Learning is Fun … When You Don’t Have to Do It

by Caroline on April 20, 2012

The other day, Bubbles said something that I thought was funny, sad, and profound all rolled into one. She was on her school computer, long after she was done with schoolwork for the day. I went over to see what she was up to, and she was on BrainPOP, learning about plate tectonics (don’t ask — I have no idea). BrainPOP is an animated educational site for kids fourth grade and up. It covers many topics in most educational subjects, including science, social studies, math, arts and music, health, and English. I commented on what she was doing, and she said, “Learning is fun when you don’t have to do it!”

Bubbles taking notes for science, homeschool.

I'm really enjoying science today. No, really.

Learning is fun when you don’t have to do it. That simple statement has given me a lot of food for thought. I suspect much of life is that way; if we’re not made to do something, choosing to do it on our own makes it much more enjoyable. There’s no pressure to perform, or to do something out of our comfort zone. We naturally gravitate toward activities that are about things we like and enjoy, which is just human nature.

My question is, is there a way to make learning more fun, and not so much like work? Is that achievable, or even desirable in the long run? I suppose that this concept is the idea behind unschooling, which is a homeschooling method of letting kids choose what they want to learn about, rather than following a particular curriculum. I’m not comfortable with the concept for our own family; with all of the learning difficulties between my girls, I feel the need for more formal educational guidance. (Plus, I’m Type-A, remember? No plan? No routine? NO WAY!)

But surely there are things I can incorporate into daily life that makes learning more fun, that the girls want to do, rather than be a chore. I just have to figure out what. Any ideas?

(By the way, I wholeheartedly recommend BrainPOP as a great self-directed study tool. I use it as a reward for after the girls get their schoolwork done. If you have a child that loves to be on the computer, but you want constructive things for them to do, this is it. There is also a BrainPOP Jr. for kids grades K-3.)

{ 6 comments… read them below or add one }

Karen. April 21, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Somehow, that’s the only way I ever enjoyed history. Give me a historical novel, and I might learn something. A textbook? No way.

But how to make learning funner? I wish I knew. I would use the same trick to make listening to what Mom says more fun, too.

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Caroline April 26, 2012 at 8:17 am

Yeah, we could make a lot of money if we could make listening to Mom more fun. :-)

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Steph April 22, 2012 at 12:36 pm

You know, there are a lot of great teaching websites out there. Since DH is in his Master’s classes for education we’ve gotten to peruse some. The biggest thing they’re pushing down here is to let students help make the decisions about what they want to learn, what are they interested in and then tailor the lessons to that focus. You know your girls and their interests and approaches. Making a plan (for you) that focuses on their interests incorporating the lessons you need to teach seems to be the best solution. :)

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Caroline April 26, 2012 at 8:22 am

That’s one problem with doing public virtual homeschool versus traditional homeschool. I can’t let them choose just whatever, but I could try to look ahead at what they’ll be studying and then look for fun activities that will complement those subjects. Thanks for the idea!

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Pamela April 26, 2012 at 7:03 am

I didn’t homeschool (my husband and I have five kids between us, and the youngest 2 are now in high school), but I can attest for all of them that when they were tackling subjects they enjoyed and setting their own pace and goals, they learned, whereas when they were required to do stuff they hated, they just got by. Well, and then there’s “Clark Kent,” who never quite gets by, LOL, but yet somehow does. Anyway, the classes we’ve tried to steer them to are the experiential classes with teachers that focused on learning instead of checking lists. They always had more list checkers than teachers who made it fun, but we were lucky that by having a few each year that spread joy, the kids didn’t tune out.

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Caroline April 26, 2012 at 8:26 am

Thanks, Pamela! I’m afraid I’m also a bit of a list checker, so it’s something I’m personally struggling with. But I’ll get there. I’ve enjoyed reading about your experiences, even though our families are in different stages in life. It gives me hope. :-)

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