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Why does a Love of Learning matter?

  • Why shouldn't we just give our kids a list of assignments and checklists and make them do the work required? 
  • Why don't kids love learning whatever we tell them to learn?
  • Why does a love of learning matter?

Here are the three big reasons why a Love of Learning is so important, and should be our number one focus for our homeschools.

1. If a child is not interested, he is not learning.

"Knowledge which is acquired under compulsion has no hold on the mind. " - Plato

Kids who are told what to learn, when to learn it, and how to learn it, in time will learn to dislike or even hate learning.

Even when it looks like they are learning, maybe they are completing assignments without complaining, or passing tests, or moving up to the next level, most of that knowledge isn't penetrating. This is why you see the "Summer Slide" in so many kids. If all that stuff isn't continually hammered on, it fades away, because it didn't really get into their long term memory. Their brains only hold it in short-term memory in order to meet the requirement. They don't care about it, it feels irrelevant to them, so it doesn't "stick".

I don't know about you, but I remember this happening to me in school.

Yes, I was a "good student" and did my work, but only just enough to meet the requirement, just enough to get by. I passed the tests, and I moved up the grade ladder when I was supposed to.

But what do I remember?

What did I learn in my youth that I actually still remember and use?

I'll be honest here, I don't actually remember much of anything from my actual classes. From all my high school years I could probably name three of my teachers, and maybe half a dozen of my required classes. I do remember my elective classes, typing, art, photography, yearbook, and I have some fond memories of the projects for those classes.

But the rest is a blur.

I took the required classes, and passed them, but could I pass them today? No way! I would have to go through all the material again. 

I learned that what I was "supposed" to learn was mostly irrelevant, at least to me, at the time. All I cared about were the creative classes.

Now for you it might be a different set of classes that you remember. Maybe you were a math fan, or a history buff, or whatever. But I bet the classes that were required of you, those classes that were not "in your wheelhouse" were largely irrelevant. You did the work, probably passed the class, but then tossed all of that short term learning when you didn't need it any more.

Compare that short-term cramming of irrelevant information, which is quickly forgotten, to the deep, lasting knowledge that is gained when a child is interested. When kids love what they are learning about, they keep learning.

2. When a child is interested, she wants to know more.

"When you are genuinely interested in one thing, it will always lead to something else." - Eleanor Roosevelt

I bet you've encountered a child (or even have a child) who is deeply interested in something. Whether that interest is My Little Pony or Civil War History, whether it is Minecraft or DC Comics or Norse Mythology, they can talk about it for hours.

They love it.

They learn all they can about it.

They are like a sponge soaking in all they can get.

Now imagine that thirst for knowledge spilling out into all other areas, history, math, science, language, literature, and so on. 

When you begin with what your child loves, and don't require irrelevant learning of them, that can happen. Yes, even with your child. They don't decide that they don't like learning, so therefore any topic is an interesting rabbit trail out from what they already love.

For example: My daughter loves My Little Pony and I have been truly amazed at the depth and breadth of learning that has sprouted from that interest over the past five years.

Some of the areas that My Little Pony interest has spilled out into are: Japanese language, Japanese culture, classical mythologies, drawing, anatomy, color theory, genetics, the Hero's journey, dystopian stories, language invention, creative writing, database creation, and on and on.

Interested kids keep learning, one thing leads to another, and they can become life-long seekers of knowledge. But it won't happen if they have decided that they don't like learning, that learning is boring, or worse, irrelevant. Which is exactly what happens when we force learning by giving them assignments and checklists when they are young.

They shut off their curiosity, they stop pursuing, and they simply do what they need to do to get it over with.

But when a child is interested in, let's say, DC Comics, and he hasn't decided that he doesn't like learning, what happens when he digs in deeper? He gets into the different super heroes, and learns about where they came from.

He finds out that Thor is from Norse Mythology, so he digs in deeper there. He wonders where the people who created the myths are from so he tries to find out where the Norse people live and when the myths were created.

He then learns about the Vikings and how they conquered many northern lands. He reads about Leif the Lucky and his father Eric the Red. He then finds out that the Vikings came to North America way earlier than when Columbus came.

He gets curious about other mythologies and learns about the Greek and Roman stories. That leads to learning about the Roman conquests. And on it goes.

3. People who love learning will find they have endless possibilities.

Too many students, even homeschooled students, reach graduation with no idea of what they want to do.

It's not that they just haven't decided on their life path, on their career choice, or on their college major, it's that they have nothing they are interested in enough to pursue.

They have met all the requirements, done what was expected of them, come to the end of high school, and have no clue what to do next.

The have spent all their time doing homework (that they didn't care about) and spent their free time entertaining themselves or maybe working part time after school. The only things they love are video games, social media and TV shows.

They choose college majors because they have to choose something, and often switch majors when they find they don't really like what they chose. They graduate college with a degree (or not if they couldn't bring themselves to keep studying what felt so irrelevant to them), and still flounder, not knowing what to do or where to go, many returning home to live with their parents again, and feeling like they just wasted four years.

That is happening to way too many of our kids today. 

Erica Goldson, in her 2010 Valedictorian speech said this:

When I leave educational institutionalism, will I be successful or forever lost? I have no clue about what I want to do with my life; I have no interests because I saw every subject of study as work, and I excelled at every subject just for the purpose of excelling, not learning. And quite frankly, now I'm scared.

But what might change if those students had a deep love of learning, were always thirsty for more knowledge

I think of my daughter, who is 16, and the possibilities she already has before her from her interests. Pursuits like Photography, Japanese, Illustration, Genetics, Ornithology, Web Development, and she still has two more years of high school! 

Yes, someone who absolutely loves learning might have the completely opposite problem. The problem of so many possibilities that they have a hard time narrowing it down, but what a good problem to have!

That, my friends, is why a Love of Learning matters.

1. A child who is not interested, is not learning.

2. A child who loves learning, wants to know more.

3. People who love learning have endless possibilities.

So help your kids fall in love with learning instead of simply giving them assignments. Let their interests grow and meander, encourage them to pursue what they love, and be amazed at what they learn

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Now, I can guess what you might be thinking - "That sounds all well and good, I want my child to love learning, but we all have to do things we don't want to do. If I let my child learn about whatever he wants, whenever he wants, how will he ever learn to work hard and do things he doesn't want to do?"

Well stay tuned, as that will be the topic of my next post -  How to teach kids to work hard, without killing their love of learning.

Or you might be thinking - "If I never make my child learn what is needed, how will she ever get into college?"

I have a post coming up for you too - Interest lead learning and College, yes, they do mix.

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What does your child love learning about? What could they talk about for hours? Post a comment below and let me know.

 


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