Not every child enters their school years with zeal. Some need more “encouragement” than others to inspire a love of learning. Sometimes we parents need a little help to know how to get our children to love school.
Me? I loved school from day one. I was that kid who counted down every day in the summer, super-excited about the start of the school year. I always went above and beyond in anything I learned. And I even stayed in college for 2 different master’s degree programs (although I came one credit from finishing one).
It’s no wonder I became a teacher. Although I never thought about it at the time, becoming a teacher was one way to stay in the classroom forever. And I have. For ten years, I counted down to the start of a new school year as a public school elementary teacher. And then I started counting down the days until I could homeschool my own children.
Over the years, I’ve noticed one interesting fact about school. Not everyone likes it. Can you believe the nerve? OK truthfully, I can hear you snickering all the way over here at the thought that I didn’t even realize this. But I must admit that I have become increasingly aware of this in recent years.
Just the other day I was driving a friend’s child somewhere and I asked him how school was going so far this year. He gave me this obligatory “fine, I guess” kind of answer. But it bugged me a lot. It was almost as if he felt like he had to say that. I asked him if he enjoyed reading and he began chattering incessantly about a book he recently read. After listening for a while I said, “Sounds to me like you love school.” He looked at me and grinned.
So let me ask you… don’t you want your children to actually LIKE school? Do you want them to graduate with a love of learning?
Maybe you are wondering if it really matters. I’d like to suggest that it really does. Let’s dig in to some truths about school and how we can help our children actually WANT to learn each day.
How to Inspire a Love of Learning
The love of learning starts with our attitude.
First off, what fun is life if we can’t enjoy every part of it? God didn’t give us tasks to endure. He says to be joyful (Phil. 4:4) and thankful (1 Thes. 5:18) in all things! Not having that attitude about learning is a lack of trust that He has provided for us graciously and according to His will. We need to be teaching our children this because a bad attitude now breeds a bad attitude later. Ever meet that guy who is never happy with his job? As a parent, we are doing our kids a disservice if we don’t help them stay out of that rut.
P.S. This includes your attitude, mom. If you are counting down the moments until school is over, you aren’t showing your kids that the privilege to be educated is a wonderful one. Nor are you modeling the two verses I mentioned above. We inspire a love of learning when we maintain a positive attitude ourselves about learning.
Teaching them WHY we do school can increase their love of learning.
Have you ever done something that was assigned to you without knowing why it needed to be done? Of course you have. And I know it wasn’t nearly as easy as completing a task that held a purpose you understood. Bear that in mind when it comes to school. Of course we want our kids to be obedient and yes, there are always going to be tasks that we have to do without fully understanding their purpose in our lives. But learning is not really one of those. Let’s look at Proverbs 24:3-6.
By wisdom a house is built,
and by understanding it is established;
by knowledge the rooms are filled
with all precious and pleasant riches.
A wise man is full of strength,
and a man of knowledge enhances his might,
for by wise guidance you can wage your war,
and in abundance of counselors there is victory.
Clearly God has specifically charged us with the task of becoming wise through gaining knowledge. This is absolutely biblical knowledge, as God first wants us to know Him. But think about how this applies to the Christian life. We have two purposes: to know and enjoy God, and to share His love with others. How can we know God if we can’t read? How will we manage the blessings that He gives us if we can’t add or subtract? And how will we provide for our family if we don’t learn skills that will bring us to a trade to earn money?
In addition to those questions above, I also tell my children that if we are to share God’s love with others, we will need to be articulate and intelligent. Our argument will be far more compelling if we bring that to the table!
Now, I must remind us all that our children will need to be taught these things if they are to have a love of learning now. Don’t assume that because you have now figured these simple concepts out, your children have also. They likely have not. And these truths are game-changers.
Don’t allow negative talk about school.
Have you ever been in the grocery store and someone says something like, “Aren’t you glad school is almost over” to your kids? I bet you have. I used to let it slide. I pretty much stayed quiet and tried not to cause a scene in the store, ya know? But recently God convicted me of this. Would you let the cashier say, “Hey kid, you are stupid and will never amount to anything” without doing something about it? I know I sure wouldn’t!
