• Sarah Janisse Brown

SPARK CURIOSITY "The Life-Changing Magic of Fun-Schooling" (If Marie Kondo Wrote a Blog Po

I woke up this morning with a question on my mind.

What if Marie Kondo wrote a book on Education? I've been using the "Kon-Marie" method of tidying up for about 4 years now, with pretty good success considering I have 15 children! I've been Fun-Schooling for about 10 years. I was simply in awe of how much the two methods had in common. So, I picked up one of Marie Kondo's Books called "SPARK JOY" and read it to myself as if it were a book on homeschooling, rather than a book on tidying up. So here we go! Consider this a “Mystical Manifesto on Curiosity Driven Education”. Can the Kon-Marie Method be applied to education. Yes, yes it can. Time to tidy up the schoolroom and clean out everything that doesn't spark joy or curiosity!

Introduction: Let the Sparks Fly! The Fun-Schooling Method "A joyful and purposeful childhood only begins after

one’s education has become delightful to the child."

That’s why I have devoted most of my life to the study of the natural process of curiosity driven learning. I want to help as many children as possible to become free from education based on punishment and obligation, to live a lifestyle of learning based on joy, discovery, curiosity and fun. This doesn’t mean, however, that a parent or teacher should just dump anything and everything that doesn’t make a child smile. Far from it, true education is driven both by curiosity and need. Yet, only when you know how to direct a child’s learning through sparking curiosity will you be able to introduce the ideal environment for true education. If you are confident that something brings your child delight, focus on that topic, regardless of what anyone else might say. Even it the topic doesn’t seem educational? Even if the child is not learning on “grade level”? Even if that child’s passion seems silly or impractical? YES! When you invest in your child’s interest with care and respect, you transform the child’s learning experience into something priceless, and unforgettable. Over and over you will repeat a selection process, of what educational materials to keep and what to throw out, by choosing to value what brings your child joy in learning. As you begin to focus more and more on your unique child's interests, you will watch with wonder at how true learning opens up greater doors to learning that any textbook style teaching ever could. Think about this. As an adult, why would you ever set out to learn something new? There are generally only two reasons to seek knowledge. First because you are passionate about a topic that you love. Second because you need to know something. For example, you may love dogs and you want to learn everything you can about how to care for, train, and advocate for these amazing creatures, so you learn. Now, you have a new puppy and everything you know about puppies does not help you to understand why puppy keeps going potty on the sofa. So, you have a need to learn even more, and fast, how to solve this problem. We learn for love and we learn because we are desperate for answers.

All other learning is irrelevant. With children there is no difference, except that their attention span and behavior are much less developed, and you will find that most children will not quietly tolerate irrelevant learning. When they do show their distaste for tests and textbooks, conventional wisdom blames the child, not the method for poor results.

So, what sparks your curiosity? What brings you delight?

What problems are you seeking to solve in your life? What doesn’t interest you? Now, ask yourself, or ask your child, what brings your little one delight? What sparks her curiosity? What brings him joy? What problems are your children trying to solve? What does not interest them? How does their current style of education match up with their dreams, joys and passions? The answers to these questions will play a serious role in how you move forward in creating a rich and satisfying environment for educating your child. I am convinced that the perspective we gain through asking these questions about ourselves and our children represents the driving force that can determine whether one’s childhood will be joyful and purposeful or miserable and mundane. Some people have told me that they have had to discard almost every bit of curriculum that they had bought, because everything they had been forcing on their child had failed to spark curiosity, discovery, and fun. And at first those parents didn’t know what to do. But later they went on to say how the elimination of educational clutter, sparked a sense of freedom that lead to vast worlds of self-made museums, that began in the heart and mind of a happy and inquisitive child. The lifestyle of entire families transformed by the embrace of learning through joy instead of learning through obligation and force.

