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A few weeks ago, when attempting to define lifelong learning, I mentioned a walk on the beach and a smartphone inquiry to discover what organisms (a.k.a. “blobby circles”) were dotting the shoreline. My husband was the star lifelong learner there, answering the inevitable “what is that?” question with the honest “no idea—let’s find out” invitation.
Granted, the beach is not our home (see title above), but I think this illustration serves well the point that families can nurture a learning mindset any time, anywhere. Further, it helps me to start the conversation that lifelong learning is something we can foster from the earliest stages of life. When adults intentionally cultivate a culture of learning for the children in their care, these youngest students are gifted with a trait that will serve them well throughout life.
Still with me? Let’s take a look at five ways we can create an environment conducive to learning within our families.
- Know your learners. This is the teacher in me talking, but this isn’t a surprise for parents either. Do your kids learn the same way? Maybe. Maybe not. Here’s a trickier question. Do they learn the same way you do? I could spend months talking about learning styles and related themes here, but let’s make this as simple as possible for the moment. Does your oldest like to learn in a quiet setting, or with music playing? Does your youngest move around when memorizing her Bible passage for the week, or does she like to write it out? Answer this question for yourself, and compare. Observe the ways your family members learn, and write down a few traits. Now, keep this in mind when providing opportunities for learning (read on).
- Create learning spaces. Think about the family member who loves to read quietly, and reserve a clean corner of the house with books nearby so he or she can find a welcome escape. Think about the family member who learns by doing. Make sure there are experiments or crafts or building blocks within reach (and—if you’re the tidy type—perhaps out of sight for visitors). Simply put, think of what your learners like to do, and intentionally provide opportunities for that to happen in your home.
- Teach one another. That’s right—you’re not the only teacher in this family. Said another way, great teachers encourage new teachers. There’s an educational theory that suggests learners know their lesson best if they can teach it to others. So when the creative learner runs in the room with a new poem, take a moment to listen. When the bouncy learner skips over with a new game, give it a whirl. When you see a learner engrossed in a book, take some time later on to ask about it. Not all will share in the same ways, but by encouraging one another to discuss new learning, your family communicates the importance of learning as well as the importance of one another.
- Take the time. I write this point guilty of breaking it. Yes, my eager learner has hopped into the room with a new game to try when my hands were scrubbing pans. My analytical learner has expounded on deep thoughts while I was focusing on traffic. Dishes and driving are important, of course, but there are times when it’s better to let the spoons soak. There are times when a temporary delay just means intentional time later. And don’t neglect your own learning—let your little learners find you trying something new and sharing your discoveries along the way.
- Use the tools. I’m sure there is no limit to the comics or memes where eager parents or grandparents are pointing to beautiful scenery during a road trip only to be ignored by the kids who have their eyes and thumbs glued to their portable devices. Fair enough. We can all be guilty of becoming too attached to a screen and downright ignorant of the world around us. That said, technology can be an excellent tool for learning (pointing finger to beach story). The trick, of course, is to know when to use which tool. A toolbox holds a variety of screwdrivers and pliers for a reason: there is a time and place for different needs. A smartphone can, indeed, provide knowledge within seconds. A tent in the woods can, in contrast, provide time for introspection or meaningful dialogue. Consider the value of each learning tool and use it in its best ways.
In addition to these tips, you can take some of the ideas from my previous post on creating a learning lifestyle for yourself. By showing, for example, flexibility in the way you learn, you can promote that idea for your children as well. As your family adopts a few of these ideas, you can encourage one another in your lifelong learning together.
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The latest from The Lifelong Learner:
Lifelong Learning for Existential LearnersAugust 17, 2016
Lifelong Learning for Naturalist LearnersAugust 2, 2016
Lifelong Learning for Musical LearnersJuly 6, 2016
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