Albert Einstein once said, “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”
It’s well known that Einstein was never one for the classroom. While he excelled in many of his studies, school left him frustrated. He eventually dropped out of school when he was fifteen. His personal value of school aside, Einstein had something beyond the book of knowledge that drove his ongoing discovery of the world. He had grit, curiosity, and a thirst for learning that drove his brilliant advances in science and mathematics.
While we know that most of us don’t have an Einstein living under our roof, we do want our kids to have that same thirst for knowledge. As parents, we hope that our kids will discover a passion within them for a lifetime love of learning.
This love of learning starts at home in the environment we create for our kids at each phase of their life. Here are a few ideas to consider as you help your own kids value their education and develop a passion for discovering something new about their world.
Let them ask questions
At some point around the age of two or three, kids will start asking “why?”—all the time. And this pretty much doesn’t stop until they learn how to Google or ask Siri and don’t need to ask you anymore. As frustrating as all the “why” questions can be at times, asking questions is a good thing. Wonder and curiosity is something built within our DNA, but it’s something that must be cultivated throughout our lives. Giving kids a chance to ask questions, and tapping into their natural sense of wonder, lets them know that questions are an important part of learning and discovery.
Engage their interests
Let’s be honest. Not every kid loves school or learning, especially when they struggle with certain subjects. Other times, kids simply don’t have an interest in what they are being taught. Some gravitate towards math and science, while others excel in the humanities. Play to your kids’ strengths and engage their interests. Find way to help them learn what doesn’t interest them as much by tapping into what makes them tick. All kids are wired for fun, so make it fun. When we engage their interests and play to their strengths, we encourage a life-long love of learning in an area where they might have long term success as an adult.
We once had a teacher tell us that she actually likes when kids make mistakes because it gives her insight into how they’re learning and what she needs to do to help them succeed. When kids realize everyone makes mistakes when they are learning something new, and it’s part of learning, they will begin to value the process. Kids won’t be afraid to experiment and try new things when the weight of perfection is lifted. So create a culture in your family where everyone is trying new things, and where failure is okay. Even if you don’t succeed the first time—or the tenth time—you’re learning and growing, and hopefully having some family fun along the way.
It’s hard to expect our kids to value learning if we don’t demonstrate that we value it in our own lives. Talk to your kids about what you’re discovering as you read, complete work projects, or have compelling conversations with others. Learn something new and bring your kids in on the process. Ask questions and look things up together, read books or watch TED talks together, and discuss over dinner. Make learning a regular part of your home life.
Interact with their teachers
Even if your kids seem to be doing well in school, reach out to their teachers. Volunteer in the classroom. Find out what your kids are learning and have meaningful conversations about school. Other than home, school is where they spend most of their time. So partner with teachers to help your kids have the best experience possible. This also builds bridges with teachers, so if something comes up that needs to addressed, you have some relational equity that will help you navigate those conversations well.
You may discover your own way of helping your kids value learning. However you do that, always keep the spirit of fun. Learning something new will help you become better at whatever you do. That’s something to celebrate. Help make learning enjoyable and something your kids will strive to do the rest of their lives.