Nurturing a love of learning begins with an important step. We, teachers and parents, must pay attention and honor our children’s interests.
Learning doesn’t happen without interest and enjoyment. Memorization for the moment, maybe. When a child is not interested and is forced to learn, what they may actually learn is to hate or avoid a topic. Know anyone who hid a novel in their math book or who hates to write. I bet they have stories about being bored, pushed, or were told they had to write essays about subjects they could have cared less about.
To effectively teach a child, children must be engaged in what they are learning and engagement happens when they are interested.
How to Nurture a Love of Learning
NOTE: What follows are WAYS to nurture a love of learning, not THE WAY.
Because, there isn’t a formula, curriculum, or a sure fire way to help our kids love to learn.
And, nurturing a love of learning does not mean FUN, laughter, blissed out joy all day long. Challenges and learning go hand in hand. That’s how we learn. If we already know how to do something perfectly, there’s no reason to learn it. A frustrated child is not necessarily a child who is not interested or a child who is not ready to learn, they may just be a child who is trying to figure something out, which we know can be super annoying sometimes.
How can we help nurture a love of learning:
Observe- offer- facilitate- sometimes wait- repeat.
- Pay attention to what children/students are interested in.
- Help kids find books, movies, games, and activities that play into their interests.
- Offer outings, classes, and time to delve into what you’ve found.
- Strew- leave books and other things where they can find them and catch their attention.
- Recognize everything we think they might love may not be a good fit, and try not to give up or take it personally.
- Keep listening, offering, making space for their interests.
Find interest in our children’s interests.
- Play the game, read the book, watch the movie they love.
- Ask questions about their interests. Even if the interest is not shared, listen for what they love.
- Answer questions. Even if you could care less, take the time to share what you know or research what they are wondering about.
- Get excited and curious with them. Let yourself wonder and learn too.
When children have to know something, figure out how to make the information they have to know interesting and meaningful.
- Play games.
- Find a mentor, someone who is passionate about the subject or can offer a new perspective.
- Take the learning outside, to a coffee shop, somewhere fun.
- Find movies, field trips, music, picture books, and seek other creative ways to access information.
- Don’t be afraid to head back to the children’s department. Watch the School House Rock or Magic School Bus.
Say yes to messy, to projects taking a lot of time, to doing the same thing over and over.
- Repetition is how a lot of us learn. If children want to listen to the same audio book, play the same game, or only learn about dinosaurs, let them. What are they hurting?
- Hurry up and get it done do not lead to learning. Rushing leads to a child realizing the thing that is being asked of them, is not worth their time.
Be okay when children aren’t ready to learn what others think they need to know.
- When the voices in our head, family members with good intentions, friends, strangers, the grocery store clerk question if our kids know enough, it’s important to breathe, deeply. We must remind ourselves, no one cares or asks how old we were when we learned to read or how high we can multiply in our head.
- Learning is not a race.
- If a child wants to learn something or needs to and is struggling, make sure play, interest, a safe environment, and low pressure practice is offered.
Nurturing Means to Encourage, Not Force
- Force, even when backed by good intentions, does not lead to an enjoyment of learning or actual learning. It might equal minimal engagement, a child trying to please, but eventually, the other pieces, the child being developmentally or emotionally ready, interested, and a supportive learning environment are necessary before mastery can begin to occur.
- It is easy to get into a power struggle with our children when we think they need to do or know something and they don’t agree or aren’t ready. If we’re trying to help a child learn and it leads to a struggle beyond a normal challenge of learning something new, chances are they are either not ready or need a different approach.
I’ve learned after working with children for twenty years, it doesn’t matter if children are in school or learn at home, and it doesn’t matter if they are 3 or 23, when we encourage and nurture a child’s natural curiosity- their love of learning- we help them learn.
We can nurture their love of learning anytime, any where. When we play with our children, show interest in what they are excited about, take the time to listen to their questions and help them find answers, we build curiosity and help their love of learning grow.