Yes, “lifelong learning” is starting to (or has already) become a cliché, but this is an important part of growing up. It is one of those things that needs to be nurtured and to some extent taught (at least the basics). Being a lifelong learner is generally defined as the self-motivated pursuit of knowledge for a variety of reasons. Now, that sounds very nice and it might be interesting in theory, but what are the benefits? Being a lifelong learner can create a variety of positive aspects in life. Having new ideas and new ways of looking at the world can help people find jobs (or retain them) or just have a more fulfilled life. So, how do you encourage and help your child achieve this goal? It’s a difficult question to answer, but there are some things you can do (along with your child) to try to foster a lifelong learner.
Firstly, try to start young, but do not be discouraged if you did not (it should be mentioned that it is never too late). Children have an ingrained desire for knowledge and to learn about the world around them. Encourage them to ask questions about topics that are interesting to them. If they ask a question you do not know how to answer, a quick Google search will give you a satisfactory response. Giving your children an answer to their questions is a great encouragement to keep them asking, first you, then their teachers/peers and even themselves.
Next, ask your children to explain something they are interested in. It should not matter that you know it much better than they do, they should have an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge. For example, if your child is interested in dogs, ask them to tell you the breed of every dog you see and something interesting about it. Do not be harsh if they make a mistake. Just gently correct and move on. Being mistaken is not a big deal and should not be made into a big deal.
Once your child tells you about something they are interested in, consider sharing something that interests you (explained in an age-appropriate way, of course). For example, if you are interested in history, tell your child some interesting stories about a specific period you like. Just keep in mind, that children’s attention spans can be a lot shorter than an adult’s and to not take it personally if your child shifts the conversation or does not understand what you are talking about. It can be excellent motivation to see your parents excited about knowledge and the cool ways in which you can apply it.
A quick Google search is a great way to respond to your child’s question when it is something you might not know the answer.
Try to challenge your child to find out something new, first about something they are interested in then later something completely new and present that to you. It might seem like we are talking about a structured presentation here, but we are not. This can be a chat on the way to school, while making dinner or before bed. Giving your child plenty of opportunities to present their knowledge will give them the self-confidence to do the same in school and later in life.
To help yourself become a lifelong learner, you can find something you are interested in and start there. Try to find out something new about that topic every day. After a while, branch off into a similar topic and do it again. When you feel like challenging yourself, try to learn a topic that you are completely in the dark about.
We’ve mentioned it already, but it’s worth repeating, none of these exercises should be very structured. Children have a lot of structured work in school and having the same thing at home can be very tiring. You want this to be a pleasant exercise for everyone involved and to provide a safe space for your child to learn skills that will foster their love of learning over their whole lives.
What it comes down to is having curiosity and the will to follow an idea to its conclusion. You can think of the brain like a muscle. The more you exercise it, the more it will want to be exercised and the more it will enjoy going through the process. It won’t be easy, but it will be worth it.
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