As the daylight hours begin a slow progression toward the long, cold winter season, each of us will soon discover that the calendar is nearing the end of July. For the parents of children in this country, the end of July means that one thing is clear: the time has come, yet again, to place our sons and/or daughters back onto the school bus for another year of fast-paced learning.
Learning is defined by the Merriam-Webster Dictionary as “to gain an understanding or skill by study or experience,” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary [Electronic Edition] 2006). Yet, many children see learning in a fearful manner. The idea of learning a new trade or lesson, whether the object is something as simple as the alphabet or something as complicated as calculus, can be quite intimidating if the task is approached in a “business-like” manner. Nowhere, however, in the definition of learning, is it written that a new skill, as gained through study or experience, must be boring or difficult.
Due to the many outside influences affecting education today, it is often easy to forget that a pivotal key to a successful learning experience can be found if we, as parents, assist our children by allowing them to have fun while they are learning. By stating this, I do not intend to imply that we should allow our children to place the Latin text and homework in the fork of the backyard elm tree for the sake of grasping the X-Box controls. I am simply stating that, while the X-Box may be an entertaining pastime, learning can be just as entertaining and enjoyable, if we take some time to prove this fact to our kids.
School assignments can often be stressful, especially when the child has extra-curricular activities that cut into the time set aside for adequate study habits. Regardless of the child’s age, however, there should be no mention that learning cannot be fun.
When I attended the sixth grade, I was not an avid reader. In fact, I was hardly a reader at all. I read what was required to complete my studies and nothing else, aside from those textbooks and materials. The reason: I was unaware that reading could be fun. During that school year, I traveled with my family and had the privilege of pursuing my middle school education in many different regions of these United States. Some of the educational tactics used were helpful to me; others were not, but I found the most helpful stance to be a game of “Eraser Football” in order to learn vocabulary words. Eraser football split the classroom into groups, competing against each other. The rules were simple. Our teacher asked us to define a word and if we did so correctly, our team scored a point. The experience was fun, but more importantly, we were learning the required material in a manner that we could appreciate and enjoy. By the end of the sixth grade, I was reading everything from pre-teen novels to shampoo bottles. The difference: I learned that reading could be fun, thanks to “Eraser Football” and the fact that my teacher turned a difficult subject into a game that her students could enjoy. This same approach can be rendered in the home-setting, if we accept our obligations to be a resource for our children and use a little creativity.
As my schooling continued, other instances arose which left me rather baffled and in need of assistance. I would find myself staring at words on a page for hours, finding it difficult to make any sense of the words’ meanings or intents. What did I do to alleviate the problem? I turned my studies into a game. I would create stories, poems, or acronyms for the sake of recollection and on occasion, I utilized the library for any of the aforementioned items that had already been written.
As an example, I will share a trick that assisted me when, as a seventh grader, I could not remember whether the plural of cargo was “c-a-r-g-o-s” or “c-a-r-g-o-e-s.” My parents were very instrumental in my educational endeavors and during my “cargo dilemma,” I chose to ask for their help. My Dad sat with me and said, “Now, Jill, just remember ‘where the gas goes, the car-goes’.” To this day, now many years later, I have never forgotten how to spell cargoes. Sayings and mind-triggers tend to be easier to remember than just mere words on a page.
Assisting a child by maintaining a sense that learning is fun is not a difficult task. For helping younger children, repetition is useful and while many children adapt to and appreciate nursery rhymes, creating short, witty stories about a school lesson can often be a crafty way to keep the “fun” in learning.
If your child is struggling with Mathematical equations, try setting aside some time in the kitchen for cookie baking. Cookies require a recipe and many common recipes have ingredients set in fraction form. (When the experience is over, your child will have learned something and you can reward yourself with a tasty treat. Try it!)
For older children, tapping into their individual likes and dislikes can often be of assistance. (Just remember, if your kids love Metallica music, gold, silver, and copper are metals!) Never underestimate the power of your own creativity or your child’s ability to learn from you. After all, as a parent, you can be your child’s closest confidante.
To aid you in assisting your child, use note cards, spiral notebooks, dry erase boards, or even, cut open Corn Pops boxes --- anything on which you may write and anything that might allow for an easier transition for your number one concern, your budding student. If you uncover or create a witty phrase that strikes a chord with your child’s inner psyche, write it down and be sure that your child keeps it nearby, at all times, so he/she may have a refresher course, when needed. Again, repetition is often useful.
Encourage your child’s progress and reward even the smallest of milestones, even if in the smallest of ways. After all, several small steps can lead to a giant one. Creativity holds an advantage when showing your children that learning can be both beneficial and entertaining, at the same time. More importantly, however, communication is the most vital key for both your child’s educational success and your personal success, as a mentor and coach.
Talk with your children, determine the areas in which they are struggling, and then, use your own life’s wisdom and unique qualities to prove to your children that learning is not nearly as complicated as they often wish to believe. Every human and especially, every parent, is a natural-born teacher, so use your own distinctive skills to bring family-oriented fun into your child’s school year. In the long run, your children’s educational growth and their personal appreciation will reward you with an A+.
Copyright © 2006, Jill Allison Eisnaugle. All Rights Reserved.
Jill Eisnaugle is the author of the inspirational poetry books, “Coastal Whispers” and “Under Amber Skies." She resides in Texas City, Texas with her family and pets.