It’s a real tragedy when a child spends her entire childhood without any dedicated focus on the things that bring her joy. It’s a sad result to discover that a talented child spent his entire education focusing marginalizing his weaknesses instead of sharpening his strengths. It’s a burden for every parent to discover that after 12 years of conventional education the child emerges unprepared for independence, unskilled, and ready for nothing but more education. Shouldn’t 12 years of education be enough to equip a human being with an essential set of skills, abilities and expertise that can propel them into any career or lifestyle that they have been preparing for? No, because every child is expected to have a well-rounded education based on the same goals of education that were established 50 years ago before Google, YouTube, and customized everything. Conventionally educated children all graduate high school with an identical and outdated skill set that would have barely been enough in 1965 to ensure success. Why push your child kicking and screaming into the same mold? Why not choose to create an environment of learning and discovery where your child can devote years to developing skills based on his or her own passions, talents and abilities? Only two skills are necessary to successfully educating your unique child: #1 is the ability to recognize and respects the things that spark your child’s curiosity and chuck the rest of the educational clutter that doesn’t. (Yes, that could mean taking that big box of grade level curriculum that you make both of you cry on Monday morning to Good Will, or burn it!) #2 is the ability to decide how to give place to the things that your child is curious about while building an educational experience around the child’s curiosity. (Yes, that could mean going to the library and checking out every book about horses and unicorns in stock and letting your child watch YouTube videos about horses all afternoon).

The important thing in educating your child in a joyful and meaningful way is not deciding what you want to let go of, but rather deciding what you want to pursue, but choosing learning tools that are both practical and delightful to both you and the child. It is my hope that though discovering the tools I have created will help you and your child to feel empowered as you set off on your journey of creating a curiosity driven environment for life and learning!

So, is there a step by step guide to “Curiosity Driven Education” ? Maybe a simple blog post that explains everything about how to create the optimal environment for natural learning while ensuring the child matures into a successful and resourceful adult who can support himself at a reasonable age. I don’t know how many times I have been asked questions like this one! But my response has been the same. You don’t need one, because success depends 90% on your mindset.” I know that no matter how much knowledge to may gather, if you don’t change your thinking you will never actually trust the natural process of learning and your child will stay stuck in the rut of education through force and obligation.

The same is true that once a parent has committed themselves to creating an environment for of curiosity driven education, they may want more detailed instructions. For parents in the middle of the process of learning how to “Fun-School”, that’s our term for “Curiosity and Delight Driven Education”, what could be more helpful than a step by step guild, a workbook of sorts, to help you get started and stay focused. For people who are just experimenting with adding a little fun, here and there, to their already cluttered and stressful curriculum, such a guide would just be a source of more stress. Just one more thing to add to an already overwhelming childhood. So, let me ask you point-blank: Are you committed to completing a once in a life-time special event of cleaning out your educational closets, letting go of everything that isn’t working, to set your child free to become who he or she was designed to be? If your answer is yes, it’s so simple to get started with Fun-Schooling, but please understand it’s more about what you will stop doing than what you will begin to add. Yes, we have many wonderful resources for creating a curriculum based on your child’s passion. I can teach my fun method comprised of a basket full of learning games with Fun-Schooling journals, library books, cool videos and neat apps to get started, but the end goal is no place to start. Let’s start with your heart. Look down the long road of child rearing to your final destination. If you haven’t bought into the “big lie” the end of the road is not a college diploma. The end goal of raising a unique son or daughter is that they would be equipped to set off on a meaningful journey of their own, and they would have the skills needed to manage their own household, manage their own money, contribute to their community in a positive way. If you are like most parents you hope they will learn to surround themselves with people who are going to lift them up, not pull them down. Your goal is that they would be able to have solid relationships, become faithful spouses and wise parents. You want them to be able to food on the table and gas in the car, without tapping into your bank account to do so. You want them to be free from the chains of dept and addiction. You want them to earn an income doing something they are really good at and actually enjoy. And that’s where Fun-Schooling comes in. Instead of giving your child a “One-size doesn’t fit anybody” education try this: Invest in your child in such a way that he or she will have a set of skills so well honed that people are going to want to pay your kid to provide excellent goods, services and consulting. Set your child free to become an expert in something before leaving home. Why? Because 18 years of investing in a child ought to be enough to get them off to a great start, if you customize the child’s education to WHO THEY ARE and what they want to become. When you start your child off on the path of Fun-Schooling, it only takes a couple of years for your child to become an expert about his or her passions and soon they are ready to use their skills in the real world, because they have something to contribute, and they have the time, freedom and resources to do it. They are not limited by the burden of an irrelevant education that sucks away at their life tear after year, leaving little time to develop any useful skills. The SIX BASIC Rules of Fun-Schooling

