Parents provided tips for education at home

GLORIETA, N.M. (BP)--Educating children at home is rewarding, challenging and definitely possible for parents who are creative and persistent as home educators, according to speakers at a national conference on home schooling, Aug. 17-20, and Glorieta (N.M.) Baptist Conference Center.

Vicki Brady, hostess of "Homeschool Live" on the Home Education Network, said parents should be as positive as possible in motivating their children to learn.

"Rewards work well," said Brady, who lives in Idaho Springs, Colo. "How many of you are expecting rewards when you get to heaven? God uses a reward system, yet I hear so many parents who are afraid of rewarding their children.

"They think they're bribing them to do something. I don't call it a bribe. I like to look at it as sanctified bait," she said, as her audience broke into laughter.

During a workshop entitled "Honey or Vinegar: Motivational Techniques," Brady asked the group to consider the traditional way of grading papers, namely circling errors in red ink.

"Did you ever think of going through and circling all the words that were correct?" she asked. "Affirm them in what they are doing well, and they will do it even better -- and they will do it faster."

With her children, Brady uses a reward system of three shoe boxes wrapped in three colors of wrapping paper: the first box in brightly colored wrap, the second in silver metallic wrap and the third in gold wrap.

Each shoebox contains several slips of paper with prizes written on them. The desirability of the prizes improves from the first box to the third.

When a child accumulates points by doing well on assigned work, they may redeem the points by drawing a slip of paper and receiving a prize -- or they can save the points for a higher numbered box.

Brady said prizes need not cost much and can involve such rewards as playing a favorite game with parents, a day off from chores, rental or purchase of a video, choice of menu for a meal at home, a special treat from the grocery store, tickets to a sporting event or going to a movie with a friend.

But she cautioned against expecting too much too fast from students in lower grades.

"Younger children are harder to motivate than older children," Brady said. "Sometimes it just takes maturity. ... You've got to recognize that the little guys just aren't going to be able to do as much, and it's going to take a greater amount of work and reward system for them."

Even though she prefers positive means of motivation, sometimes negative approaches are also necessary, Brady added.

"We try very hard to work with rewards," she said. "But consequences do work, and they sometimes need it."

A major punishment for willful disobedience in Brady's household is three days without access to household items that operate on electricity, such as video games, VCRs, curling irons, radios and stereos.

"You only have to do that about once a year, and it works," Brady said. "That really is good for older children who love computers -- no computers for three days."

Brady said other negative consequences in her home include suspension of allowances or telephone privileges, skipping desserts and extra chores.

Another speaker encouraged parents not simply to impart knowledge but to train children in how to learn.

"The measure of your success with your children isn't what they know when you're through with them, but how well they are equipped to find out what they need to know," Sally Clarkson, a seminar speaker with Whole Heart Ministries in Fort Worth, Texas, said.

She emphasized the importance of the spiritual dimension to learning.

"It tells us in Proverbs that the beginning of wisdom is the fear of God," said Clarkson, whose topic was Building Mental Muscles: Strengthening Your Child's Mind to Learn for God.

Parents "cannot disconnect knowledge and understanding. ... God in Christ holds all the knowledge and wisdom we would ever need," she stated.

Small children love to learn, because that's the way God created them, Clarkson said. "The reason a four-year-old asks 100 questions a day is God made a child to love knowledge."

Clarkson urged the group to help their children desire the right kinds of knowledge.

"Whatever we give our children a taste for -- a yearning for -- is what they will learn to love," she said. "Children should be given an appetite for great literature ... for the best art, for the best music.

"We understand they are created in God's image. They have a great capacity to think. ... We have to feed that mind with the very best there is."

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