how do kids learn: a picture of a black mother painting with 2 small girls

How do Kids Learn

How do kids learn? How does someone of any age learn? 

To be honest, we don’t understand precisely how our brains accumulate, integrate, and use the information to produce new ideas or skills. The science is just too young, and it’s more of a complicated process than we imagined.  

For instance, when we learn to add, the information is stored in one brain area. But as we get better and become math fluent, our brains move that same information to a new location.

However, science is working on learning the most beneficial ways we can learn and teach our kids. 

In this article, I will give you a brief overview of Abraham Maslow’s 4 stages of learning. Then I will show you how to use that information to homeschool your kids in a self-directed, exploration-loving way. 

The 4 Stages of Learning

Abraham Maslow was a well-known researcher and teacher of psychology in the mid-1900s. He is probably best known for his theory of the hierarchy of needs

But he also created the most concise summarization of the learning process. 

The Learning Process

  1. Unconscious incompetence
  2. Conscious incompetence
  3. Conscious competence
  4. Unconscious competence.

Unconscious Incompetence

We don’t know everything. And before we want to learn something, we aren’t always aware that we don’t know it. 

An example: a kid doesn’t know how a sweater is made.

Conscious Incompetence

This stage is understanding that you lack a skill or understanding.

Following the example: the kid sees someone knitting a sweater and realizes they want to create one.

Conscious Incompetence

This stage is where we put in the work. This is the stage when we practice. 

Example: The child learns a simple stitch. Then starts doing small projects. 

Unconscious Incompetence

This stage is when you have mastered a skill.

Example: The child makes a sweater with ease. 

So How Do Kids Learn? Using the Learning Process in Homeschool

One of my favorite perks with homeschooling is that we are free to follow a child’s interests. But along with that freedom also comes the fear that our kids will miss crucial skills or knowledge. 

Or worse, they won’t develop any interests at all, like teens that seem content to zone out on social media or games. 

How can we guide them in learning what they need to know and finding their passion?

The Secret Sauce

There is something that all humans love:

Creating things.

The ability to imagine something that doesn’t exist then use tools and materials to create it sets us apart from almost all other animals. Our love for creativity goes back at least 2.6 million years in human history when we first started making tools. 

It is the tool we need to motivate kids to cross from conscious incompetence to conscious competence. 

how do kids learn? pinterest image of a black mother painting with 2 small girls
Pint this!

How do kids learn: Using Creation in the Learning Process

After introducing our kids to things, they create something to get that active, hands-on experience required for unconscious competence. 

What kinds of things can we create?

First, you can create art. 

Does your child like music? Not only can they learn to create music, but they also get to skills like reading music and the opportunity to create friendships if they have a teacher or are in a band. In addition, they can create diagrams of sound waves or even create their own instruments. 

Next, you can create experiences. 

If you can make a kid laugh or let them eat something, you have their attention. And together, you are creating a treasured experience. 

We can use games to help kids experience positive emotions like victory while practicing boring skills like addition. 

We can use field trips or parties to bring a social element to these experiences to make them unforgettable. 

Last, you can create solutions. 

Kids love to be independent. If we let them struggle and create solutions, we can teach them practical skills beyond academics. 

We can use this to teach kids hygiene, social skills, household and vehicle management, problem-solving skills, and time management skills. 

Alternative Teaching Methods

When we think about the driving force of learning as the ability to create, it is easy to dismiss the familiar lecture-style formula of education as the only valid method. 

Homeschooling gives us the freedom to fill our days with imaginative ways of learning that more easily lends themselves to creativity. I have listed a few below. 


Named after its developer, Maria Montessori, the Montessori Method is popular among us homeschoolers. 

It is about teaching kids valuable skills while honoring their natural curiosity and encouraging responsibility and independence. 

Click here to learn more about Montessori. 


Waldorf, also called Steiner, is another popular method among homeschoolers. It’s about engaging a child’s head, heart, and hands. It’s best known for its push to get kids outside in every type of weather. 

Click here to learn more about Waldorf. 


Strewing is a popular method of introducing kids to ideas or experiences without any expectations about what reaction the children will have. 

You simply leave things (books, hobby supplies, games, etc.) around your home in accessible places and see if your kids become interested. 

Click here to read more about strewing.

Project-Based Learning

This method is also popular in the homeschooling world. What better way to learn to measure than building something? Or learning to recognize your name from doing a puzzle? 

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And project-based learning isn’t just great for learning academic material. It is also perfect for learning practical skills like planning, communicating, and problem-solving. 

Click here to read more about project-based learning. 

Collaborative, Interest-Based Clubs

Have a kid interested in cooking? Join a club. 

What better way to get hands-on experience, learn from others, collaborate in projects, meet friends and mentors, and learn social skills? 

Many places will have a wide variety of groups available. 

Where to Find Clubs

  • Homeschool Groups
  • Local Library
  • Online Community Groups 
  • Churches
  • Museums
  • Universities, Colleges 
  • Homeschool Websites (Virtual groups)

Of course, you do not have to use all or any of these in your homeschool. This is just a guide.

But, I would love to hear how you use these methods in your own homeschool. So, leave me a comment below!

Power of Failure and Self-Esteem

One often overlooked part of learning is failure. 

It is inevitable, yet our society demonizes it. When kids struggle in school, they are often left with poor self-esteem. 

However, failure is rarely all or nothing. And we can teach our kids that there is power in failure. 

With each setback, we can reassess and learn a little more. Then, we can tweak our approach until we achieve our goal. In fact, this is an integral part of the engineering process. 

And when we allow kids to fail, then support them to try again, we can help their self-esteem by accepting their failure and comforting them. At the same time, they learn to process stress and frustration. 

They can learn problem-solving skills and essential character traits like resilience and determination. 

How do Kids Learn: Conclusion

The power to harness the learning process lies in our instinctive love of creativity. Using creativity to drive your homeschool will open up a world of experiential learning that will motivate everyone in your family to learn new things. 

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