How to educate a child who won’t be taught? It’s not a question I thought I’d ever need to answer, but life (and my daughter) decided this was the path we needed to follow.
Today, I’m going to talk about a few of the strategies I use to create a welcoming learning environment that steers my kids in the direction they need to go, without explicitly ‘teaching’ them.
Themed Zones of Learning
One of the best ways to encourage learning that I have found has been setting up “zones” of learning. So, I have all the painting supplies in the one location, all the drawing materials in easy access, and a quick box of “Gaming Goodies” for when my kids want to create their own games. These are in a nice prominent location. For my very visual children, having things where they can see them means they will be pulled out and used.
Games Drive Learning
One of the things that we have realised is that our kids love to play games. And for my kids, when they learn something in a game, it sticks. As a result, we have embraced ‘game schooling‘, and our lounge room cupboard has slowly filled up with board games and card games of all types.
But it is not just physical games – computer games have been wrangled into the grande learning strategy, and my hubbie and I (but particularly my hubbie) are always on the look out for games that encourage and enhance learning on every topic.
We have also found that engaging the kids where they are comfortable and building learning from there is the best way for them to stay interested. So we’ll play Minecraft in a LAN world, and I gently encourage them to explore what they can do. At the moment, my daughter and I are building a rainbow version of the Eiffel Tower, and done ‘building challenges’, created by my daughter, with specific sets of blocks on a theme. My son also started to use Minecraft to create mini-puzzles and stories for his sister to play through.
One of the best things about modern board games is the explosion of cooperative games. Cooperative games have allowed us to have a ‘no pressure’ environment without the usual win/lose stuff death spiral of ‘I will never play again!’. Over time, we have then re-introduced games with competition. This helped develop what I like to call ‘resilience muscles’ (NB. One of the best games to start with for kids with a fixation on rules and ‘the way things should go’ is Fluxx, which is a game of ‘organised chaos‘.
For the curious, these are some of our favourite games by curriculum:
- Math Fluxx
- DragonBox Big Numbers, Algebra and Elements
- Slice Fractions
- Divide by Sheep
- Splendor (This one could also go in Humanities, for the history, or in Science, for the wacky planet-based version my hubbie created).
English / Reading
- Teach Your Monster To Read
- The Bard’s Tale (some adult language and concepts here, but it’s mainly innuendo)
- Day of the Tentacle
- Minecraft Story Mode
The ‘What’s That?’ Effect
For my kids, joining in is more fun that doing it ‘because they have to’. One of the best ways we have found to get over this hurdle is start learning ourselves. My kids love to listen in on ‘Daddy doing Duolingo‘ and my daughter has started to want to learn languages too.
I love reading out loud, and I’ll often read out science articles for the kids, or even poems and Shakespeare (yes, I’m that kind of nerd). Seeing how excited and engaged we are in a topic is often all my kids need to inspire them to give it a go as well. The kids also inspire each other – my son has done Khan Academy for his maths exercises for a while, and now my daughter wants to ‘do Khan Academy’ too.
Watching Mummy grind her teeth in frustration at a stubborn piece of code, or at animation software that refuses to behave, has inspired my kids. Now they want to code and create their own animations and videos too. Our ‘won’t be taught’ kids have discovered what they want to do, and are barrelling forward at their usual break neck pace.
Does it Work? Yes.
Sometimes, finding ways to find alternative learning methods can seem very daunting. Sometimes, I want to pull my hair out in despair when things don’t work, or when it feels like my ‘won’t be taught’ will never learn anything. But I have found that approaching learning more holistically, creating a safe environment and encouraging (guided) self-directed exploration has done wonders. And that may be all my kids need to learn and grow.
This post is part of the GHF Blog hop, “Teaching a Reluctant Gifted Learner: Ways to Reach and Teach the Gifted“. Go check out the other great posts!