The process you are about to embark on is not about creating an attractive schoolroom and passing standardized tests in order to make yourself and your child look good in the eyes of grandparents and neighbors. Rather you are about to transform your home and your thinking to accommodate a lifestyle of learning that brings joy while leading your child on a path of purposeful learning that looks a lot like play!

When you educate your child the “Fun-Schooling Way” you will experience several changes. For one thing, when you have finished purging out all the educational rubbish that was causing stress you will have so much space, freedom and peace that you will not know what to do with yourself and your clean shelves. And you can rest because you never have to bring all that bondage back into your home again, though you may be tempted, once you have tasted freedom and peace of fun-schooling you will never want to buy another text book. You will also have clearly identified your own values and what you want to do to create a home where learning happens in a positive way. You will begin to choose and treasure learning tools together with your child, the kind of learning tools that your child wants to use. Such tools will even look so tempting and even beautiful to behold as each precious learning tool finds a perfect place in your home, and in the hands of your eager learners. 1. Commit Yourself to Creating an Environment for Curiosity

The Fun-Schooling Method may seem to challenge your ideals of what an education is. For so long you have looked at education as a curriculum a child uses, whether they like it or not, in order to stay on grade level so they can keep up with the other kids. But now you must commit yourself to letting go of the curriculum mind set and think instead of turning your home into a place where learning happens freely, where the curious child can easily find the perfect tool to complete his or her quest of discovering the answers to life’s wonderful questions. When Fun-Schooling the child asks the question and discovers the answers, in conventional schooling the curriculum gives both the question and the answer and expects the student to memorize rather than explore. By committing yourself to Fun-Schooling you are letting go of the mindset that there is a standard, yet almost holy, curriculum that every child must master. Instead you must embrace the idea that your child was designed with his or her own set of talents, abilities, dreams and purpose, and as the parent your role is to help the child to become who they were made to be, and that looks nothing like a standardized citizen produced by a factory style education system. You may feel like your child’s learning looks too much like play and not enough like discipline, and that’s when you know you are doing it right.

2. Imagine Your Ideal Family Lifestyle

Think about the kind of life you want to live as a family and don’t let your child’s education get in the way of your vision for that ideal lifestyle. You are not a schoolteacher, you are a parent and your child is not your student, they are your son, your daughter. Your life is happening all around you right now, every member of the family is a person with dreams, passions, needs and habits. So much more than school is happening in your home each day, but everything is learning. You may wonder how meals, housework, travel, sickness, careers, entertainment, church, volunteering, and shopping all fit in around your child’s education. When you are fun-schooling everything is a learning experience that is preparing your child to mature into a competent adult. So, take some time to write or draw and imagine what life could be if you were not trapped inside an idea that learning only happens at a desk, at a library or in a museum. If your child is still going to school each day, you are even more limited because your entire life, work and free time revolve around a school schedule and tons of homework. How do you really want to live? 3. Finish Getting Rid of Stressful Educational Materials First

One characteristic of parents who never truly experience joy in Fun-Schooling is that they attempt to store all their burdensome educational curriculum and activities without getting rid of anything. Or they just keep all the stressful materials, move it around a bit, just to cram in Fun-Schooling materials along with the old stuff, only to create more clutter. Without truly purging out all the irrelevant materials you will find yourself overwhelmed and disorganized. You may seem to be adding more fun, but the chaos will hold you back and lead you into a relapse of bad curriculum dependency, a longing to send the kids away to school, or you could default into a totally unorganized method of unschooling. The key to success in Fun-Schooling is to finish discarding the materials that cause stress for your child, and all the books and activities that are crowding your space but are never used. You may come across some materials you bought that really would be fun and meaningful, if you had time to use them. Keep those and make them accessible when you set up your fresh environment for Fun-Schooling. 3. Educate Your Child by Topic, not Grade Level or Subject

