by Carol Chandler-Wood
Have you ever watched a baby or young child learn by exploring the world around? The eagerness in the child’s face demonstrates a yearning to learn as much and as fast as possible! Learning opens up a new world by enabling us to understand how things connect, act, and react to each other! It is important that as children grow up and there are more demands on them for earning high scores and good grades, that their zest for learning not be replaced by a dread of learning.
So, how do we instill a love of learning in our children and students? In contemplating an answer to this question, I ask myself what would have caused me to want to learn as a child, and during my professional career as an educator, what have I observed to cause students to want to learn. Following are a few thoughts…
In order to instill a love for learning in a child, if parents and teachers are enthused about what they are teaching, it is likely that the child will be excited, too, since children often mirror the attitudes and actions of those with whom they associate. It is also important to learn alongside your child by taking the time to become familiar with the same topics he or she is learning about in school. Select a book your child is reading in English class, read it at the same pace as your child, and talk in depth together about the class assignments. The same can be done with a chapter from a history, science, or economics book.
Model or demonstrate a love of your own learning, as it is difficult for some teenagers to see why they should put time and energy into learning something new, especially if they do not see their parents taking the time to learn new things, too. Read books and talk about them with your child. Talk about current events, history, politics, or social justice at the dinner table and in the car.
At the core of learning, there also needs to be a reason or purpose for the student to want to learn the information being presented. In other words, the usefulness of what is to be learned is important. If learning by rote memorization, a child can become bored and unexcited about the content. Additionally, learning a topic must make sense and be logical. A student needs to know from where this new information to be learned originated. He or she needs to understand how the information can be applied to other concepts and situations. It is vital to answer the questions of who, what, where, when, and how, but, the question WHY must be addressed, as well!
A few examples follow: When teaching a new vocabulary word, teach the student from where the word derived, the various parts of the word; i.e., prefix, suffix, root; and how the word can be applied in writing and in conversation. In literature, what life, religious, and/or cultural experiences caused an author to write about what he or she did, and how did this piece of literature affect culture and society of that time and during future years? In math, not only what is surface area, but where can examples be seen, and when calculating total surface area, what does that number represent? In science, what causes cells to multiply and divide, and once they do, what are they transformed into?
In today’s educational environment of standardized tests and test preparation, one of the greatest challenges teachers and parents face is being able to be creative in their lesson plans. Often they feel that they are so busy teaching students to take upcoming tests that they have lost the ability to be creative and teach “outside of the box”. Therefore, the task of motivating our children to want to and love learning, demands that parents take some of this responsibility and learn how to instill the love of learning in their children.
Children love learning when they know why it is important to learn the information, feel engaged in the topic being presented and competent in their ability to apply the knowledge, not when they are only lectured to. By being involved in your children’s learning, you will provide both you and them the opportunity to build their knowledge base, create effective life-long habits, and even more importantly, build a stronger connection with the world and with you through their love of learning.