Did you ever notice how little kids are like human sponges, taking in the world around them?  Even as infants, they watch us so closely, mirroring our vocal inflections, facial expressions, and moods.  As they get older, kids become little mini mes, taking on the language and persona of parents, grandparents, and siblings. Especially siblings.  I still chuckle when I watch home movies of my kids, and see my younger daughter acting like a little copycat of her big sister.

In essence, we’re our children’s role models.  That’s a huge and exhausting responsibility.  The good news is, whenever you mess up, you can use that as a learning experience (we’re all human!)  As a parent and a homeschool mom, I look for ways to inspire learning in daily life.  It’s not enough just to tell my kids they need to learn; I really believe in the power of enthusiastic learning right along with them.  Whether your kids attend school or are homeschooled, they are so many ways to learn through life.

Reading

In my opinion, this is one of the biggest ones.  A love of reading develops when children are surrounded by books from birth.  Read to kids in utero, read to them as babies, snuggle and read to toddlers, read to older kids while in the car, and have family reading time whether kids are young enough to be read to, or old enough to read silently alongside you.  It’s one thing to tell a kid, “Go do your reading,” but another all together to demonstrate a sincere love of reading by sitting and enjoying a book.  Having a book that you read aloud as a family is another awesome activity, and can be made easier by listening to it on CD as you take a trip in the car.

Day Trips

Plan fun, educational trips that involve surrounding the family with new experiences.  Museums, live theater, cool spots in nature like caves and bodies of water, the zoo, concerts in the park, a factory tour, wherever.  Take turns choosing an activity, or even better, create a day trip jar.  Have everyone contribute to a wish list of interesting places they’d like to visit, and write them on little pieces of paper.  Toss them in a jar, and when you’re looking for something to do, pick out a few, and vote.

Tackle Something New

Do a project as a family.  Plant a garden, build a bookshelf, learn a foreign language, take up a new sport, try out knitting, or figure out how to make sushi.  Broaden the learning experience by doing research together- demonstrate how to find useful information online, hit the library, or tap into a knowledgeable friend or relative.  Your local school district or community college may offer continuing education or non-credit courses, which can be fun to take with older kids.

Start a Family Contest

Whether it be getting in shape, who can read the most books, build the highest block tower, hold a yoga position the longest, or memorize song lyrics, any kind of wacky activity can be made into a good-natured contest that encourages bonding as well as learning.

Community Service

Choose a cause, such as a soup kitchen, animal shelter, adopt a Troop, or clothing drive, and find ways to help others as a family.  Amazing people skills and problem solving will develop while figuring out how to gather resources and motivate others to join in, and you’ll be making your community a better place.

Family Game Night

Monopoly, Go Fish, Connect Four, Guess Who, or Life… the actual game doesn’t matter as much as the fun and memories you’ll have from a family game night.  This is a laid-back way to build some mad skills (math, and reading, and memory, oh my!) without leaving home.  Sportsmanship, strategizing, and all kinds of learning will be woven into a simple, low stress activity, and adding new games to the rotation will keep it fresh.

Travel

What can I even say here?  More than just the day trip, this is the opportunity to learn about EVERYTHING.  Food, culture, nature, religion, everything.  I’ll admit that I’m not the first to plan an out-of-town trip because I like the comforts of home, but once I’m out in the world with my kids, I relish the fantastic exposure we get to the road not (often) traveled.

Teaching kids to be curious, helpful, adventurous, and open to new experiences becomes second nature once you live that way yourself.  It can require a some planning and courage to embrace such a lifestyle, and energy to make it happen, but it’s well worth it.  It doesn’t have to be costly, or even time consuming, to broaden your child’s experiences.  Share your stories, ideas, and tips with our readers, below.  Happy learning!

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