11 Mar 2015

After I finished homeschooling our kids, I headed back to school myself to complete a Ph.D. in educational psychology. I wanted to know how kids learn best. Wouldn’t that be helpful information for homeschooling moms and dads?

Boy did God blow my socks off! I can sum up what I found in one sentence: If we built a school from the ground up based on what the research shows as how kids learn best…we’d build a home.

How’s that for some liberating good news? And doesn’t it make complete sense? The best learning environment for any child is the one God designed: a family.

Here’s why:

1. Kids learn best when they believe their teacher and fellow students care about them.

2. Kids learn best when they have opportunities to pursue their interests.

3. Kids learn best when they can make choices and decisions about their learning.

4. Kids learn best when they can observe other students who model what success looks like.

5. Kids learn best when they have a teacher who is available to provide feedback and encouragement.

6. Kids learn best when the work they are asked to do is matched to what they are ready to learn.

7. Kids learn best when they can experience what they are studying firsthand.

8. Kids learn best when they have plenty of physical activity, sunshine and fresh air.

Think of all the obstacles kids have to overcome in a traditional setting to have these eight needs met. Even the most dedicated classroom teachers would be hard pressed to provide these opportunities regularly for all their students. But you can and probably do so without giving it much thought.

No one cares about a child more than Mom and Dad. Both can regularly be available to answer questions and encourage a child’s progress. Older siblings and mixed age groups in many of our co‐ops provide those models of success and friendship. At home kids have plenty of free time to pursue what they are interested in and to be outside soaking up all the benefits of nature. Opportunity for field trips and firsthand experiences abound. Parents can adjust their expectations and methods quickly to match what each child is ready to learn. We can let our kids choose what books they read, what topics they study and what curriculum they prefer. We encourage them to take ownership of their education when we attend conventions and homeschool rallies as a family.

The catch is we have to see God’s design at work here and maximize the advantages He’s given us. I hope I can help with that by unpacking exactly how we can leverage all the opportunities a family uniquely provides each child.

I’m looking forward to talking with many of you at the upcoming NCHE annual conference in May 2015.

Debra Bell, Ph.D., is the best-selling author of the award-winning Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling, Ultimate Guide to Homeschooling Teens and the Ultimate Planners for moms, teens and students. Writers-in-Residence: A Writing-Focused Language Arts Program and Readers-in-Residence: A Literacy Program will be released in 2015. Debra and her husband, Kermit, home educated their four children K through 12. All four are now married, degreed, employed, and they also love Jesus! She has been a keynote or featured speaker at numerous international and national venues for more than twenty years. Debra and her sons were featured on NBC Nightly News for a story on homeschoolers and their participation in scholastic sports. After homeschooling, she completed a Ph.D. in educational psychology at Temple University in Philadelphia, PA. Her research interests include identifying how, why and when homeschooling works; and she looks forward to using her training to better serve the homeschool community well into the future. A pioneer in online education, today she is executive director and lead teacher for Aim Academy, which provides online college prep and AP® courses for seventh through twelfth graders. More information about her online classes, books, forthcoming curriculum and speaking schedule can be found at DebraBell.com.