Creating Self-Motivated Learners
Educating the WholeHearted Child: Chapter 5 (Part 2)
If someone asked me to point out the main differences between children educated at home and those in traditional schools, the notion of self-motivated learning would be high on my list. As a product of public schooling myself, as well as a former teacher, I have seen all too often how schools seem to kill children’s natural curiosity rather than nurture it. I’m not saying it happens to every child, and it certainly doesn’t happen immediately. However, by the time children reach high school, their primary motivation throughout the school day is more likely to be achieving a certain grade or meeting a graduation requirement than actually learning.
I was one of the lucky exceptions. While I certainly knew how to play the grade game and went through my school career (at least pre-college) with that sort of mindset, I was fortunate to maintain a love for learning. I spent hours pursuing my own interests, eager to satiate my hunger for knowledge. When I could combine school and learning, I did. In my senior year of high school we were told to write a 12-page research paper on a topic of our choice. My latest fascination was the canonization of the Bible, and I threw myself into the assignment with such gusto that the final product was a 16-page paper that earned me an A++ and a comment from my English teacher proclaiming it to be “a Master’s thesis!”
I remember being so thrilled that I could spend my time learning about something that interested me and having it count as schoolwork. What a sad commentary on our school system! I knew several families at my church who were part of the early Christian homeschool movement, so several kids in my youth group had grown up being homeschooled, and I was so envious that much of their education had looked like this. I decided way back then that if at all possible, I was going to homeschool my own children.
“The ultimate purpose of true education is to create a strong foundation for a lifetime of learning… A child with a positive learning attitude will naturally be come a self-motivated learner and will more quickly become a self-educating student” (page 90).
I love watching my children take delight in learning. When I see them scouring our overflowing bookshelves for a book about some particular subject they want to know more about, I cannot help but smile. There are few things I enjoy more than seeing them come across something we’ve learned about as they go about their everyday lives and light up as they experience the satisfaction of feeling connected to the world around us.
The other day I wanted to find something to watch while I sat nursing the baby, so I put on the first episode of America: The Story of Us, and Ian ended up watching much of it with me. It touched on several things we had talked about before, like the Pilgrims and the beginning of the Revolutionary War, and he was so fascinated we ended up watching it twice. It stirred up a desire in him to revisit some of what we had done a few months ago, and today as he watched an episode of Liberty’s Kids, he called me over and rewound it so he could show me the engraving Paul Revere had done of the Boston Massacre, which had been mentioned in the documentary we had watched together.
I love that at 6 years old he is getting a thrill out of making connections between things he hears about history when he comes across them in various places! I hope that as the years pass and his eyes are opened to more of the world around him that he will be just as excited about digging deeper and learning more about history, the Bible, science, famous people, literary treasures, and anything else that peaks his interest. If he has that “positive learning attitude,” then no matter what gaps we may leave in his education over the next twelve years, he will be more than adequately equipped to set out on a lifetime of learning.
Each Mentoring Monday I share my reflections on what I’ve been learning from my “paper mentors.” I am currently joining in a book discussion of Educating the WholeHearted Child by Clay Clarkson (with Sally Clarkson), so my Monday posts are all being sparked by things I’m reading in this fabulous book!