Saturday, November 16, 2013

Study Skills Revisited

For a few years, I was teaching a class called "Study Skills" at our homeschool co-op.

I looked at the book, watched the videos and basically did it according to plan for the first year I taught it.

And then it occurred to me: this is boring. If I'm bored, how can I teach them?

And I figured it out.

Some people like teaching boring stuff.  They find it an art to get interesting kids to tone down and enjoy boring.  Life is boring, so why not get them used to it?  I guess..??

Except that doesn't work for me.  I study things I'm interested in.  I actually like studying because I want to know things.  I like learning more about things I care about.  And I care about a lot of stuff.  So, the more I care about, the more I learn about.  It just so happens that people think I'm smart when I get "on a rant" about something I have studied.

But really.  There's nothing smart about it.  I just care and want to know more about what I care about.

In the academic world, we call that phenomena "motivation"..  high brow, eh?  Not really.

But what is really high brow is the expectations for learning that some people put on their students who have had no experiences beyond the farm and no motivation beyond the classic "do this because I said so" or  "if you love Jesus"..

I can hardly see a bigger disconnect.  That takes a severe amount of faith to think you are going to raise a thinking individual with that shallow, extrinsic motivational model.

What those educators should do is say this, "Please do the minimum, and learn to be a cashier at Walmart" because their sites have not been challenged to think beyond that.

So, my goals for myself (and my children) have always been a tad higher than the classic extrinsic, shallow motivational model.

The reason we have engaged in home education these past 17 (or so) years is not because we felt that current systems of education were wicked.  (Although I can not say that they are excellent morally)  But that wasn't the motivation.  It was that (in my mind) they were faulty.

The failure to develop a true intrinsic motivation for learning was something I wanted to see developed before subjecting them to a rigorous "system" of learning.  I wanted at least a few "a ha" moments before I sent them to college or enrolled them into a school.

So, how does this work?

I can only speak from a homeschooling perspective, but I don't see why this can't be done in a school setting also.

Along with all of the "academics" of life, there should be ample time for some exploring of other venues and interests.  If that means that the academics are a little bit streamlined for a few years, that is fine.  I would rather see parents spending money on developing good hobbies, interests and experiences  in their children rather than another trip to Disney or some sort of other expensive adventure.  It's those passions, interests, and experiences that will help them find their passion, their motivation in life.

The sacrifices needed to make this happen are huge.  It's the running back and forth from drama practice; the sewing machine and scraps all over the living room;  it's the personal trainer/ coach or the extra basketball lessons;  it's the kitchen being turned upside down in some crazy concoction;  it's picking your kids up from the Clock Tower Resort when they arrive home from a trip overseas and stopping at the Goodwill to pick up the parts for a costume or a production.

Don't get me wrong.  Studying is important.  Yes, they want to take Algebra and Chemistry and Literature.  But what goes around those classes is what creates the motivation.

So, step number one:  find your child's passion.

Easy peasy.  If they have no desire for anything, very simply do this.  Unplug all electronics and sign them up for about four things of varying diversity-- everything from fencing to pottery.. and see what emerges in the child.  Include a volunteering activity and public speaking group in this list.  Take them to the homeless shelter and get them out of their living room for a while.

Trust me.  This type of study skill project is not boring.


No comments: