Schools, they're for learning. Students learn to read, to write, to solve math problems, and even to learn how to navigate social dynamics in order to be positive contributors in their communities.
Students learn math skills regardless if they plan to become accountants, and not just so they can balance their finances as adults. We teach reading not just for children to become literate adults who can read necessary information for their jobs or for leisure. Writing is not taught for the sole purpose of sending emails or blogging. Social skills are not only taught so they can navigate relationships. Though they will certainly need all the subjects to varying degrees no matter what path in life they choose, we teach all these skills so that students learn how to keep learning. Schools are no longer the Henry Ford model training workers for the assembly line, for a specific outcome. As a teacher, my primary goal is to instill and foster a love of learning so that our children become lifelong learners, who are always curious, always growing, always seeking to know more and know deeply. As we learn, we develop our understanding and our compassion, and that leads to living more peaceably with the world and improving the quality of our lives.
The ultimate "skill" of every subject I teach is learning. Learning isn't something that is allocated only for the time we are in school; it isn't something that we are ever finished with; learning is what we do in life – our whole lives.
Our lives are enriched, and we are more fulfilled, when we are lifelong learners. So, how can you help your children to have this gift? It's just two simple steps.
Step 1: Model It (aka - Do It)
You are already frequently engaged in new learning whether you think of it that way or not. So part of step 1 is to simply think of yourself as someone who is always learning.
Learning often finds us, and often in surprising ways. But I also encourage you to seek out learning opportunities. Maybe you go big every few years – a new language (I'm a fan of Latin - amó, amás, amat, anyone?), an instrument, a sport. Maybe you try your hand at building a simple bench, taking an art class or a programming course. How about High Desert gardening? Busy schedules don't always allow for big commitments, so maybe now is a better time to learn how to cook a new dish for dinner or to learn to meditate for five minutes a day. Perhaps a friend takes you mushrooming for an afternoon and you learn to discern a false chanterelle from the real thing. Even less of a time commitment (since, of course, you already read every day) is to pick up a book on a subject you've always wanted to know more about: the French Resistance, the Red Famine, astrophysics (Who doesn't love them some Neil deGrasse Tyson?). You can memorize a poem. The possibilities are endless.
Step 2: Talk About It
Whatever you choose, share some of that process with your children – share some of your quests, the challenges and rewards. When you are discussing with your children what they learned in school that day, take some time to share what you're learning, too. Use the words "learning" and "learned" as you talk about your new experiences or new knowledge. Share your excitement; share your confusion, struggles and failures; and share the gratification of whatever growth you've made regardless of the measurable success. Then do it all over again. Because learning's not just for school, it's for life.