Over the weekend my husband, our adult children and I were playing a game of trivial pursuit. We came up against a term we couldn’t define.
The kids turned to each other and laughed, saying; “I guess we’d better look it up.” When they were little, the phrase “look it up” was a mantra we parents recited whenever our kids looked to us for instant answers.
When they were kids, they would run to the bookcase for a dictionary or an encyclopedia. On this occasion, out came their phones and they went to an on-line resource.
If we want our kids to pursue wanting to learn we need to create a learning environment. Part of that is helping them to take responsibility for their own learning. Hence, rather than define a word, they’d be told to look it up. If they needed more information we were always happy to take them to the library and get the appropriate books. Today we would work with them to find the information on-line.
Once they’ve gathered the new information make sure you let them tell you about the exciting new thing they’ve just learned.
It’s also important to let the kids see you look it up. Whether it’s a cookbook, a hobby oriented magazine, the daily newspaper or the Internet, make sure they’re aware that you learn by checking out the resources.
This kind of learning-rich environment will benefit your kids throughout their entire lives.
There’s a common expression that refers to children as sponges. They soak of all they see and experience. We can work to influence the quality of ideas, experiences and conversations they are soaking up.
Part of that is giving them the resources and letting them take charge of their learning. When we tell them to go look up a word they don’t understand, we are teaching them to be curious and to learn. Our job is to ensure that they have the resources to do the learning. So whether they have Internet access to dictionaries and encyclopedias, or hard copy access or you can send or take them to the library, the point is to teach them that asking questions, following up from those questions and moving forward with their new learnings is both possible and fun.
It isn’t just about academic learning. Letting a three-year-old dress herself is creating a learning environment. As she struggles to get her arm through the sleeve of her sweater she learns how to do the job in the easiest way possible and once the sweater is comfortably on, she can feel the pride of a job well done. Next time she is faced with a challenge she will give it a try.
Creating a learning environment for our children does not have to be an onerous undertaking. It’s simply seeing the opportunities for teaching. Invite the kids to help cook dinner and talk about nutrition. Why do you choose the range of foods you are planning to serve? Or have them help in the garden and talk about plants.
When you are traveling you can encourage the kids to read the tour books or follow the map on-line. They can take charge of determining the next town that is likely to have a good motel, campground or restaurant. Or they can be mapping out the route to a pre-determined location.
With younger kids you can tell them stories about where you are or whom you are planning to visit or show them some interesting features of the landscape.
The point is that our kids are sponges and are going to be soaking up everything around them. We have to decide what we want them to be learning. Of course, they will also learn from many other sources but we are their primary teachers.
As they get older they will pursue many different interests and it will be exciting to watch them learn, grow and develop.