3 Ways Engagement Is Not Entertainment

3 Ways Engagement is not EntertainmentEngagement is often confused with entertainment.  They are not the same thing.

 1.  Interesting or fun?

Entertainment has fun as its focus.  We all like fun, right?  Learning often happens when we are having fun.  Engagement is different though.  Engagement is focused on presenting the subject matter in a way that the child would find interesting.  The goal is to spark an interest so the child will continue learning about the topic independently.

Entertainment may engage a child, but with what?  When the fun activity is over, how likely is there to be any further interest in the subject?  Often, it is the fun activity that was engaging and not the subject matter.

2.  Learning as a by-product or a focus?

When a child engages in fun activities for a subject, learning is a hopeful by-product.  Engagement is all about learning.   If engagement is happening then learning is happening.  Entertainment is more passive and can result in the child being entertained without learning anything.

Finding ways to make school fun is a good thing.  Learning is fun.  But in the process of making things more fun, we need to focus on the joy of discovery rather than the fun activity.

Engagement is a big goal of mine.  If my child is not engaged in a subject, I know that I have some tweaking to do.  Providing my children with an individualized education is one of my main reasons for homeschooling.  As a result, education looks different for each of my children.

My kids are not engaged in all subjects at all times.  I think that is a lofty goal that is quite unreachable.  However, I seek to move towards that direction and attempt to engage my children more and more.

3.  Focus on the method or result?

What do you do when a child hates a subject and finds it quite boring?  If you go the entertainment route, the parent/teacher is focused on finding ways to make it fun.  Activities are often used as a way to help a child tackle a boring subject.  Once the fun activity is over, the child has no further interest in the subject.

Engagement is focused on the process of learning.  If the child hates a subject or finds it very boring, focusing on engagement will take you in a little different direction.  Considering the child’s likes and interests, find a way to approach the subject in a way that the child will find most interesting.  Sometimes this takes a bit of brainstorming.  Sometimes a talk with the child to come up with a plan together works well.  Sometimes it requires you to ditch or tweak your curriculum plans and go a different direction.

I believe there is value in fun.  I love doing fun activities with my kids.  But in education, engagement has to be the focus.  Fun activities without learning may not be the best use of our learning time together.

Once upon a time, my child hated math and he was only in Kindergarten.  Even though he was young, it was suggested that I accept that some kids just don’t like math.  I refused to accept that my child’s likes were set in stone.  I taught from the perspective that my child could learn to like a subject that was previously disliked.

It took years.  Many years.

I focused on him attaining skills, used a curriculum that matched my son’s learning preferences, tweaked, and added in interesting supplements.  Those interesting supplements awakened an interest in him.  Now he tells me that math is his favorite subject.  Seeking out ways to engage my child wasn’t about entertainment, but finding ways for him to see the beauty in the subject.  Because we had also focused on attaining skills as he grew, he now has the solid skill base that he can use to follow his dreams that highly involve math.

Engagement and learning go together.  I’ve found that when my kids are engaged and interested, learning happens quickly and easily.  One of the most successful ways to build engagement around here is to model a love for learning, approach things outside of the standard educational box, and seek out interesting supplements.

What are some of the ways you have successfully built engagement in your homeschool?





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