The Importance of Learning at Home

 

Rewards BookNearly all children are “home schooled” during their first four or five years before being enrolled in a formal school. Growing numbers of students – approximately 1.7 million to 2.1 million – continue to be schooled at home after they are old enough to attend conventional schools, but in some capacity all students continue to be, or should be, substantially “home schooled” for their entire K-12 careers. This is because in their first 18 years, only about 12 percent of children’s time (when they’re not sleeping) is spent in school.

Some parents do all they can to ensure their children rank first in all their academic classes in school. Best-selling author Amy Chua, for example, described herself as a “Tiger Mother” and was much ridiculed for her impressive and successful efforts to gain her daughters’ entrance to Ivy League universities and for one to even make a solo performance at Carnegie Hall. Her book, Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, noted that rigorous family emphasis on achievement is common in Asian cultures. It sparked a national debate about parents’ roles in educating and pushing children to achieve.

Research shows children with devoted parents are likely to learn far more than others. Parents can create a learning environment at home by having on hand age-appropriate personal or library-borrowed books and if they can afford it, art supplies, musical instruments, and electronic devices such as personal computers and tablets, which continue to fall in price. Many of these items can be purchased inexpensively at second-hand stores, such as Goodwill. Since children quickly outgrow many of these learning aids, it is a good idea to get in the habit of buying them used and then donating them when finished.

An extensive array of educational software is available from which parents can choose. Leaders in this field are Broderbund, creator of the Mavis Beacon typing software and Carmen Sandiego games, and Knowledge Adventure, with online and downloadable games in all fields for all age ranges. The Core-Learning Web site offers a treasure trove of software and other resources for parents along with extensive reviews of education software.

Excessive time spent watching television and playing video games is negatively associated with academic achievement, as well as positively correlated with child obesity, although the research is somewhat causally inconclusive. While television may appear to be a free substitute for a babysitter, it can distract children as well as their parents from activities more likely to prompt learning and instill good habits such as playing board games, reading, painting, drawing, dancing, and participating in sports.

Activities that encourage learning should continue all the way through high school. Even though mom and dad may not be able to help much with chemistry, biology, and calculus homework, they can make sure there is a place for quiet study, that books and online resources are available, and that the usual preoccupations of young adults do not interfere with school work. At each stage of a child’s development, age-appropriate rewards – from fruit or a trip to the park for infants to being able to use the car and staying out late on a weekend night for a teenager – are constructive parts of parenting. Reward systems need to be deliberately and carefully designed and then followed so that rewards are reliably given (or withheld) to help accelerate children’s learning.

Herbert J. Walberg and Joseph L. Bast are chairman and president, respectively, of The Heartland Institute and authors of Rewards: How to use rewards to help children learn – and why teachers don’t use them well (October 2014; ISBN 978-1-934791-38-7). this article is excerpted from Chapter 5, “Rewards at Home.”

There are 12 comments.

  1. Inactive

    I read somewhere (prior to parenthood) about how learning is making connections and the more pegs you have in your brain, the more connections you can make. Baby feels soft carpet, mom says the word soft, baby connects the word to the feeling.

    So middle-class and upper-class children tend to have an easier time of things in school because they have more pegs – they tend to go to parks more, take vacations, go to museums, have more books, etc. A kid who has been to Fort Pitt or Washington DC hears about George Washington in school and has a personal experience to connect him to. A child without that experience might struggle to remember the name.

    For this reason, I’ve not worried much about flash cards at home. Instead, I focus on fun and variety. Who knows what connections they are making but they seem to have taken well to school so far.

    • #1
    • September 9, 2014 at 2:23 pm
    • Like
  2. Thatcher

    I was homeschooled through 8th grade, then I went to public high school. That was an adjustment.

    • #2
    • September 9, 2014 at 2:36 pm
    • Like
  3. Member

    All five of our kids were home-schooled from 1-12. Of course Mrs. B was able to be a stay-at-home mom most of that time. The two youngest did some charter cyber-school, but it was still at home. Do it if you can, and don’t worry about that “socialization” stuff. If you have friends with children, an extended family, a good church, or an active home-school support group, your kids will have all the social outlets and input they need.

    • #3
    • September 9, 2014 at 2:50 pm
    • Like
  4. Member

    JoelB:

    All five of our kids were home-schooled from 1-12. Of course Mrs. B was able to be a stay-at-home mom most of that time. The two youngest did some charter cyber-school, but it was still at home. Do it if you can, and don’t worry about that “socialization” stuff. If you have friends with children, an extended family, a good church, or an active home-school support group, your kids will have all the social outlets and input they need.

    I’d say if you have 5 children living in your home that socialization is embedded in your life, with our without external interaction. But, variety is the spice of life, so finding a few other families to connect with is a valuable pursuit.

    • #4
    • September 9, 2014 at 6:13 pm
    • Like
  5. Inactive

    I see people underestimating their kids all the time.

    Parents who refuse to “baby-talk” at their young-uns and instead just use simple language to provide a narrative as they go about simple chores and little games put their kids at a great advantage in early acquisition of language, which results in higher IQ and larger vocabulary many years later.

