If you can teach them to value the power of knowledge, you will be setting them up for success.
We live in an age when human knowledge is doubling every 12 months. Those who love to learn will flourish in this age of abundant information. Ironically, we also live at a time where superficiality is the new normal. There is such an abundance of information that people can’t distinguish between knowledge and sensationalism and between insight and opinion. People develop such poor learning aptitudes that they can’t distinguish between media hype and real education.
A worthy goal for all parents is to help children develop keen minds—intellects that can grasp the difference between sense and nonsense. By teaching them a love of learning, you’ll be guiding them to draw logical conclusions about the bewildering world around them.
How do you begin?
Depending on their age, here are four ideas to consider:
1. Find out about their interests.
When you know what your child’s interests, you can create a plan to learn things together. If your child is curious about how their immediate world came to be from a social perspective, then take that as a cue to learn history together. You can visit museums together. You can buy historical documents and decipher them together. You can take day trips to historic sites together.
2. Teach them about how to fix things.
There will be many opportunities to learn to fix things around the house, from screwing a loose doorknob back on to tanking up the oil in the car. By learning manual skills, you also help them learn about the art of making things. You can turn chores into a learning opportunity. For instance, if the garden needs to be weeded, you can take this as an opportunity to discuss botany.
3. Share your love for books.
By visiting the library, you can share your favorite books with your child. You can tell them what books you read when you were little and why you liked them. You might even read some classic children’s books like Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain aloud to them and explain the story as you go along. When your child sees how much you enjoy reading magazines and books, they will become curious about reading and feel proud to have their own library card. The great physicist Richard Feynman said that his favorite memories of his father were reading books together and discussing them. He loved finding out the answers to questions his father asked him. He described this as “the pleasure of finding out.” This curiosity led him to become curious about everything and he decided to become a physicist when he went to college to find out more about the nature of reality.
4. Learn art together.
You can both learn how to draw and paint together, and go to art museums. You can also decide how to learn a musical instrument together. Again, it’s not about being an expert at it, but demonstrating interest and curiosity.
You Don’t Need to Know the Answers
It doesn’t matter if you don’t know many of the things you want to teach your child. You can find out almost anything together on the Internet or through library books.
Here is what Ellen Booth Church, a PreK to K school teacher, discovered about how children love to learn: “I quickly learned from them that some of the best teaching is done when you stop teaching and follow a child’s lead. They taught me how to listen and watch, to ask questions, and to be real. I quickly realized that to be an effective model for learning I had to be authentic regarding my own thoughts, feelings, and values. What happened when I shifted gears and did this? I fell in love with learning in a way that I never experienced as a child or an adult! The children taught me the magic of play, whether it’s building a rocket out of blocks, pretending to be a princess, or exploring what a bullfrog does.”
Learning in School
Ironically, schools themselves teach a child to lose their innate interest in learning. This is not intentional, but an accidental aspect of institutionalizing the process of learning. Loss of interest in learning occurs because a new emphasis is placed on academic performance and competition. The focus shifts from learning to social pressures associated with learning.
By teaching your child to love learning during their early years of school, you will prevent them from getting caught up in the pressures of schooling. Their natural love of learning will not be undermined by peer pressure or teacher’s expectations. They will get good grades because they will have a natural curiosity about how things work.
Children love to learn. They don’t think of it as learning, but of finding out more about their world. Children are naturally curious. They want to know what, where, when, and how people, things, and events came to be. As a Dad, you can best prepare your children for life by instilling in them a love for lifelong learning. Show by example that learning doesn’t just happen in school, it happens as part of life.
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