Raising Curious Kids
Author: Nurture Parenting Magazine Date Posted: 12 September 2015
Offspring Education explores three simple ways to activate your child's wonder button to inspire lifelong learning.
Anyone who has spent any time with a pre-schooler lately would know that they are full of wonder. Another Mum referred to it as their “wonder button”. I like this.We all know kids love to ask a whole lot of questions such as "how?" or "why?" and this presents an incredible opportunity for us as parents to play an active role in their learning by nurturing their wonder button.
Many parents think that the school has the biggest influence on a child’s learning. In fact, the School Effectiveness Research conducted in the UK in the 1990s claimed that the impact of the home on student achievement is 60-80% where the impact of the school is much lower at 20-40%. Since then, numerous studies have shown that factors outside the school such as family background and parental engagement have more influence on student achievement than the schools themselves. So what does that mean for us?
It means that as parents, we can’t sit back and say “well they are at school now, they can take care if it from here.” We need to be actively engaged in our children’s learning. But before you roll those eyes and say, here we go, just another thing I have to worry about now as a parent, I’m telling you that becoming engaged in the ‘wonder’ of your child can be done every day very simply. In fact, I bet sometimes you are already doing it without realising it.
Either way, let me give you some great, easy ideas of what you can do to be engaged in your child’s learning and give them the best chance of success!
Tip #1: Use Questions to Guide Discovery
I find that with my little pre-schooler the best conversations we have are in the car. And it generally starts with her asking a "how?" Or "why?" question. Here is a chat we had the other day:
- Miss 4:“Mummy, how far away is China?”
- Me: “Good question! Why do you ask?” (see how I didn’t answer the question? I’ll come back to this in a minute)
- Miss 4: “I saw it on TV.”
- Me: “What did you see on the TV?”
- Miss 4: “I saw some children dressing up as a dragon for a party in China.”
- Me: “Ah ok. Do you think China is in Australia?”
- Miss 4: “I don’t think so. I think you have catch a plane to get there.”
- Me: “You are right. It’s not in Australia.”
- Miss 4: “Is it on planet Earth?”
- Me: “Yes China is another country on planet Earth. I can show you on a map when we get home if you like.”
- Miss 4: “A map?! Yay!!” (she likes maps)
Questions are a great way to really open up the ‘wonder’ for a child. Next time your child asks you a question instead of answering it ask a question back. See if they can use what they already know to work out the answer for themselves. Having a conversation just like this one can be a great way to engage yourself in your child’s learning.
Tip #2: Involve Them in Everyday Tasks
For older kids they can write your shopping list or cook meals. Both of these tasks can open up more dialogue where you will find yourself supporting and guiding their learning. You can get involved in a spelling lesson without realising it when they write out a shopping list. Cooking can lead you dialogue around mathematical concepts of weighing and measuring and leading into Science for melting and mixing etc.
When you are running errands and you have your children in tow talk to them about what you are doing. For example, you might go to the post office to post a letter. Tell them about the postal service and where the letters go once they are put into the post box. Ask them how they think they the letters get to where they need to go. When you go to the supermarket you can ask them about where the food comes from as it goes into the trolley, or count out the fresh produce as you put it into your trolley. For older children you can look at the different prices for similar products and explore the concept of value for money.
For younger children, they soak in every new experience like a sponge. As they get a bit older you can provide them with a deeper understanding about how the world around them works and how we all work together as a part of society. These are such valuable insights for children and help to foster the “how?” and “why?” curiosities about the world around them.
Tip #3: Get Involved in Their Interests
Allowing your child to teach you about something they really love and care about shows them that learning can be done at any age. You can model good learning behaviours such as listening and asking questions and they get to feel an enormous sense of pride and achievement when they are helping you to learn something new.
It’s also important to talk to your child about learning and school (or schoolwork if you choose to homeschool). Talk about any projects they are doing or subject selections they need to make. Ask them what they want to achieve at school. Tell them what you would like them to achieve. Having an open conversation about learning and school can have a huge impact on how your child feels about their education. Positivity is the key here.
Bonus Tip: Get to know Teachers
Get to know your child's teachers. They want to know you and your child as much as they can so they can teach your child as best they can. Ask them what topics they are covering in class so you can connect what’s happening in school with something that is real outside of school. If you want to continue some of the work they do in the classroom at home then they can point you in the right direction for resources and activities. Any good teacher would be happy to help you be involved as much as you can be.
If you follow these four simple ideas you will be actively involved in your child's learning. As the philosopher Socrates said: "Education is the kindling of a flame, not the filling of a vessel." Ignite your child's passion for lifelong learning and they will be better equipped for life.
Lara Jennings is an award winning teacher and the Director of Offspring Education. She is passionate about supporting educators and parents to develop the leaders of tomorrow through educational products, learning techniques and parenting wisdom. Connect with Lara via firstname.lastname@example.org for questions and ideas on lifelong learning.
This article was originally published with Nurture Parenting Magazine.
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