One of the most common mistakes parents make when trying to educate at home is trying to replicate the public-school example of breaking everything up into” bite-sized chunks” sorted by academic subject and grade level. Science, history, social studies, language arts, math and geography are individual pills that must be taken on an empty stomach, one time per day, one pill every 45 minutes. Two hours of homework must be taken at home on a full stomach before bed. Fun-Schoolers have a much more natural way of learning. The child falls in love with a topic, they become very curious about that topic. The parent embraces that topic and helps the child to learn all they can about the topic, and in the process the child encounters science, social studies, literature, art, math and so much more as it relates to the topic they are excited about. To keep it all organized we use Fun-Schooling Journals that help the children dig into their favorite themes, topics, passions and interests while covering all the required subjects. Fun-Schooling Journals keep it all organized so mom can relax while the kids do the work of learning. Yes, work. Kids are happy to work, research, study and learn when it is relevant to them. What do you have to do? You need to teach your child where to find information about their favorite topics, help them use the local library, internet and family library to learn. You will also encourage them do real life projects related to their passion, and connect with others who are interested in the same passion, as they get older they can talk to experts, volunteer in the field, participate in an internship and even start a business based on their passions. Young children may bounce from one topic to another, and that’s perfectly normal and loads of fun! 4. Understand the 5 KEYS to Natural Learning

Traditional methods of teaching children with desks, textbooks and quizzes revolve around a teacher’s need to control 25 to 30 children all at once. What a difficult task! It is impossible to teach the way children learn in a classroom, but at home it’s easy! If children cannot learn the way we teach, we must teach the way they learn!

The first key to learning is a spark of curiosity.

The second key is a quest for knowledge and information inspired by curiosity.

The third key is the emotion of discovery.

The fourth key to learning and remembering is the spontaneous sharing of one’s discovery.

The fifth key to learning is the creation of something new! It takes knowledge, passion, skills and understanding to do this!

This is how all people learn. No flash cards, no grades, no tests, no rewards,

or punishments are involved in true learning. We easily learn what we desire to know.

5. Understand Your Child’s Learning Style (Learning Language).

The Five Learning Languages: Detectives, Creators, Followers, Friends & Explorers

You may not know how to discover your child's optimal learning environment. You may not understand your child's learning style but figuring out how your child learns is easier than you think! Just watch him or her PLAY! By watching your child play, you can discover a lot about your child's learning style and learning language!

Once you understand how your child naturally relates to learning, you can give them the right tools, the right education, and the most efficient help.

I will briefly explain each of the learning languages that I have observed in homeschooled children.

Detectives are full of questions and love to research. They love libraries, computers, mysteries and quests. They take things apart. They want answers, they want to know “WHAT" happened and “WHAT" things are made of. They ask a lot of questions and spend a lot of time digging deep. They may want to know everything they can about a topic and may have one dominating interest for months or even years. Find out what topics the Detective wants to study and encourage them to get the books, tools and resources they need to study every detail. They may be very protective of their knowledge and not want to open up about what they are researching, it can be very personal. On the other hand, they may be very proud of their knowledge, to the point that it is all they talk about.

Detectives often know what they want to be when they grow up by the time they are seven or eight, so be sure to help them learn everything they want to know about that career. Be willing to do whatever you can to help the child immerse in the subjects they want to study. They are capable of becoming an expert at a young age.

Creators are the kids that are always doing something inventive, artistic or new. They want to figure out “HOW" to do things and how things are made. They are hands-on learners and do everything in their own way. They learn best when they have freedom to be creative. They can be messy, active, and innovative. Sometimes they will disappear into their own world only to appear later to show you their invention or artwork. They have vast imaginations, and often think in pictures. They may be interested in taming or training animals. They think outside the box and are not interested in doing anything without visible results.

