I don’t know if it is because I have studied education, or if people just sense that I have a passion for how children learn, but I get asked a lot of questions about kids, learning, and schooling choices. I love being asked because if I have already searched out information for myself I can share what I’m learning, and if it is a new question to me, it gives me something to go search. I love doing that. (So keep the questions coming!)
One thing that I hear quite often is parent’s desire to have children who love to learn. It seems none of us want to be the ones with the kids that hate school. How can we make sure that our children love to learn? In other words, how can we encourage them to be life-long learners?
There are many different facets to this question. Whole philosophies of education have been formed from this very question. But here is one key element: children learn best by what we model, not by what we say.
Let me relate to you an experience I recently shared with my 4 year old.
A few months ago when we moved into our apartment, I met our neighbor who is from Bhutan. I must admit that I didn’t even know where Bhutan was located, much less, anything about the country. I came home and asked my husband who told me it was by India. I’m embarrassed to say, but at the time, I was content with only that little bit of information.
As the months went on, through talking with her, I learned a bit more information. I learned that she was here seeking religious freedom.This struck me because I knew she was a practicing Hindu. I didn’t even have a framework to fit that in. When I think of people looking for religious freedom, I think of orthodox Christians in Islamic or Communist countries. In theory, I know that there are other people that suffer religious persecution, but I had never met anyone. I decided I wanted to learn more.
My experience with Stefan:
Stefan and I were talking about our neighbor and the fact that she came from a different country. I casually said to him, “Stefan, Mommy doesn’t know much about Bhutan and I really would like to learn, do you want to come see if we can find some pictures on the internet?” What four year old is going to say no to some computer time?
The phrase I kept hearing over and over was: “Mommy, I’ve never seen that before!” Well, of course. Here in America:
- We don’t see little boy monks.
- We don’t see beautiful, artistic temples.
- We don’t see painted prayer wheels.
- We don’t see men in robes practicing archery.
- We don’t see bright, colorful costumes.
- We don’t look out our window to see the Himalayan Mountains.
What I learned:
I learned that over 3/4 of the country is Buddhist, with 1/4 being Hindu, and everything else (Catholic, Protestant, Islam, and non-religious) comprising less than 1 percent. While technically the country has religious freedom, this simply means that they will not, by force or violence, make anyone become a Buddhist. Other groups cannot, however, have a meeting place or any other official recognition. This means that if you are a Christian (or in my neighbor’s case, a Hindu) you cannot meet with others of like faith to practice your religion.
I also learned that you cannot visit the country unless you are invited by a government official or are on a guided tour. You must also pay the government $250 per day just for being in the country.
I now have a lot more information and interesting facts about Bhutan to make a connection with my neighbor. I’m so glad I learned.
What Stefan learned:
He didn’t learn any facts. No doubt less than 2.5 seconds after I told him that Bhutan was located in the Himalayan Mountains he completely forgot. That’s okay.
He may or may not remember some of the pictures he saw that he might make a connection with later. It’s doubtful, though.
So what was the real benefit?
He was excited to share what we had seen with his Dad. We prayed for Christians in the country of Bhutan, as well as our neighbor. And probably the biggest impact was that he saw Mommy genuinely interested and learning about something.
So how can you encourage a life long learner? It starts with you.
Have you found ways to encourage children to love learning? Please leave a comment. I’d love to hear!