My oldest son is a natural learner. He is a curious type and just loves the process of learning something new. Some think he’s a walking Jeopardy game at some of the things that he knows. I love learning but sometimes I’m not so good at retaining. I like to read, to hear something, or experience something new that will add to my life’s journey. Some subjects are more attractive than others, but overall I like to learn new things.
One of the most valuable gifts you can give your child is to foster their natural curiosity through the learning process. That’s a big fancy sentence to say that you should give your child an appetite, or maybe even a hunger, for learning. In today’s information age, those who know more will be those who win more. So what strategies can you use for your child, even if they don’t love school?
- Make learning fun. Kids and adults will do more of what is fun to them. So, naturally, to make children want to learn then you need to make it fun. Use games and other activities; there are all sorts of ideas on the internet for learning games so search and use some of those if you need ideas.
- Don’t use learning activities as punishment (study, writing sentences, reading, etc). Does anyone remember having to write 100 sentences like “I will not talk in class”? How did that make you feel about writing for the rest of the day? Or how about making you go read the Bible when you do something wrong? Why would we ever use something that we want our children to do (and repeat) as a punishment for something we didn’t want them to do?
- Capitalize on their learning style. As we mentioned earlier, identifying your child’s learning style (audio, visual, or kinesthetic) and creating an environment that plays to that style is critical to keeping them engaged and excited about learning.
- Reinforce them for discretionary learning activities. It’s refreshing to see children doing something other than Facebook, video games, watching TV or talking on a cell phone. If you catch them reading, studying, or creating because they want to and not because they have to, recognize and reward that activity.
- Dig in to their interests; you can figure out what things interest them by listening to them or watching them play. My daughter is the creative type. She makes things with paper, straws, skewers, popsicle sticks, construction paper, glue, crayons, markers, tape, and the like. She writes stories, she draws, and she explores. She has a decorative geode in her room and today just asked questions about where it came from, how it was made, what kind of rock, and so on. She made a broom out of skewers, straws, and tape. We just let her do it because it fuels her brain so much more than SpongeBob does.
- Celebrate their strengths. Don’t try to make them something that they are not.
- Be an example. Let your kids see you learning. Model the behavior for them through reading, continuing education, and so forth. We could all stand a break from the TV and computer screen.
Like it or not, learning is a lifelong process. The sooner our children figure that out, the better. Too many kids are running around, barely getting through school, thinking that once they finish high school they will never crack a book again. Technology changes too much for anyone to expect that they learned all they ever need to know in high school. In The Millionnaire Next Door, Thomas Stanley cites a statistic which says that the average millionnaire reads a non-fiction book a month. But another study shows that the average American spends 35 hours a week on TV and other media. Which average do you want your child to be part of?