In a traditional classroom, the teacher follows a pre-determined curriculum. All students are expected to learn the same thing at the same time, regardless of the individual child's interests or ability. Each subject is broken down into many smaller components, and frequent tests indicate who is getting it and who is not. Some students struggle to keep up, while others catch on quickly and are bored. As a result, behavior and discipline problems may develop. This type of teaching may be necessary when 20 or 30 students are learning in a classroom setting, but it is not necessary in a homeschool environment.
Unfortunately, many parents attempt to re-create the school environment at home. Let's face it -- that's all most of us know. It's no surprise that kids who learn at home in a structured environment often react the same way schooled kids do. They get bored or tired and become cranky and uncooperative. The problem is not the child, but the erroneous idea that every child must learn a particular block of information at a particular age or grade.
It takes a giant leap of faith to believe that your children can and will learn without lesson plans and curricula. Former teacher John Holt discusses child-led learning in his groundbreaking book, How Children Learn. Holt demonstrates that true learning occurs in a variety of ways -- textbooks and workbooks often being the least effective. The Unschooling Handbook: How to Use the Whole World as Your Child's Classroom by Mary Griffith describes how to create an environment where joyful learning occurs.
For tips on how to nurture the love of learning in your homeschooling environment, read the following list of things to do -- and things to avoid.