They learn best when they are making something or working with their hands. They learn with the goal of doing something with the knowledge immediately. They love watching tutorials, performances and live demonstrations and they copy what they have learned adding their own innovative ideas to the project. They love the arts, and may be good at sports, music or dancing. They often learn to read later than others but are very talented! Kids with Dyslexia are often amazing Creators.

Followers learn best by following instructions, copying, watching the teacher or parent and doing what they are told. They are the kids that like recipes, kits, desks, and workbooks. They tend to do well in a classroom setting. Teachers love them. They want to follow the instructions! They are eager to learn for the sake of pleasing the people they love and respect. They are not likely to ask, “Why do I need to learn this?" They just want to pass the test. They focus on the process of learning more than the results or product. Followers are natural scholars, and often like the structure of traditional schooling. They may become very discouraged when they fail to get a good grade or pass a test. They want to please. They may not naturally “think outside the box". They like working in a quiet setting but are often content in a classroom setting. They may also love organized sports because rule following, keeping score and being on the winning team is so satisfying for them.

This child just wants a good grade, and your approval. A good score is enough of a motivation to do well in school. They listen well, make good students and good employees. They are the teacher’s pet and will work eagerly toward diplomas and degrees, with hopes of landing a great job in the future.

Friend Learners learn best in the context of a close relationship. “Read to me! Play with me! Look at me!" They want to do things together and they learn best when having fun. They like to have a lot of conversation. Learning is very social. They are very interested in people and want to know “WHO" did this or that. They like to snack, chat and talk about what they are learning, and they tend to enjoy watching “educational shows" with friends and family. With friend learners, education may revolve around tea time, board games, read aloud time, collaboration on a project or a rowdy playtime.

Friend Learners enjoy taking lessons and respond well to one on one instruction from someone they admire. They like social studies, but may not call it that, they are just very curious about people. They enjoy pets. They enjoy teaching others about what they are learning. They can't focus long on tasks if they are working alone. Their learning will look quite a lot like their play. They learn best by doing projects together and reading together. They want to share what they are learning and care about relationships.

Explorers want to go somewhere and do something. They learn best through experience and discovery. They are full of ideas. They may be impulsive and willing to take risks. They want to know “WHERE" to go and what to do. They often want a dog or horse as a pet, so they can go places with their animal.

They love zoos, parks, caves, stores, museums and just want to go places with you. It's easy to make “everything educational" with these kids. These kids are adventurous and want the freedom to do things their own way. They want to take charge and like to lead. They crave NEW experiences.

Geography, Space and Travel are good subjects for these students - especially if they actually get to go somewhere or plan a trip. They are often interested in many different things and can quickly move from one subject to another. If life isn't interesting enough for them, they will get sucked into video games and TV to satisfy their craving for adventure. Find out what topics the Explorer wants to learn about and create a learning plan based on their interests.

Be ready to move on to the next thing when the Explorer wants to learn something new. Learning lots of new things brings the Explorer so much joy. Explorers who are forced to learn like Followers will often show symptoms of ADHD. Once you understand your child's learning language you will have a clearer idea of what motivates your child to learn! For many parents this is a revelation that helps when to unlock their child's potential.

