A new school year has begun, and after the whirlwind of activities like buying school supplies, uniforms, socks, shoes, and even new hair clips, it is now time to pause for a while to consider what school is all about and what we want our children to get out of their education.
Choosing a school and getting our kids through their lessons is just half the battle though. Learning is natural, spontaneous, and interest-led. It goes beyond the confines of a lecture or a school-sanctioned field trip.
The challenge for parents, really, is how to make the most of the education that they are expecting their well-chosen school to give their children. The answer lies in the attitude that they have about learning. Choosing to encourage and cultivate a love of learning in their children starts in one’s own home.
Meet four moms who have intentionally created a learning environment for their children: financial consultant Tati Alvarez, stay-at-home mom Meng Hizon, child and adult psychiatrist Celine Germar MD, and U.S. licensed Kindermusik educator Suzette Yu-Kho. They share with us these best practices:
1. Read to your children. All four moms agree that reading to children in their youngest years is the first step to fostering a love of learning. All of them started reading to their children when they were still babies, usually before bedtime.
Teacher Suzette says that because of their nightly reading ritual, her two children, now ages 10 and 8, “associate learning and reading with bonding time with Mommy and Daddy.”
Talking about the stories is also a crucial step in reading together, according to Dr. Celine, since it allows parents to gauge the kids’ comprehension level and answer questions they might have. She emphasizes the importance of modeling a love of reading, or showing children that you love reading, too.
2. Make different learning materials available. Dr. Celine makes a wide range of books available for her children. She maintains an enviable home library consisting of picture books, novels, and reference materials. She recommends too that fun educational materials should also part of a family’s learning arsenal, such as educational game boards, science experiment sets, art materials, and math manipulatives.
Enrolling in good online programs such as Dreambox Learning for Math, and investing in educational videos also turns the academic nature of a subject into a fun experience.
3. Follow your children’s interests. Mommy Meng, mother of two boys ages 13 and 11, says that as children grow older, their own interests will emerge. Parents should expose them to books, materials, and experiences that are in line with those interests to make learning more relevant to them.
When Mommy Tati’s son got hooked on numbers and counting, she incorporated this “obsession” in their daily activities. Something as simple as counting for her son while he was drinking water proved fun and educational for the little boy.
For Teacher Suzette’s youngest who fell in love with airplanes, a visit to Hongkong Science Museum and Flight Experience in Kowloon gave him not only a closer look at the machines, but also fueled his passion for it even more.
Dr. Celine teaches her children how to look for more information on topics that interest them, which she does through modeling. This strategy encourages interest-led learning and promotes learning beyond what is required in school.
4. Expose children to different experiences. Both Mommy Meng and Teacher Suzette agree that traveling provides a wonderful hands-on education for children, especially when you read about a place and its significance prior to taking the trip.
Trips need not be far or expensive, though. When Mommy Meng’s family visits local museums, zoos, discovery centers, and historical destinations, they would review what they have learned after the exercise.
On top of traveling to local and foreign destinations, Dr. Celine, Mommy Meng, and Teacher Suzette’s families also take advantage of school breaks to enroll their children in classes like dance, art, and sports.
Protect children from school burn out The number of schoolwork being brought home during weekdays can be a cause for burnout, and might possibly make the kids lose interest in learning altogether.
Mommy Meng and Dr. Celine highlight the importance of time management. Mommy Meng has white boards and bulletin boards at home that help her children visualize how to spend their time. Dr. Celine, on the other hand, helps her children organize their study schedule, making sure to inject mini-breaks while doing homework and play time after studying.
For Mommy Tati’s young son, routine is key. She gets his full cooperation in doing schoolwork because she has a set schedule for homework, play, and snacks.
Being intentional about learning Finding and enrolling in the “best” school is not the end-all and be-all of a child’s education. Cultivating a love of learning is essential in making the best out of one’s school years. It will do children well if parents actively and intentionally cultivate a love of learning in their homes.
Learning is a process not bound by time, space, and least of all, one’s budget. What a delight it would be if we can champion learning not just in school, but moreso in the comforts of our own home.