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Inspiring our children to be lifelong learners

August 22, 2019 - Thursday 4:08 AM by Grace Gaston Dousel

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“Modeling learning for our kids is a choice that eventually becomes a lifestyle. It is important that we have a philosophy of education as a family.” 

We desire for our children to be lovers of learning and eventually become self-directed lifelong learners. This is one of the reasons why we decided to homeschool them. I realize that becoming a lifelong learner does not come automatically to a person. The desire to learn is planted (normally by parents) into the heart of a child, cultivated, nurtured, and allowed to bloom. This is achieved by creating an environment conducive to learning, enhancing the skill to detect teaching moments, constantly being on the lookout for learning opportunities and modeling a lifestyle of learning. 

Creating an environment conducive to learning may not necessarily mean renovating your house to have a homeschool study room, although for some families this works out really well. Turn of the century British educator Charlotte Mason said that education is an atmosphere. The atmosphere at home is how each day is lived which greatly affects how a child learns. The home is the ideal place for learning because a child grows best in a natural setting rather than in artificially made child environments. This answers the question “What values and ideals rule your home?” Is the child breathing an air of love, care, and respect? Or is the child in the midst of anger and anxiety? The thing is, the atmosphere in our home is formed by the very ideas that rule our lives as parents. Our children learn character traits by how we model them. As they say, values are caught rather than taught. We can say all we want to our kids but it is what we do that they follow. Therefore, as parents, we must be careful what we say and do because our children will naturally pick up character traits and attitudes from us that will affect them for the rest of their lives. 

Do we enhance our skill of discerning teachable moments? In my observation of my own children, the teachable moments come in the most odd times of the day. Since their infancy, it seemed as though their most “absorbent moment” where they will be able to take in all that you can teach them happens when I am not so keen in putting on my Teacher Mama hat! When my babies were starting to babble, they enjoyed “talking” with me and would engage me in the middle of the night! I knew they were ready for me because their eyes were wide with wonder, looking at me, intently studying my facial expressions while cooing and laughing! When they were early graders, they would have the most curious questions that always needed to be urgently answered while I am in the bathroom! They would knock endlessly until I come out to tell them why the sky is blue or whether Adam also had a navel. Now that they are teens they engage me in serious “adulting” conversations either when I am intently writing my articles or a book manuscript or late at night just as I made the rounds to their rooms to say good night. The car has become our favorite classroom. The long hours spent in traffic while we lived in Manila were opportunities to discuss topics ranging from their friends to academic subject matters to finding the answers (if we ever do) to existential questions. Now that we are based in Mindanao, road trips have been occasions for more real life learning while on the go. 

Looking out for learning opportunities both inside and outside the home is second nature to homeschool parents. We are very resourceful when it comes to finding places where our children can learn something. Just this week, my kids and I had a back-to-back-to-back out of the box learning experience. My daughter Himig went with a group of homeschoolers to the Philippine Eagle Center for their Zoology class with Teacher Rai Gomez to watch Raptors in Flight. Guess who were the most interactive in the crowd asking and answering questions? Yup, the homeschoolers! A couple of days later, we attended the launch of Rock School London in partnership with Magnus Creative Music and hosted by Zion’s Praise Music, Inc. in Davao. During the two-hour program, my kids saw limitless possibilities that they could pursue with their passion for music. They learned about an internationally recognized graded music program that they could take as young as they are and how they could even earn a music degree online. After the program, we were able to talk with the RSL representatives Martin Tirante (Philippines) and Conor Burns (United Kingdom) and they explained to my 15-year old son his prospects as a guitarist and as a music producer here and abroad. Another experience that I think will stay with my kids forever is when we guested at the radio program “Mango Moms on ‘Unboxed.’” The show was aired live on 102.7 Mango Radio FM and was on FB Live as well. For its maiden airing, the host Ms. Eden David invited us to be interviewed about our life as homeschoolers. It was a wonderful experience to hear my children, without prompts or scripts, naturally share their thoughts about homeschooling. Lian Ed, who has spent four years in a conventional school prior to being homeschooled, said that homeschooling was a life-changing experience for him because he learned things that were relevant to him in real life. Himig, when asked about socialization, enumerated the many different ways she got to meet friends, participated in group learning activities, and became a member of clubs for kids. For their parting message to the listeners, Lian Ed advised families to pray well about their decision to homeschool. Himig on the other hand admonished homeschooled kids to value the sacrifice and effort of their parents for it is not easy to be a homeschooling parent. At the end of the program, the host, Ms. Eden, and the technical director, Mr. Floyd, commended the kids for having such depth of insight. My kids and I came away from these events with a sense of becoming better persons because we all learned something new. We all were excitedly looking forward to the future knowing that the best is yet to come.  

Many learning opportunities abound in and out of the home. Chores at home are the perfect (and cheap) way for kids to learn responsibility and excellent work ethic. For us who live in Davao, we have plenty of field trip destinations ranging from parks to forests to fruit orchards and cacao farms to rivers and seas to museums to markets to art sanctuaries to cultural performances to lumad villages. Family-oriented workshops and activities also abound in the city. The sky is the limit for the learner. We are only limited by our own resourcefulness and creativity. 

Modeling learning for our kids is a choice that eventually becomes a lifestyle. It is important that we have a philosophy of education as a family. Whenever I am invited to give homeschool talks I emphasize the need to determine a philosophy of education as a family. This philosophy of learning should be established early on in the homeschool journey because everything that will be done is anchored on this: curriculum, choice of activities, books and learning materials, even the spending habits. The homeschool priorities and processes are hinged on the purpose and philosophy of learning. When moms ask me how their children can become readers, I ask them “Are you a reader yourself? Do they catch you reading? Do you read aloud to your kids?” If we want our kids to be true learners, we need to ask ourself if we ourselves are learners? Are we making the effort to continually learn? Are we thirsting for more learning opportunities? When we think of education, are we thinking of certificates, medals, and trophies? Or are we thinking of a learned person ready to face life and all its challenges? Is a university diploma our measurement of educational attainment or is becoming a well-rounded person our standard for a good education? Does learning end on graduation day or is it just the beginning of yet another quest for more knowledge and wisdom? Is overcoming our fears and learning a new skill something our child sees in us or are we constantly found in our comfort zones?

Children who are lifelong learners are naturally the product of parents who are lifelong learners. The truth is, it really starts with us. After all, the fruit does not fall far from the tree.