One of the best gifts my mother gave me, and I hope to pass on, is a love for learning. I grew up in a house with bookshelves in every room and was raised by a mother who dedicated a lot of time and energy to my learning. She created in our home something I call a culture of learning. And, I think it rubbed off. All of her children graduated from college, and we all went into some form of education.
Not that everyone in the world needs to be a teacher, but I admire the atmosphere my mother was able to create in our home growing up. Now that I have kiddos of my own to teach, I’m trying to create a culture of learning in my own home. I hope that by encouraging their curiosity at a young age, they’ll hang onto it when they’re older and not get swallowed whole by video games and texting.
So, how do you create a culture of learning?
- Read to your children daily, whether it’s picture books or novels. I remember snuggling up to my mom, listening to her read the final chapters of The Last Battle by C.S. Lewis and mourning the end of my time in Narnia. She read to me, she let me read to her, and as I got older we discussed (and we still do) books we were reading. Now I love reading to my boys. If I’m busy and they want attention, they know a sure-fire way to get Mom to take a break is to bring me a book to read with them. I can’t resist. We go to the library at least weekly, and we check out all sorts of books.
- Make knowledge accessible. Hang maps, leave books out to be explored, have a dictionary, etc. We have a giant map of the world on the wall of our home library. I decorate with books. I tape up the letters of the alphabet we’re practicing. My goal is to have knowledge secretly attack my children everywhere they look.
- Learn together. Little Man is in the “WHY” stage. As much as it drives me nuts when he asks why we are driving to the store, and then why we need milk, and then why milk is good for us, and why, why, WHY all the time, I love that he wants so badly to understand the world around him. I really try to answer his questions (at least the first three levels of why on any one topic), and if I don’t know, we look it up together! I think it’s really good for him to see what Mom does when she has a question, too.
- Take field trips. The brain learns new information by attaching it to prior knowledge. So, when my kids see a real live elephant at the zoo, it helps them understand elephants they’ll read about in a book. We love going to the library, zoo, plays, museums, hiking, factory tours, dad’s work, botanical gardens, farms, etc. Anything that can expand their real-world experience helps book learning make sense.
- Let kids see you excited about learning. Talk about the things you are learning on your own (and make sure you are taking time to learn). Whether it’s researching photography online, reading a novel, calling someone with a question about taxes, or just looking up a recipe for dinner, it’s important for kids to know that learning exists outside of school.
I wonder so often if all my efforts are really getting results. And then, I turn around and see Little Man sitting in the laundry basket looking at a book. And my heart is happy.