye-opening book, Education That is Christian, by Dr. Lois LeBar. (LeBar was one of the preeminent Christian educators of the mid-twentieth century, and was the chair of Christian Education at Wheaton for many years.)  She described two sets of factors that affect a student's education: the inner factors (which refers to things inside of the learner—their attitudes, their experiences, their ideas, etc.) and outer factors (which refers to things outside of the learner—the teacher, the course of study, the room, etc.).  LeBar writes:

Diverse weightA quick survey of the history of education shows that the prevailing tendency of human nature is to overemphasize outer factors. In the ancient nations of Assyria-Babylonia, Egypt, India, and China, outer elements were practically the only consideration.  The general outlook was backward rather than forward, the major aim being to preserve the past or the status quo rather than to improve them.  Memory and imitation stand out as the chief methods in a transmissive, authoritarian system.  Because study was not interesting, discipline was severe.  Because individuality was suppressed, art and science were undeveloped, literature barren and formulistic. . . Even when education gave priests or artisans practical preparation for taking their places in society, this preparation was mechanical and stereotyped.  The stress was upon outward conformity.

"The education that the Lord God gave the Jewish people whom He chose for His own purposes was theocentric and practical, with a salutary balance between inner and outer factors.  They were to glorify Him in national destiny and personal character. He taught them by questions and moral discipline, memorization and sensory appeal.  Their worship of Him and their daily morality were closely connected.  These were also the methods of Christ Jesus, the Master Teacher. . ."

LeBar continues on through a brief synopsis of the history of education, closing perceptively with these thoughts:

"Thus we see that throughout the ages teachers have most often considered their tChild Discoveryask to be that of exposing pupils to factual content and of getting them to give back in words this outer knowledge.  They have relied almost wholly upon verbal communication of facts."

And then comes her zinger: "How much of the factual knowledge to which you were exposed in high school is now your personal possession?"

Ouch!  I don't know about you, but very little of what I studied in high school remains with me to this day.  And that, my friends, is what we are seeking to change in the lives of our own children.

So, that brings us to John Comenius.  He lived from 1592-1670, spending most of his life as an educator.  Through personal experiences as a student, along with ground-breaking work as an innovator in academics, Comenius gave to the world brilliant insights on education—drawn from Scripture and from nature.  In fact, he had such an impact in the 1600's that he became known as the "Father of Modern Education."

With that as an incredibly brief background, listen to what Comenius wrote in his transformational book on learning, The Great Didactic. In the preface, he described his goal, “To seek and to find a method of instruction, by which teachers may teach less, but learners may learn more, by which schools may be the scene of less noise, aversion, and useless labour, but of more leisure, enjoyment and solid progress; and through which the Christian community may have less darkness, perplexity, and dissension, but on the other hand, more light, orderliness, peace, and rest.”  (emphasis mine)

Surprised GrandmaAmazing! Teachers teaching less, but learners learning more??  How is that possible? 

I believe that if we can make learning come alive through the power of enjoyment, if students are encouraged to play and be active, that something dramatic will happen in their education.  

I'm looking forward to next week, where we will actually address how teachers can teach less and learners learn more.  We'll be looking at some of the most recent discoveries about the brain, and what has been learned about learning.

Remember, stay relational.

Diana

 If you are intrigued with this idea, and would like to see a curriculum that invites students into an enjoyment of learning, please click on the yellow button below.

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Study with Pleasure

smiley

Since enjoying learning—especially for teens—is so radically different from the normal approach, may I continue to introduce you, one by one, to the people and Scriptures that have brought this to life for me?

I hope you're nodding your head right now.  Not nodding off, mind you!  That would take us in an entirely different direction. 

BibleSo, for today, let's open our Bibles to discover a glimpse into God’s heart, His wise and loving ways in education.  After all, if He is the One who created human beings with the ability to grow up and beget other humans, then He must have had something in mind for how adults could teach children!

power of learningPsalm 111:2 says, “The works of the Lord are great, studied by all who have pleasure in them.”

Okay.  Did you see that go by?  Did you notice those two words "studied" and "pleasure" in the same sentence????

Amazing. The obvious scriptural implication here is that it is possible for us to have pleasure in studying His works.

This generates, at least in my mind, a question: What exactly is included in “the works of the Lord”?  Is it solely knowledge of theology, doctrine, evangelism, and eschatology—you know, church stuff?

Well, no, I don't think so. If you start reading in Genesis, you’ll quickly discover that everything good comes rightly under the category of “the works of the Lord.” That would include:

      •  biology
      • chemistryExperiment
      •  physics
      •  mathematics
      •  language
      •  geography
      •  zoology
      •  history

BeakersBut wait, there's more!  According to the Bible, people are created in the image and likeness of God.  One result of being created in His image is that people are creative.  The things we do, the creative works, form another category, a sort of sub-heading of academic studies, which fit under "the works of the Lord."  These would include:

      • Spatial art
      •  architecture
      •  drama
      •  music
      •  literature
      •  athletics
      •  home economics
      •  computer technology
      •  gourmet cooking
      •  car mechanics
      •  hair design
      •  interior decorating

Are you with me?  When we stop and actually consider the categories which fit under "works of the Lord," all of the subjects we can imagine—and more—are suddenly seen as potentially enjoyable to study.

