People sometimes ask, “How do you instill a love of learning in your child?”
I think that’s the wrong question. Children are naturally curious and eager to learn, and God has instilled this in them; we don’t need to. Instead, the question should be, “How do we nurture this love of learning?” And, if for some reason it has left them, we need to ask, “How can we help them recover their love of learning?”
Here are some of the things that have kept our children and teens learning almost constantly for more than two decades. Do note, however, that this love of learning has nothing to do with textbooks, in most instances. In fact, my kids agree that less formal schoolwork is one of the most important ingredients in encouraging a love of learning. On the other hand, they have also gained a lot of new interests from their rigorous formal studies.
So here’s how we have tried to nurture the love of learning throughout the years. Of course, we do not always achieve all of these goals, but when we do the learning is amazing.
- Limits on screen time.
- Lots of classical music.
- Enough free time for curiosity and boredom, although sometimes formal learning gets in the way of this.
- Lots of good books and very few low quality ones.
- Very little formal schoolwork at an early age.
- Encouragement to stretch beyond their comfort zones, especially when they are older.
- Ample scope for initiatives, mistakes, and messes.
- Responsibility and freedom, within reason.
- Lots of physical activity.
- Lots of time in nature.
- Many kid-directed free time activities, and few mommy-directed ones.
- Freedom to explore their own interests with suitable mentors.
- The example of parents who are constantly learning new things.
- Adequate sleep, nutritious food, exercise.
- Meaningful chores.
- Field trips, documentaries.
- Conversation and time with a variety of interesting adults.
- Volunteer work and paid work.
In fact, I would sum up the whole idea of nurturing a love of learning in your children with a quotation from Charlotte Mason.
“We spread an abundant … feast … and each small guest assimilates what he can.”
And then, as one of my children pointed out years ago, “Learning is the reward.”
This is based on a blog post I wrote 5 years ago; very little has changed in how we try to nurture a love of learning.