A child only educated at school is an uneducated child. —George Santavana
School is out and many educational experts would say learning is on hold. So parents…… it’s up to you! Remember, learning doesn’t just happen in a classroom. How, and when do children learn? Learning…can be anytime, anywhere, on demand and individualized. Parents as their child’s first and foremost teacher can be in a position to assist their child in 24/7 learning. Learning is most optimal when it can be as individualized as the kid. Teachers know that this is important, but struggle to achieve this with increased class sizes and academic achievement. But parents can, if they take on the challenge. With a little planning and researching, parents can fill their child’s day with many brain boosting activities and strategies.
To quote philosopher George Santavana—“A child only educated at school is an educated child”. Lifelong learning goes far beyond the classroom setting and summer can be the perfect time to set your child on a journey to authentic learning. Let’s start with the notion that learning can and should be fun. Ideally, we can learn to capitalize on our child’s ideal learning style. Many kids prefer hands on learning and traditional classroom teachers are challenged to find the time and resources to provide learning activities are geared for hands on learners. Hands on learning can be both academic and fun.
As parents always remember to vary activities. Remember that a little fresh air is the best way to wake up a sleepy summer brain. Get them outside. Get them moving. Keep them reading. Keep them learning. Summer can be a great time to discover music, attend outdoor concerts, boost music lessons, write songs, make instruments or try a new instrument. Consider an outdoor talent show in your neighborhood.
Make your home “learning friendly”—fill with books, newspapers, games, how to manuals, magazines, and access to the internet. Be a learner yourself. Let your kids see you researching how to do things, and see you reading. Remember to TALK. Ask questions. Ask probing questions for deeper meaning and thoughts. Challenge each other. Learn from each other.
It has also been said that “Necessity is also the mother of invention”. Consider a hands-on project and the research that is necessary to complete it. My son-Cole has been a project kid. We have learned all sorts of things through his persistence and ongoing projects. We have taken on projects like survival skills including: catching water in a catchment system, making char cloth, constructing a fish trap, creating snares, beekeeping, willow whistles, blacksmithing techniques, fishing lures and fly-tying—(flies mimic insects actually found in nature, understanding of fish and entomology) as well as the perfect homemade dough bait prepared in my kitchen! We attempted engineering challenges like catapult creations, mobile ice house construction, leather making, knots and lashings, and coin collecting—just to name of view of his own-going learning bucket list. Has he traveled this learning journey alone? No—his father and I have learned alongside. As a parent I have also learned to take his lead. I’ve learned to support and encourage what he is interested in. As parents we have learned that lifelong learning is about giving kids learning experiences. It’s about asking questions. It’s about being mindful and observing their interests. It’s about letting them fail and learning from those failures. It’s about encouraging curiosity and not squelching ideas. It’s about asking thinking questions. It’s about knowing your child and where their interests lie.
Take time this summer to look at learning as a life time of exploration not only for your child but for yourself. Learning shouldn’t be a chore! Take time to let learn with your child!
Janet Smith is a Human Science Specialist-Family LIfe with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach. She currently provides family life programming in eight counties in southeast Iowa. Janet is a "parenting survivor". She is the mother of Jared-21, Hannah-20, and Cole-15. She and her husband, David have faced many challenges together, including their son Jared's Duchenne Muscular Dystrophy diagnosis.