Ask yourself this question. As an adult learner, what inspires YOU to learn something? Is it a desire to learn a new skill, or brush up on an old hobby? Always wanted to learn how to knit or quilt? How did you go about learning this new skill? Did you find a friend to show you how or did you enroll in a community education class? Did you learn a skill because you had to, like changing a flat tire? Our truck just recently died. We are doing everything in our power to not get it towed. This included me learning how to check the spark plugs, and replacing the distributor cap in the engine. It's still not working. Ugh. But we have narrowed it down to a possible fuel pump problem now. How did we learn these new car skills? We called our expert mechanic for advice, looked things up on the net, and had two different friends fiddle with it and scratch their heads with us.
Now, let's apply what we know about our own desire to learn... to children. Besides their age, are they any different from us? Children are so open and responsive to learning about the world around them when they are inspired, when there is a desire to learn. I'll give you an example.
In our house, we are trying our hardest to step back and let our children explore their interests and learn at their own pace. This includes reading and math skills. Charlotte is our oldest. She just turned 8 in June. She did not learn how to read until this past winter, when she was *gasp* seven and a half. Which would put her in second grade at the time. Yes, she knew her letters and the sounds they made, but she just didn't WANT to learn to do it. She would tell us over and over how hard it was to read, and she wished she was "born reading." That being said, if she was in school, she for sure would have been put in a remedial reading class. She would have been labeled a "reluctant reader."
Yes. Most definately a reluctant reader. I would pull my hair out arguing with her about how she wouldn't get better unless she practiced daily. So I looked high and low for easy readers that I thought would spark her interest. Here is where we met the problem head on. Charlotte was interested in books way beyond her reading level. She hated any kind of easy reader. They were stupid, silly, and boring. Henry and Mudge, too boyish. Frog and Toad, too babyish. Little House On The Prairie, My First Reader Series, still too babyish to my surprise. We discovered Fancy Nancy easy readers, as well as Eloise. A sparkly cover helps. A little girly. Now we were starting to get somewhere. Still, it just did not seem to inspire her. What did?
Jamie and I were on Facebook one day. She wanted to know what it was. She was intrigued by how we could talk to our friends and now, she wanted a Facebook account too. Jamie told her she could do Facebook when she could read a Harry Potter book. GAME ON. Now, she had a goal in mind. She began to practice more, and, I stopped telling her what to read. If she wanted to take a swing at The Box Car Children, I wouldn't say no. If she wanted to read a page from A Hole In The Sky, I'd say, "sure, I'll listen." Or not. Most of the time she does not want to read aloud to me. I think she thinks I'm testing her, or assessing her. Dang she is so perceptive. So recently, she has been reading to her brother and sister at bedtime. They fall asleep, and she stays up with flashlight in hand reading something of her choice. Currently, she has been reading her American Girl Doll catalog. She has now read it cover to cover several times.
Our children have been surrounded by books, and two parents who are avid readers. We have been reading stories like Lord of the Rings, The Chronicles of Narnia, Harry Potter, and many others like these since they were three years old. I'll never forget the night I was reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory to Charlotte. She was maybe four years old at the time. She said, "Mom, I don't ever want you to stop reading this, cause it's like magic! I don't want it to end!" How can you NOT learn to read with an attitude like that!
So, whenever I get down in the dumps and start to doubt myself, I whip out my old John Holt book, Learning All The Time. He reminds me to just be patient, and to TRUST your child. TRUST their interests. TRUST the natural process of learning.