Notice tLittle bakerhat Psalm 111:2 does not say anything about the enjoyment being limited to little kids.

Hmmm. 

What IF we are each hardwired to enjoy learning?  What IF there are ways we can tap into this when we teach our children?  What IF there are possibilities far beyond what we have even imagined?

Well, that's enough for today.  On Friday, Lord willing, I'll be sharing with you some thoughts from John Comenius, the Father of Modern Education.  Intrigued?  Great!  See you then. 

Remember, stay relational.

Diana

 

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The Satisfaction of Learning

The Satisfaction of Learning

What does it mean to have "satisfaction" when we learn? To answer, let me introduce you to one of my former mentors, the brilliant international educator with Youth With A Mission, Rosalie Pedder. 

When Rosalie walked into a classroom, you never knew what would happen. She was hilarious, direct, and always having us do things we had never done before. As a result, her students began to learn in ways they never knew were possible! 

For instance, the first day she lectured in our YWAM school in NZ, she tossed each of us aDSCN0207 koosh ball at the beginning of class.  Yes, a rather unusual start! 

In her delightful Kiwi accent, Rosalie announced that some of us would discover that those koosh balls interfered with our ability to listen to her.  If that was the case, we were told to set the koosh ball down. 

Others, she said, would discover that, while the koosh ball was not interfering, it was not helping us, either.  If that was the case, we were told to set the thing down. 

But, she exclaimed, for some, playing with a koosh ball would allow them to actually hear and understand what a teacher was saying—for the first time in their lives!  For these remarkable students, they were to pick up a koosh ball each morning upon entering the classroom—because God has wired some of us to learn best while touching things or moving!

And, just as she had described, there were two students—one from Switzerland and one from Korea—who found that they could actually learn in a classroom, while listening to a teacher.  For each of these women, the discovery was actually life-changing.

Because Rosalie was, hands-down, the best educator I had ever seen, I asked her if she would mentor me. She graciously agreed, and for the four years prior to her death, we used to talk on the phone about learning issues, and about how to open the door for all kinds of learners to be able to learn, to experience a love of learning in their own unique design.  As part of this discussion, she assigned me a huge list of books to read—including her own four booklets:  Starting Well, Thinking Well, Learning Well and Teaching Well(You can download each of these books here.)

In Starting Well, Rosalie writes, "All learning is not fun. Most of it is very hard work, but it does not also have to be unpleasant. Gardening in spring is delightful—it's hard work, but pleasant.  Only a fool would try to carry out the same activities in winter.  Why add unpleasantness to something already difficult?  But we do that in learning all the time.  Something hard but satisfying often unnecessarily becomes something both hard and unpleasant."

In case you do better with visuals, let me illustrate with photos from my former garden.

It is summer.

The weather is lovely, the plants are growing and blooming.

If you love gardening like I do, this scene invites you to jump in and work to your heart's content!

By the end of the day, you'll be tired and dirty, but, oh, so satisfied with the results!

Now, notice the difference between this photo and the one below.

This is the exact same plot of land, the exact same possibilities with the same bit of dirt.

What has changed?

It is winter.

The weather is freezing cold, the ground is covered in snow.

If you love gardening, this scene reminds you to go inside by the warm fire and look at the seed catalogs for next spring!

The garden is still beautiful, but there is absolutely no invitation to come and dig. In fact, the idea of trying to work in that bit of ground is rather grim, isn't it? If you tried it, it would be much, much harder and it would result in much, much less. In fact, if this was your only experience in working outside in the dirt, it wouldn't take long before you decided that you HATED gardening.

And that is exactly the point Rosalie makes.  Learning, though it requires hard work, does NOT have to be grim. It can actually be pleasurable.


When you work in a garden, you get tired, right?  Because you enjoy working in a garden, being exhausted afterwards is acceptable, even somewhat pleasurable.  

In the same way, if you enjoy learning something new, being exhausted afterwards holds its own reward.  There is an immense satisfaction in having accomplished a feat, discovering something fascinating, in answering that question that was so puzzling. 

Makes sense, right?

Unhappy learnerNow, with that in mind, consider this contrast. 

Rather than the joy and delight you can experience in learning (like the avid gardener in spring), what would it be like for you, instead, to be enslaved to a mind-numbing drudgery that seemed to never end, where you were required to memorize and regurgitate unrelated, unconnected facts (like trying to garden in frozen ground)?

Hmmm.

Joy or drudgery?

Well, frankly, if I were given a choice, I would want joy.

Your children choose joy, too.

We'll talk more about this next time.

Remember, stay relational.

