Picture this: Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai sitting with his son, Rabbi Elazar, learning in a cave for 12 years. Then, as soon as they leave the cave, all they want to do is run back in and learn for another full year!
Now fast forward to your house in 2019. You are sitting with your kids after school and the last thing in the world that they want to do is sit down and do homework with you. Or maybe it’s not even homework, maybe you just want to show your child something cool and educational that you thought might interest them. Instead of being so motivated that they are halfway through their homework before you finish your first sentence, it is more likely that you’re hearing complaints or a seemingly endless rant about having to sit through class all day, not wanting to work at home, too. How do we help our children find that happy medium? How do we get them to be motivated enough to be present and interested to learn in school, as well as excited about fun learning opportunities outside of school?
There are many approaches to motivating students, and they can all work for different families at different times. However, there is one way that I have seen succeed most consistently in over a decade of teaching. Allowing students to learn through experience takes the cake, in my opinion. Don’t be afraid to roll up your sleeves and get a little dirty. Grab onto any existing interests that your children have and turn them into learning opportunities. Show them that learning is happening in all the fun things they already do. Learning is not a chore, it is a way of exploring the world and growing as a person. Play house with your 4-year-old: “The phone is ringing—brring! What sounds did we put together to make that fun word?” Bake a cake and double a recipe—you just practiced math facts with your third grader. Go for a walk on Shabbos and play geography with your son or daughter—they will know their states and capitals in no time. There are endless ways of incorporating learning into your child’s daily life. The linchpin is pointing it out to them after they have already begun to really enjoy themselves. Then they will build positive associations with the idea of learning. And what’s more, they will learn on a deeper level while also building positive and loving memories with you.
By Tamar Hardy
Tamar Hardy has been teaching for 13 years and currently works at Yeshivat Noam and runs a private practice as a reading specialist. She holds multiple master’s degrees in special education and is a certified Wilson Dyslexia practitioner. Tamar lives in Fair Lawn and can be reached at [email protected]