Monday, May 17, 2010

Making home a learning community

Last week Obama administration officials took part in National Lab Day around Washington DC. National Lab Day brings hands-on, exciting, and experiment-based learning to kids all over the country, with a major focus on science, technology, engineering, and math—also known as STEM. However, considering today’s headlines that are wrought with systemic problems—such as uncontrollable oil spills, cancer, and economic crisis’s—I have to wonder if one day of hands-on learning in STEM subjects will improve the quality of education enough to address these substantial challenges this generation will face as adults. I think we can all agree it won’t.
The first thing moms can do is to broaden their definition of home from being just a place to eat, sleep and play. Home should be thought of as a learning community.
Families that are defined as learning communities have the following characteristic:
1. Develop conversations that larger than the family. For example, if you live a neatly manicured suburb, talk about what it might be like to live without a HOA association. Then, get involved in an organization that helps to revamp a park in a low-income area, such as KaBOOM!
2. Be committed to mastering skills. Mastery takes patience and time, so it is helpful to understand the three step learning process. The first step of teaching is to introduce the idea through modeling. The second step is let the child develop the skill through trial and error, and the final step is when the child can demonstrate with confidence the concept.
3. Set a schedule for learning, especially during the summer months. For instance, no electronics until 15 minutes of math is practiced and 15 minutes of reading is finished. The key is to be consistent.
4. Set up learning stations in the home. Learning stations can be as simple as a plastic tote filled with tools necessary to develop thinking in STEM areas.

The next generation will need a first-class workforce that is strong enough to tackle tough problems, and one way families can help is to be committed to nurturing an environment of learning in the home. For more information on how-to do this visit

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