Diana

If you want to see a curriculum that frees you and your students from the drudgery and invites you into the joy of learning, click the yellow button below.

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High School Students Can Love Learning

High School Students Can Love Learning

Is it legitimate for our kids to enjoy learning?

I know, I know.  You're surprised that I would even ask.  I mean, isn't it obvious that little kids do better when learning is fun?

But here's the real question:

Is it legitimate for our high school kids to enjoy learning??

Aha.  I bet that just made you uncomfortable, didn't it?  I mean, isn't it obvious that, once students get to high school (if not middle school), that it's time to knuckle down, do the unpleasant stuff, and just get it done?

That's why I asked if we could talk. . . Because, though the topic is uncomfortable, I think that there are some ways of looking at this that just might make a healthy difference for you and your kids.  The way I like to describe it is education that's relational.

To start, may I tell you a story?

Monte digging for rocks.001At the Mid-Winter Conference in Michigan some years ago, one of our speakers, Monte Swan, shared a bit about the work he does as a field geologist.  And, right there, in the midst of his presentation, he made an astonishing statement.  It went something like this: 

"I loved being outside as a boy. . . Becoming a geologist means that I never had to grow up—I still get to play outside!"

Monte described for us a bit of the real life of a geologist, and decisions he and Karey made to include the whole family. . .packing up their vehicle and heading out to the hills for him to do his research on the rocks.  Believe me, you can't listen to Monte without knowing clearly that he loves his work. . .and that, in fact, his childhood love of nature was a major factor in the decision to pursue geology. 

This pursuit of something loved as a child did not stop with Monte, however.  Travis, Monte's son, developed a love for music as a child, while his family was writing songs, playing instruments, and singing together.  As an adult, Travis now makes his living working in music and other creative arts at a Colorado church.

That is one family's story.  And, since we each have our own incredibly unique story, I'm not trying to tell you what your story is supposed to look like.

What I do want to talk about, however, is the widespread notion that, when our kids get to high school age, academics and enjoyment don't mix.  In other words, education—to be legitimate—should be irksome, unpleasant, even painful. The more they struggle, they more they accomplish?

Well, yes and no. 

If someone works hard to learn something new—something they want to know—they will accomplish a lot.  So, yes.

Unhappy learnerIf someone is pushed, forced, shamed, manipulated, threatened to learn something new—something they don't want to know—they will accomplish a little.  So, no.

I know, I know.  You are thinking, "My high school son doesn't WANT to know anything about Napoleon (or, fill in the blank________), but I think he should!"

The thought lurks in our brains that, because we didn't enjoy our studies (and look how great we turned out!), our children don't have to enjoy their studies, either.  Many folks look down their nose at this whole concept of connecting academic education and enjoyment.

To address this thought, I'd like to talk about the concept of playing.

Over the next several blogs, let's consider what it would look like for our high school kids to play with their academic studies by looking at how our kids can actually enjoy learning, how enjoyment increases the memory's retention, and the outcome of enjoying what you do.

Hope you'll come along for the ride!

Remember, stay relational.

Diana

Click on the yellow button below if you would like to explore how our History Revealed curriculum helps students to enjoy their learning!

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Demystifying Education, Part Two

Demystifying Education, Part Two

In the last post, we looked at the first Demystifier—children are always learning.  Today, we'll take that a step further.

Demystifier #2:

It's not really learning until it changes you.

Learning changes you. Getting it right on the test doesn't mean you have learned it. I took a test to get my driver's license, and I had to know the speed limit in order to pass the test. But if I blithely drive twenty miles over the speed limit, did I really learn it? The police officer who stops me will not be impressed when I say, "Oh, I know the speed limit." He will write me a ticket, I'll pay a lot of money, and my insurance will go up. What are the odds that from that point on, I will pay attention to the speedometer, and actually drive the speed limit? If I do, then I will have learned my lesson.

Learning changes you. If I learn French, then that means I can actually speak it or read it. If I learn punctuation, I will correctly place my commas. If I learn percentages, I will save money at the grocery store. These are all indicators that real learning has taken place.

So, are your children really learning history? Are they adept at using their math facts? Have their biology lessons made a difference in food preparation? Are they able to write a letter to the editor concerning a local issue or, if they are much younger, a thank-you note to Grandma? Can they remember what they read in the story yesterday?

Mastery

When we begin to see the importance of letting them learn until they actually have mastered and are able to use the material, we will slow down our mad rush through facts. We will make sure that our children understand what they are studying, that they have time to interact or play with the subject matter, that they have processed and reviewed the material in a way that brings the meaning to life, that they have had the light bulb go on. In short, when what is being studied is no longer a factoid that can float out of the head just as easily as it floated in, but has become a living, interwoven part of their being, then it has been learned.

If you will put these two basic truths -- to help them love learning, and to have them interact with the material to the point of mastery before you move on -- into everyday practice in your homeschool, your children will astonish the world.

Remember, stay relational.

 

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