Teach a Kid to Learn…

Why is it that we are all naturals at learning, we are born with the ability to learn, with guidance we can become skilled at it–perhaps even gifted–and yet so many homeschooling moms have moments of doubt and uncertainty over how well their children are learning at home?

Not always, no.

But sometimes. Yes.

Is my child really doing as well as I think she is? How can I help him get this concept? Why can’t he see it the way I do? How am I supposed to make sure they are getting everything they need to know? …

…Are they on par with their public school peers??…

Raise your hand if you’ve ever asked yourself THAT question.

Does anyone ever glean everything there is to know from any form of education? (No.) Why should we think any different?

I’ve got a challenge for you. Let’s trade “I’m trying to teach them everything they need to know before they graduate” to “I’m teaching my kids how to learn; I’m learning how to teach; we’re learning as much as we can before they grow up and move on.”

Are you up for it?

I’ve been talking about the book “How your child IS Smart: A Life-Changing Approach to Learning” by Dawna Markova. You may have noticed. And yes, I’m still talking about it, because it just clicked so well with what was already going on in my head.

  • I already said that I want to do more than teach my kids facts, I want to teach them to learn.
  • I already said that I want to pay attention to their learning styles to help them learn better.
  • I already said that we can’t teach them every.single.fact. That they will forget some of what they learn. That technology will change.

This book is more than a book about learning styles. It’s about paying attention to your children, and learning about them, about what they need to excel. And yet it’s also a good resource on how people learn and how to discover your child’s learning needs. Markova believes that every child, EVERY child–for all their strengths and weaknesses–IS smart, CAN learn and SHOULD succeed. Markova also believes that the “how” to make that happen will look different for every child and that many, many children don’t get to experience that because they don’t get what they need (not because they didn’t possess the potential.)

How can Ms. Markova make such sweeping and bold statements? She has been both a teacher and a counselor, in addition to teaching teachers and counselors, and has also been a parent working with her children’s teachers. She has literally been on all sides of the fence. And she has been given the challenge time and time again of teaching the “unteachable,” the “lost causes,” the ones she was told “just need to get by til they graduate, they’re not going to get it.” Time and time again Markova, unwilling to give up on a child, has proven teachers, school officials and administrators wrong. It’s because of her experiences that Markova proclaims, at each turn in the book, that every child is able to not only learn but flourish at it.

Markova didn’t write this book FOR homeschoolers. She wrote it for EVERYONE. But as a homeschooler feeling some of this bubbling under the surface, seeing a need for an approach like this, Markova’s ideas are like a piece of the puzzle that fits.

It feels good.


Because I believe there’s more to life and more to school than grammar and multiplication tables – both of which are important but the most important. There are life skills, and there is faith and there are learning experiences that stick with you forever. There are also many things to be learned after structured schooling is over.

As homechoolers, we know that learning and adapting to new situations is essential. We learn how to balance school and diapers. Or school and dishes. We learn how to teach two grades simultaneously and then three. We learn how to determine when one curriculum isn’t meeting our needs and how to change to another. As Christians, we know that God is consistently calling us to improve our prayer lives and our Christian walk, to be edified through him, learning from our mistakes, growing in Christ. Life is full of learning, growing, changing and adapting.

Learning, learning, learning. We can’t deny that life is full of opportunities to learn.

Indeed, all of Markova’s “unteachable” children WERE learning. They were learning how to give up, accepting the fate that was being drilled into their heads. They were learning how to rebel, how to get attention the wrong way, how to skate through life, how to hate school and “learning,” how to live up to the low expectations being placed on them.

Three big ideas that Markova’s book reinforced and strengthened for me:

  1. I need to study my children, pay attention to them, learn from them so I can best teach them.
  2. I need to be patient when my children struggle with new concepts, try a different approach and try again if I need to. We don’t all learn the same way, the same time, at the same rate.
  3. I need to teach my children about the way they learn, help them build on their strengths, improve their weaknesses.

As I said in the beginning we are natural learners, we are born with the ability – and with guidance we can become skilled or even quite gifted at learning. But we do learn.

What do you say, fellow moms? Shall we stop worrying IF our kids are learning and doubting our abilities to teach them? Shall we focus instead on raising children who are avid learners, skilled discoverers, self-thinkers? Shall we train our children to know their minds, their strengths, their learning style? Shall we grow them into confident pupils who are up for the challenge rather than down for the count?

Shall we?

Teach a child how to get the right answers and he will pass the class, teach a child how to learn and he will know how to succeed in all the classes.

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Rachel @ the science of music
Rachel @ the science of music
July 6, 2010 11:42 pm

This is an excellent post – and not just for homeschoolers! My kiddos are public schooled and while the school we’re in is an excellent one, there is still the focus on what they know and how much they’ve learned. I agree that it’s important to teach our kid their learning styles and to teach them how to discover things on their own. It builds confidence in them so they will WANT to keep learning.

I’ll check this book out – it seems like one that would be a great resource!

August 4, 2010 4:49 pm

Thanks for your article. I got to your blog through Heart of the Matter. I am going to check this book out. Sounds like we are on the same wave length. Have you read Your Child’s Strenghts byJennifer Fox,M.Ed.? It is a wonderful book and sounds similar to the book high lighted in your article. Thanks again, 🙂 Check out our blog for the next few weeks because I think we will be giving this book away.

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