Personalizing Academic Studies to Enhance Learning

If your child is not excited about some of the subjects he is learning in school, you, as parent, can help kindle interest, and therefore more success, in those subjects. Here are five ideas for enriching their learning.

1. Ask what your child found most interesting in a particular subject and begin an open-ended discussion. As an example, discuss what might have happened if a historical event had progressed differently. What might the world be like if Britain and France had taken action when Germany first started re-arming after World War I in violation of the Treaty of Versailles?

2. Have your child write down what surprised her most about a topic she is learning. Then have her write down questions about what surprised her. Encourage her to research the questions. Perhaps she was surprised to learn that a group of crows is called a murder. Questions that might be asked and researched include: a. How did the word murder come to have that meaning? b. What are other groups of animals called and how did the names come into use? c. Are there any other interesting group names among them? d. When did these names come into use? e. An extension of this line of thought is - what are the male, female, and babies of the species called?

3. Have your child create charts, graphs, metaphors, analogies, or diagrams to compare and contrast information and see it in another way. Experiences like these build relational memories and reinforce the integration of new information.

4. Encourage your child to answer critical thinking questions or make and support judgments by practicing debating skills. Role playing as a lawyer is a fun way to exercise these skills. Even if you do not agree with a particular view on a subject, as a lawyer you might be called to defend that position. For instance, ask your child "Some people want all information to be openly available to every person on earth. What concerns might people have about all information being readily available? Should there be limits on what information is available and to whom? If so, why? If not, why not? What problems might occur if all information is available to everyone? Are there maturity or motivational issues that might occur? What other types of issues are there?"

5. Tie learning to doing. Visit zoos, parks, and museums of all types. Spend an afternoon collecting every insect in the backyard and then identify them. Build a bat house. Interview grandparents to learn more about the family's history and then find out what was happening in the world at the same time. Everyday maintenance tasks can be examples of the practical application of school subjects. Change a tire and learn both a survival skill and the application of the theory of levers. Drain the hot water heater and not only increase its life span, but see the effects of sedimentation of mineral content in the water.

Interest is a prime motivator for learning. Practical use and exploration of topics introduced in school helps a child see the relevance and importance of what they are learning. Personalizing academic studies will increase a child's understanding and ability to apply that new material.

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