Parents, Children Learning Together

Article excerpt

Byline: Kate Tsubata, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES

Many times, I hear parents question, "What can I do to get my child to read (or do math, or understand science, or learn music)?"

Behind this question is the assumption that a certain book or teacher or method will magically impart mastery to the student. The converse assumption is that, failing the perfect circumstance, it would be difficult or impossible to learn that particular skill.

In fact, every skill can be approached by an infinite number of learning methods: through stories and reading, hands-on experience, formulas and drills or many other means.

I am convinced that the trick to being a home-educating parent is twofold: to become a student of one's own children's learning patterns, as well as becoming a lifelong learner oneself.

The first part is a matter of observation, experimentation, and evaluating the results. Does my child learn more efficiently if shown an illustration, or when using physical objects to try things out? For instance, do they understand fractions better by seeing a diagram of two-thirds of something, or do they understand it by cutting up a pizza themselves into that number of pieces?

The second aspect being an active learner oneself is a challenge to many of us. Let's face it, our society is aimed at entertainment and consumption, not at exploration of the unknown. It's easier to vegetate in front of the television or video-game console than to seek out information on something of interest.

Here are a few simple ways for adults to practice habits of self-education that can be modeled to our children.

* Read. Keep a pile of books around, and carry one with you everywhere. Then, unavoidable delays, such as waiting in line at the grocery store, sitting at the Motor Vehicle Department or waiting in a doctor's office, can be transformed from time wasters into time well-spent.

* Listen. Get some good music, CDs or tapes to play when you are driving or doing chores. You can use this time to learn languages, listen to books, receive inspirational or motivational ideas, or even hear comedy routines.

* Move. Physical movement, including dance, stretching, yoga, jogging, lifting weights and muscle-relaxation techniques can be done throughout your day. …