When our kids are young, we are often inspired to find ways to make learning fun. It seems quite natural to add hands-on learning, to find projects that interest them, and to incorporate lots of laughing into our day.
As our kids get older, however, we have a tendency to make learning more serious. Our anxiety level goes up as we start thinking about getting our kids into college as well as about transcripts and career choices. Homeschooling stops being fun and becomes more stressful for our kids… and for us.
Learning isn’t going to be a daily carnival for our older kids but it doesn’t have to be a total drag, either. Think about it. If you were going to learn about something, would you rather have the experience be enjoyable or would you prefer that it be mind-numbingly boring?
Here are 8 Ways to Keep Learning Fun for Teens and Tweens:
1 – Delight Directed Learning
Let your kids choose which subjects they will study from year to year. For instance, rather than just following a specific track, let your child choose something he will enjoy learning about. One of my sons absolutely loves astronomy. So, when it came time to choose what he would study for science this year (his freshman year of high school) he decided he would love to learn even more about astronomy and the space program.
Letting him choose his topic will help to keep him interested in his assignments all year long. It will also ensure that he learns much more than if he were being forced to study General Science or Biology, which are typically tackled in 9th grade.
Just because your kids are older doesn’t mean they want to sit still all day long reading books and writing papers. The more hands-on learning and projects you can incorporate into your day, the more enjoyable learning will be.
You can usually tell when your teens are getting antsy. Sometimes they will tap their toes or their pencils. They will fidget or pace. You’ve probably seen this type of behavior from your husband as well. Males think better when they are moving. Physical activity increases blood flow, and hence oxygen, to the brain. This increases their ability to pay attention, increases memory, and makes learning easier. Movement while learning is beneficial for men and women alike – but it’s even more crucial for boys.
3 – Mix it Up
Books are great! There is a lot of value in having our children read to learn new information. It’s also very easy to hand our kids a book and walk away. However, if we want our kids to learn more fully we need to try to involve all of their senses. Incorporate some technology into your homeschool. Listen to audio dramas from time to time. Place a more physical activity between two more sedentary ones.
4 – Allow them to Choose
Let’s face it! Our tweens and teens hate being told what to do all the time. They are in the strange position of feeling like adults but actually still being immature in many ways. Whenever we can allow our kids to make decisions for themselves, however, we will find that things will be much more enjoyable for everyone involved.
A few years back, I shook up our homeschool and started doing things very differently. I had been giving my boys a daily task list for years – but I switched over to a weekly task list instead. Then, I set expectations for them and let them choose what they worked on when. I didn’t force them to do specific subjects each day. I didn’t demand that they start at any specific time. The only rule was that they needed to complete everything I had assigned to them by the time my husband got home on Friday evening.
Switching things up like this created much more positive attitudes in our homeschool. My boys felt that they had some control over their days. And I no longer felt like I had to stand over them and micro-manage their time.
Try to brainstorm ways that you can give your teens more freedom. Let them make more decisions about how and when they will learn. You’ll probably be surprised at what a difference this one small change can make!
5 – Play Games
Games aren’t just for young kids. Boys LOVE to compete! Try to incorporate games into your homeschool whenever you can. If you have more than one child reading the same book or learning the same material, ask questions and let them buzz in like on Jeopardy to give the answer. Play board games to learn logic skills. Smile, laugh, use humor, and try to appeal to their playful nature.
6 – Keep it Real
Real life learning includes things such as taking field trips, volunteer opportunities, internships, chores, and adding in hands-on activities. Last week, my dad, my sister, and I took the 7 grandkids on vacation in Boyne Falls, Michigan for a week. We spent one of the days at Fort Michilimackinac, which is a reconstructed British fort from the 1700s. While we were there, the kids asked the costumed interpreters lots of questions. We went from building to building and the kids asked lots of questions. In fact, they never stopped asking questions until the adults would pull the plug and tell them it was time to go on to the next building.
When we returned to our condo that evening, my dad quizzed the kids on every obscure fact he could think of from our visit. We were all amazed at how much they remembered. The kids were from age 6 to 16 and they all learned a ton from our trip. No pencils were picked up. No quizzes were given. But a ton of learning happened nonetheless.
7 – Take a Class
Sometimes, our older kids need to get out into the real world and take a class or two with a different teacher. Consider letting them take a class at a community college. Look for computer classes or community ed classes in your area. Search through some Open Courseware to let your teen take an online class.
8 – Challenge Them
Give your teen a problem and have him solve it for himself. Allow your tween to start his own business. Have him do the research and figure out as many of the steps as he can on his own. Allow your child to do hard things and to stretch himself. Work on teaching him the life skills he will need to be a responsible adult. Increasingly expose your son to the real world (within reason) so that when he does move out on his own or go off to college, he won’t be shocked at what he encounters.
As our kids get older, it isn’t always possible to make learning fun. As you can see, however, there are plenty of ways that we can make it more enjoyable and even pleasant. No matter what age our kids are, we should make an effort to keep the love in learning. The more we’re able to make lessons appealing to our teens and tweens the more likely that they will become life-long learners. And isn’t that education’s ultimate goal?
Question: How do you make learning more enjoyable for your teens or tweens? Do you have any tips you can share for keeping the love in learning? Please leave a comment below.