So why do we let them put other trash in the minds of our kids? It doesn’t even make sense. Now, don’t hear me say that we should start verbally abusing well-meaning cashiers and family members who say negative things about school. But what if we came to the rescue of our kids? Perhaps saying something like, “You love school, sweetie, don’t you?” Leaving our kids in an awkward place isn’t ever wise, but doing it when someone is speaking negative things into their minds can be incredibly harmful.
And of course, this goes for talk at home, too. We are not permitted to say that we hate a particular subject or school in general. It is ok to say that we struggle with something or that some other subject is our favorite. We do have feelings. But we must remember that what we rehearse with our mouths is who we become. Negative talk about school will harm every ounce of motivation that we muster to enjoy it!
NEVER EVER punish your children with school.
This one is a matter of consistency. If we are sending the message that school is joyful, that we are thankful for it, and that it’s a wonderful privilege, I don’t think we can get away with punishing our children with extra school work. It’s complete hypocrisy and they will smell it a mile away.
Not to mention, if you need a consequence for inappropriate behavior, it’s far better to assign one that is logical (fits the crime) and more likely to help you get the results you are looking for. If your child isn’t completing work well, that would be the only time I would consider using school as a consequence. It only makes sense that if you don’t do your work well, you will need to do it over again. If the issue is not completing work on time, assigning more work isn’t going to fix that problem. Instead, try setting a timer and/or taking time from desired activities like outside play or screen time.
Help them see the benefits of learning through homeschooling.
Whenever there is a snow day, we always do homeschool. As my kids got older, they started to understand that children who went to school had the day off when it snowed. What they didn’t understand was we took advantage of a freezing cold day to have school so we could go outside and enjoy life in May. Since we live in an area where school is mostly canceled for ice and not the fun fluffy stuff that makes snowmen, this was a no-brainer to me. But my kids needed some explanation.
Don’t neglect to remind your kids that you went to Disney in October when the schools were in session, so your lines were shorter. Or that school is over by lunch (2pm, or whatever time) while the other kids are still in school and toting home homework. Also, remind them that homeschool affords them the opportunity to pursue their interests and to work on their level (rather than being frustrated with things that are too easy or too hard.)
I must leave a disclaimer on this one as my kids have never been eager to hop on the next yellow school bus that zips by. I’ve not had to work hard to convince them of the blessings of homeschooling. Those reminders are more for me (as some days it seems easier to pack a lunch and ship them off). But if your kids do struggle with this, be sure you remind them of the benefits!
Allow them to learn about things that interest them.
As I mentioned above, one of the blessings of homeschooling is being able to pursue things we love! Last year I fell into the rut of trying to force a particular curriculum that wasn’t working. It almost killed our homeschool. (Read about it here.) The frustrating thing for me was- I knew better than to do that. Education is learning about things that fascinate you. It doesn’t matter if you study butterflies or The Civil War, the process of learning about something is what your kids need to know. They can then use that process to learn just about anything they need to know in life.
Of course we need to learn to read, write, and do math. But who says we have to read about things that bore us? Who says your 9-year-old son can’t write an essay about hot rods if that’s what really excites him? Think outside the box and come up with ways to meet the skills they need while giving them the tools they need to learn.
One way I’ve done this is to develop my own reading curriculum that allows my daughter to pick any book her heart desires. Yes, it has been the saving grace from that near-epic homeschool failure I mentioned.
I also allow my oldest to pursue knowledge about horses. She is absolutely smitten with them and on her own will dig deep into scientific books about equines, as well as write beautiful stories about them. How can you not call that education?
Find out how they learn best and accommodate for their struggles.
Hopefully this one is a no-brainer. But I must admit that sometimes I forget to do this. Take, for example, math. Remember that near-epic failure I mentioned? It started with reading, but then crept into everything. I was reminded that in public school, children who are not strong readers are given assistance with math problems on tests and quizzes. They are not supposed to be penalized for not being able to read the math problem. The test is about math, not reading skills.
But I wasn’t thinking about this in my homeschool. I switched my child who struggles more with reading to a math program that reads to her (on the computer) and guess what? 4 weeks into school and she has an A average, no tears, and has actually said that she loves math. Now math is only math and reading isn’t getting in her way.
Of course, this applies to any subject. Do some research on how your child best learns and accommodate for their struggles. You’ll be shocked at the difference it makes in their love for school.