First, get rid of the notion that kids don’t enjoy learning. Kids do enjoy learning. Give the video nut a new video, or the horse lover a new story about horses; they’ll learn it. Trust me.
Who lectured the infant in speech? Or the toddler in exploration? Columbus himself risked no more life or limb than the average a two year old in a family room. And the young child who was often read to, in close proximity to a loving caregiver or parent, has no trouble with the enchantment of learning to read.
Unfortunately, by necessity or design, elementary kids are slowly restricted from the everyday pleasures that made early learning so enjoyable: the reassuring physical contact of a loving authority figure, immediate praise and relevance of their learning to their immediate life. As a child walked better, he could go further. As they spoke better, they could talk to more people. But in elementary years, kids are gradually removed from the art and adventure of their warm preschool years and further reduced to flat education.
On the simplist level then, teachers and parents are challenged to set up experiences that will bring freshness back to education. First, they need to understand what type of learning the kids in their life most enjoy: auditory, visual, hands-on/kinesthetic.
The auditory child wants to hear dramatic stories or have the opportunity to discuss new ideas, two ideas that just aren’t possible in most schools. But at home you can thrill them with audio books on the subject, available online or at your local library, and introduce fantastic related trivia over dinner or a snack.
Visual kids need the beautiful books and fabulous illustrations of the event, the map or the bird. Take them to the museum so they can see the artifacts, research and look up a website or two.
Hands on kids need to make the bread the Colonial people made (or at least buy it at a bakery), experience a fog at the local science museum or climb the hill the battle was fought on.
Most kids will enjoy a combination experiences, but the teacher or guide in an adventure plays a role also. What would Harry be without Dumbledore and Hagrid? Samantha without her Grandmare or Uncle?
A disinterested parent or caregiver, who neither asks about work or who finds homework (or the child) bothersome, and in fact disdains learning him or herself, will be hard pressed to get their child engaged in learning because the parent is not engaged.
Unfortunately, some hurting kids are dealing with impersonal teachers day in and day out while mom and dad are in the process of divorcing and may be incapable of concentrating on academics. They can’t understand their home life, let alone some long-ago time period. They may need encouragement to begin with the tale of a child in similar lonely straits during that time period, or better yet, get them in some good therapy so they can deal with the difficulty and get back to enjoying learning again.
While the wake of divorce is an intense example, other more subtle disruptions can cause a child’s disinterest. Bullying, a fight with a friend, or even positive changes like a new brother or sister can throw a child’s interest temporarily. These disruptions need to be watched, while the child is encouraged, but not pushed, to return to life as usual. If they don’t resume their usual course after 3-6 weeks, they may need professional intervention.
Ultimately, involved parents or caregivers will discover what their child needs through trial and error, with the help of myriad resources and experts if they, too, enjoy their subjects.