    • #5
    • September 9, 2014 at 7:16 pm
    • Like
  6. Member

    I’m looking forward to the book. At various times, rewards and incentives have played a successful role in raising our son, who is now in sixth grade and homeschooled. However, there has always come a point where the rewards have become ineffective. He doesn’t like to have to “work” to get anything fun…or he won’t do what is expected because there is not a sufficiently-fabulous reward attached to the task. Then we fall into positive punishment territory. He is a voracious fiction reader, which I attribute to spending his preschool years constantly reading stories to him instead of using the TV. Exhausting? Totally!

    • #6
    • September 10, 2014 at 5:25 am
    • Like
  7. Contributor
    Herbert Walberg Post author

    Casey:

    I read somewhere (prior to parenthood) about how learning is making connections and the more pegs you have in your brain, the more connections you can make. Baby feels soft carpet, mom says the word soft, baby connects the word to the feeling.

    So middle-class and upper-class children tend to have an easier time of things in school because they have more pegs – they tend to go to parks more, take vacations, go to museums, have more books, etc. A kid who has been to Fort Pitt or Washington DC hears about George Washington in school and has a personal experience to connect him to. A child without that experience might struggle to remember the name.

    For this reason, I’ve not worried much about flash cards at home. Instead, I focus on fun and variety. Who knows what connections they are making but they seem to have taken well to school so far.

    Research shows that there is no clear answer. What works for one child does not necessarily work for another. However, everyone, regardless of age, race, class, etc., is motivated by some sort of external reward, which is precisely the point of the book. If the rewarding experiences you provide as a parent work for your child, there is no wrong answer!
    -Joe Bast, Co-author of Rewards

    • #7
    • September 10, 2014 at 7:07 am
    • Like
  8. Contributor
    Herbert Walberg Post author

    JoelB:

    All five of our kids were home-schooled from 1-12. Of course Mrs. B was able to be a stay-at-home mom most of that time. The two youngest did some charter cyber-school, but it was still at home. Do it if you can, and don’t worry about that “socialization” stuff. If you have friends with children, an extended family, a good church, or an active home-school support group, your kids will have all the social outlets and input they need.

     Hi Joel,
    You touch on an excellent point. Many parents are worried about socialization, and it’s not uncommon for parents who would otherwise homeschool their kids to avoid doing so in order to provide that socialization. However, in recent decades, socialization has become much easier and numerous activities, clubs, and organizations are specifically designed for and by homeschooling parents. Now, more than ever, children have access to important social environments.
    -Joe Bast, Co-author of Rewards

    • #8
    • September 10, 2014 at 7:10 am
    • Like
  9. Contributor
    Herbert Walberg Post author

    MJBubba:

    I see people underestimating their kids all the time.

    Parents who refuse to “baby-talk” at their young-uns and instead just use simple language to provide a narrative as they go about simple chores and little games put their kids at a great advantage in early acquisition of language, which results in higher IQ and larger vocabulary many years later.

     That’s an excellent point! Research shows that, at some point, parents need to speak to their children like adults. The more vocabulary words parents use, the more kids learn. This has been shown to be an important part of the development process. Because schools generally group kids together based on age, rather than skill or knowledge, they have become quite ineffective at tailoring specific programs to meet the needs of the individual. Homeschooled children, however, are nearly always given this special attention.
    -Joe Bast, Co-author of Rewards

    • #9
    • September 10, 2014 at 7:20 am
    • Like
  10. Contributor
    Herbert Walberg Post author

    9thDistrictNeighbor:

    I’m looking forward to the book. At various times, rewards and incentives have played a successful role in raising our son, who is now in sixth grade and homeschooled. However, there has always come a point where the rewards have become ineffective. He doesn’t like to have to “work” to get anything fun…or he won’t do what is expected because there is not a sufficiently-fabulous reward attached to the task. Then we fall into positive punishment territory. He is a voracious fiction reader, which I attribute to spending his preschool years constantly reading stories to him instead of using the TV. Exhausting? Totally!

     Those are all important points. Your situation reveals several issues. First, not every strategy will work forever. Parents, as you have shown, need to adapt to different situations. What works for one child may not work for another. What worked one year may not work two years later.

    Second, rewards are not simply fun activities, money, etc. Rewards can be something as simple as praise, test scores, etc. The point of our book is not to convince parents to “bribe” children; rather, what we want to do is show parents, in opposition to what many academic “experts” claim, that developing a strong work ethic requires the use of rewards of many types. Most kids are motivated by external factors, and it’s up to parents and teachers to identify those factors and use them effectively.
    -Joe Bast, Co-author of Rewards

    • #10
    • September 10, 2014 at 7:28 am
    • Like
  11. Reagan
    iWe

    9thDistrictNeighbor: He is a voracious fiction reader, which I attribute to spending his preschool years constantly reading stories to him instead of using the TV.

     Feed the addiction. Kids who read like crazy develop excellent vocabularies and decent mental processes.

    • #11
    • September 10, 2014 at 9:15 am
    • Like
  12. Inactive

    The best reward for a child is the parents’ time and attention.

    • #12
    • September 11, 2014 at 7:22 pm
    • Like