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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Homeschooling: Should Learning Be Fun?

"Love of learning" is a big catch phrase in homeschooling circles, and often implies that parents should make learning fun through the use of elaborate games, projects and activities.

While I do think it's important to raise children who enjoy learning, I often wonder if we aren't overemphasizing "fun" in our pursuit of that goal. It seems some of us are in danger of raising fun addicts - children who are in need of constant entertainment, who will only work when bribed with generous incentives and rewards.

One problem with placing too much emphasis on fun is that can be a recipe for burnout. Parents can become slaves to their children's whims and desires, always looking for something fresh and exciting to grab their interest. This is often not only time-consuming, but downright exhausting.

In some homes, parents work under the ever-looming threat of hearing, "I want to go to public school!" I encourage parents not to place themselves in competition with public school teachers. We don't home school because I've convinced my children homeschooling is better for them. We home school because I know homeschooling is better for them. If there's a competition, I'm the judge.

Another problem with overemphasizing fun is that it creates unrealistic expectations. Sometimes there's nothing fun about the process of learning. Fun is often a result of the joy and satisfaction that comes from having learned new information, even if the pursuit of that information wasn't fun.

There was nothing fun about reading the volumes of material I had to read in order to build my website. However, I did enjoy taking that information and using it to achieve a worthwhile goal.

Am I suggesting that we stop doing fun projects and activities? Absolutely not! But I do believe in balance. And I also believe that some of the pressure many homeschool moms feel could be relieved if we put fun in proper perspective.

In our home, fun is a part of every single day. We smile, laugh, skip, hum and sing. We tell jokes and we play games. We're not a fun family because I've stressed myself to the breaking point in an attempt to provide constant entertainment. We're a fun family because we enjoy each other.

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Rick Creech said...

Thank you, I feel the same way. I really appreciate your insights, they really help me to stay balanced. I'm a homeschooling dad and I get overwhelmed, it's so nice to find encouragement that doesn't load you down with condemnation. Also, it is amazing to me how you can homeschool plus put out all the information you do! Thank you once again, you have encouraged me today.

Carletta said...

Thank you for the kind words, Rick!

Luke said...

Very interesting and important thoughts.

However, I don't equate love of learning with fun. "Fun" connotes "whimsy" and, as you so well put it: Fun addicts.

Love of learning has much more with the joy of "getting it" and the joy that comes with gaining skills and making more connections. That's not to say love of learning shouldn't also include fun, but that loving to learn is on a level that is much higher than eating candy or going on a thrill ride.

Sorry, that was rambling, I'll try to sum up:

Agreed. But I see love of learning as having more to do with the joy of discovery than some kind of pleasure-seeking fun.


Carletta said...

That's a very important distinction, Luke. I agree with you that imparting the joy of making connections and learning new skills should take precedence over fun.

Sadie said...

I feel the same way. Sometimes things we need to know aren't fun. Sometimes we have to work. That doesn't mean I don't try to do the more hands on, fun, exciting, etc...activities but it is balanced with a work book or drill work that may not be very exciting. But I do see my boys using that knowledge and their excitement that they know those certain facts.

Barbara Frank said...

Amen! And just think of all the wonderful memories you're making in the process.....whether your kids are learning, having fun or both :)

Thanks for weighing in at my blog!

Sarah said...

Well said, Carletta! Once again, I feel a tremendous weight lifted from my shoulders by your relaxed outlook. I'm so glad I stumbled upon your blog!

Jill said...

Well said. I've heard alot of talk lately about making everything fun. IMO, if you only learn things that are fun for you, you'll end up with a lopsided education. For example, my kids love life science stuff, but hate physical science stuff. It doesn't matter how "fun" I make the physical science lessons, they still aren't excited about the material. The life science lessons can be "boring" but they still love them. Does that make any sense?

TammyT said...

Interesting ideas. I think that we are so "fun" addicted in this culture, that we've lost touch with what it feels like to be simply engaged and interested. Putting "fun" into learning suggests that learning itself is not fun, and we have to put something into it to make it that way. Learning, itself, is sometimes fun, but mostly it's interesting and compelling on its own. We don't need something to *make* it that way. If we have to make it fun in order to be compelled to do it, then we should probably question why we're trying to learn it in the first place.

That said, while we are having fun, we can learn a lot. So, we should have fun too. It's amazing what we learn when we are just doing the things that make like worth living.

Demetria said...

I agree with you on this post. We also have to remember seasons in our lives as parents (for me two years ago, and as you'll relate, pregnancy was a major factor), then having a newborn while homeschooling, and now a toddler were my next 2 life phases. That coupled with my 2nd grader's shift in learning style was a transition for me - but I learned that there are seasons in which just plain old "having fun" can work as long as it is purposeful and meets your educational goals. And believe me, I'm a stickler for orderliness and am very goal oriented with our homeschool. On the other hand, "just fun and games" is not going to cut it when it comes to our children learning basic multiplication facts and learning to read. It just has to get done, fun or not. We can make it as fun as possible...but learning and absorbing information is not always going to be a party. So in a nutshell, I agree!!!

Carol J. Alexander said...

Hi Carletta,
I have to admit that when I just read the title of your post I was disagreeing with you. But after reading your arguments, I do agree. Like learning math facts, you just have to do it, like it or not. But I also give a hearty AMEN to Luke's comments. We need to teach our children the JOY of learning, not the fun of it.