Encouraging Our Children to be Life-Long Learners

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.

Some Background:

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?

Stefan showing his Dad a picture.

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!

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Comments

  1. Mom says:

    Wow! I just learned something! :-)

  2. Sarah Beals says:

    Great thoughts. You are so right about modeling life long learning. I think that we are so rushed about in this society, that sometimes we simply lack time to take new things in. :) This year is all about enjoying each little moment for me and my kiddos.

    • Johanna says:

      Yes, hence one of the thrusts of this blog. Slow down so we can truly live meaningful lives…and learn. :) Thanks for stopping by!

  3. Kristin J. says:

    Good post, friend! I’ve had friends who visited Bhutan to encourage sisters and brothers there through a tour, and remember them having to raise quite a bit more to pay that daily fee. The nations are at your door!!

  4. Donna says:

    As a professional educator, I think this is something that parents really need to grasp. Most of my students say things like “Why should I learn this? I’m never going to use it. Even my mom says that.” or other such ridiculous comments. I get irritated all the time. The point isn’t always that we will use it in the future. Sometimes the point is simply that we are learning, expanding our minds, and opening our brains to learn more. If parents modeled learning more, then our students would be more willing to learn. As it is, kids have this perception that they have to “survive” school until they get to real life and can live. Even college students that I have contact with have this same attitude. I had this same attitude. It has just been in recent years that I have really started trying to expand my own mind–though I’ve always wanted to go on for more education—that’s how I viewed it–learning in school, but not necessarily adding it as part of my life.
    Great post!

    • Johanna says:

      Agreed! I wish I had had my current philosophy of learning when I was in college. But I guess that is what growing and maturing is all about!

  5. Jessica says:

    My husband does a lot of political research in the evenings, and my 5 year old has asked on many occasions when he can do research like his daddy. We’ve told him that he needs to start by learning what is in his school books and to study the Bible, and one day he’ll be ready to do in-depth research like Daddy.

    • Johanna says:

      That is great! Isn’t it amazing how they want to do everything Mommy and Daddy do? A great way to encourage a desire to learn!

  6. Rebecca says:

    That applies to reading books too, right? We have a book contest that includes our immediate family plus Aunt Esther. Last year, Aunt Esther won with I think 60 books, and our 9yo came in second…I trailed with a pitiful 6 or 7. This year, I realized that for many reasons, I need be serious. Not only so that my children will realize that their mother is valid competition (there is an element of respect that they truly need to have) but also, I need to be reading!! So, keep the book recommendations coming…esp the short ones! :) JK. I have finished 2 books this week and need to read , like, 2 or 3 a week to catch up to Sarah. :) Seriously, though, it has been phenomenal already for me…I am learning, and hope that my children will see me doing that, like you said.

    • Johanna says:

      A book contest is a great idea! Maybe you could have a page number equals a book thing so that it was easier to keep up with the kids. (Like 100 pages + 1 book).

      All of these are pretty short. Half the Church is the longest but definitely worth the read!

    • Erika says:

      Esther shared about this idea a little! How great–definitely motivating as my oldest are blossoming readers!! Not that I need much of a push to read–my book list for the year is already too long, I think. :)

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  1. [...] through. Once that is done, we can move on to life. I do not want my children to think like that. Life is learning. Until we die we will always be learning. I want my children to embrace that. Learning is a gift of [...]

  2. [...] an atmosphere of life-long learning in our [...]

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