Teaching Their Heads AND Their Hearts

As we continue in our series of posts using the word HOMESCHOOL as an acronym, we come to the letter H.
What I’ve Learned About HOMESCHOOLing:
Teaching Their Heads AND Their Hearts
The basic types of clouds
The dates and leaders of WWII
Nouns, verbs and adjectives
The fine arts… 

The list of what we can teach our children seems limitless. Combining the “required” subjects, our children’s insatiable curiosity, and all of the things we want them to learn and explore to be well rounded individuals…there are simply not enough hours in childhood to cover that much information.

So, does that mean we have failed? Since we cannot teach it all, will we let our children down?

I answer with a resounding NO!  It is not about how much we teach our children, but rather the way we teach them that will bring success. 

Focus on deep learning  Our minds absorb information in many different ways. We have short term memory and long-term memory—skills and knowledge we work with on a regular basis and information that we may never think about again. It is crucial that we provide a balance for our students as they learn and study.

Although facts and figures will fly through their minds all throughout their schooling years, sometimes we must also provide opportunities for them to slow down, dive in, and immerse themselves in a topic. Sometimes our children need time to learn a new skill or truly appreciate an aspect of creation.

Do not be afraid to dwell on a specific area for a while. Allow your children the opportunity to learn in a deep and satisfying way.

Encourage independent learning  When our children are small, we are fully responsible for feeding them. Not only do we have to prepare their food, but often we have to spoon feed them and make sure they get enough food to be satisfied. As they grow and become more capable of feeding themselves, we encourage them to eat independently. 

Learning skills must be taught in much the same way. We should not always ‘spoon feed’ our children information or sit by them offering bite after bite of knowledge. As they mature, they need to begin to approach learning on their own.  We need to create opportunities for them to learn and grow- both in their structured school lessons and in everyday life.

I am not saying that there should be no boundaries or guidance! Just as we would not set a full course meal in front of a ten-month old and let her have at it, we need to set up safe learning experiences and train our children how to have discernment. We must teach our children how to learn for themselves! 

Equip them for lifelong learning Just as we want to train up independent learners, we should also want to encourage our children to be interested in learning throughout their entire lives. Three ways we can do this is through—

READING: Encouraging a love of reading is a great way to prepare our children to be life-long learners. If they are willing to read, they can learn about anything they want to know.  As Theodor Geisel once said, “The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.” (You may better recognize Geisel by his pen name: Dr. Seuss.)

ENCOURAGING THEIR CURIOUSITY: We are all born with a natural sense of curiosity. (Just spend a few minutes watching a baby crawl around a room and you will know what I mean!) Too often, our curiosity becomes stifled by the busyness and pressures of “grown- up” life. True learners ask questions. They want to know how things work or what is happening around them. Although this sense of curiosity can seem overwhelming to us at times (all those questions), we should encourage our children to search out answers to their questions and to learn as much as they can. This may take extra effort (and patience!) on our part, but it is an effective way to encourage a desire to learn within our children.

USING A HOOK: When you are fishing, what do you use to catch a fish? A hook with bait, of course! The same concept works with teaching. Learning occurs when there is disequilibrium between what someone knows and what they do not know. Exposing students to new concepts and information can cause them to want to know more, thereby restoring their sense of mental equilibrium.   When we introduce something new to our child, we are baiting a hook. Whether it  is a brief overview of material they will study in more depth later, or a way to grab their attention concerning information being taught now, teaching our children to work through the frustration they feel (the disequilibrium) when faced with new information and the pleasure of mastering that new concept (restored equilibrium) will help them not shy away from learning in the future.

Make heart learning a priority As parents and teachers, we must also reach the hearts of our children—not just their heads! It is not enough to fill their minds with mental information, life skills, and experiences. We must also encourage them to grow emotionally and spiritually.

The most important things we can teach our children are to “to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with [their] God.” (Micah 6:8) A person who is full of knowledge, but possesses poor inner character, is a poor person indeed.

Our intellectual knowledge should enhance the relationships and service opportunities with people around us, not isolate us from them. It is crucial that we spend the same quantity of energy and quality of resources on training the hearts of our children, just as we do their minds and bodies.


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