6. Choose to use Materials or Activities that Spark Curiosity.

A bored child is not learning. A crying child is not learning. A distracted child is not learning about the topic at hand. Your child may be sitting in a desk working dutifully it a multiple-choice workbook, looking like the ideal student while learning nothing because they have no interest in the content they are being required to study. They may memorize the information just long enough to get the right answer on a test, but as soon as the test is taken, they forget everything because it isn’t meaningful. So why waste so much time on things that don’t stick? When a child is learning they are curious. When a child is curious, they naturally begin a quest for knowledge. When a child makes a discovery based on his own curiosity and quest, he feels something! Joy, wonder, satisfaction, and sometimes sadness or anger is felt as a result of the child’s discovery. Emotions help us to remember what we learned! If a child is just plugging away out of duty, learning isn’t real and lasting. You know your child is really learning when she wants to share her discovery, if she’s has nothing to show for all that time doing schoolwork, she doesn’t really care about all that work, and it isn’t going to stick. Curiosity matters. If your child lights up, your child is ready to learn. If your child is asking questions, they are ready to learn. If your child is having fun, he is engaged in the learning process and you are on the right track. It’s okay if learning looks like play. When a child it truly learning they will first approach learning with an attitude of play that leads to experimenting, at that point children will actually work hard to dig deeper into a topic and you will see deep focus and self -develop. A Fun-Schooling child is not a child who lacks discipline, direction and dedication to learning. A Fun-Schooling child often becomes an expert at a young age and can easily advance to higher levels of learning much more quickly than children who are only studying grade level material. A child whose education is driven by curiosity is a child who becomes very resourceful and capable when it comes to learning independently and efficiently, and isn’t that the goal? So if the learning materials do not interest your child and spark curiosity, dump it, don’t push it. There is so much available that makes learning a delight.

Flipping to Fun-Schooling – Just Do It!

Now that you have decided to flip to fun-schooling you will need to set aside a time to make it happen. It will take about two weeks. You don’t have to wait until the next semester or the next school year or the next holiday. You can get started now. Ask your kids what books, workbooks, programs and online learning tools they are tired of, or just don’t like. Get rid of those things first. Just stop.

Start your own quest to understand what your child is really into. What are your child’s interests? If your child is addicted to gaming or anything else, you may have trouble discovering your child’s true passions, gifting and talents until you unplug them from their addiction. Sometimes children are so wrapped up in the stress of obligatory education and the addiction to gaming that you have no idea who your child really is. Put a stop to the ineffective learning methods and unplug the child (and yourself) from overuse of media on the same day. It might to be best to get out of the house for the first few days, make it a library day, go to a museum, hike, get out in nature, have a board game day or baking day. Have a bonfire with the old curriculum or take it to goodwill, if it’s in good condition let your child make some money by selling all the old curriculum on eBay, with one requirement, that they spend the money on a something for a project.

Once you have your old curriculum cleaned out, and your child is unplugged from excessive media and gaming you are ready to start Fun-Schooling! Clean up your space and get ready to reorganize what’s left into TOPICS and THEMES! Get a few big baskets. Label them based on your child’s passions. For example, one basket can be “Horses” one can be “Fashion” one can be “Travel” and one can be “Cooking”. Add stuff to each basket, use what you have on hand, go to the library, order a few things online. Ask other moms who are fun-schooling what they are using with their kids who love the same topic. To organize your child’s learning and create a beautiful portfolio of your child’s work, get a Fun-Schooling Journal to add to the child’s Fun-Schooling Basket.

The journals are created to help your child study their favorite topics while still covering all those required subjects!

Most Fun-Schoolers feel like it’s important to add in a fun math curriculum, or online math game, a few times each week. Thinking Tree Books offers lots of fun-schooling activity books based on the fundamental truths of curiosity driven learning to help with spelling, reading, math, geography and more! Since many Fun-Schoolers have Dyslexic children in the family (1 in 5 students have symptoms of dyslexia) we also recommend so your child can overcome reading confusion without stress, the Fun-School way.

Every Fun-Schooling family has different passions, needs, goals and world views, but one thing that they all have in common is the belief that learning happens when children are curious! And learning happens best when the curious child is growing up in an environment where he or she is free to focus on topics that matter to them in a personal way, without the stress that comes from an outdated system of obligatory education.

If you are ready to Flip to Fun-Schooling, the time is always now, and there are many parents who have gone down this road before you, don’t hesitate to join our community for advice, support and tips!

Join our Fun-Schooling Support Group on Facebook:

Check out our Fun-Schooling Books!

By Sarah Janisse Brown, creator of Dyslexia GAmes, founder of Thinking Tree Books, and a mom of 15 creative kids!

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