The following quote from Charles Handy, Gods of Management, is enlightening. "To most people education means learning useful things, be they facts or techniques. In that sense, most higher education has an effective usefulness of about ten years maxim mum. After that, either the knowledge is outdated by advancing technology and the new discoveries or the individual has moved to a level or and occupation where he no longer needs it. How many forty-year olds are still using anything they learned in college?"
If we define education as learning skills or facts, Handy's quote makes sense. But is education the process by which we gain facts? Or is education more than learning facts? If education is learning facts we really don't need college professors, teachers, or even parents, anymore. You can gain facts much more effectively utilizing modern technology then you can in a classroom.
If we define education as a process of gaining skills, then the thing to do is to expose the young child to someone who has the skill desired. This is the apprenticeship idea of education. It is not compatible with the "lecture" method of education.
But we intuitively know that education is more than a process of gaining facts and skills. Children are more than just vessels that we pour knowledge into. Education is more than just gaining a skill. People are more than what they do to earn a living or what they are skilled in.
An effective parent/teacher does more than give a child information. They do more than pass on skills to the younger generation. The effective parent/teacher has the capacity to model and instill the love of learning. The effective parent/ teacher is so in love with learning that they are contagious. They love life. They love what they are learning each day. This attitude seems to radiate from them and it is hard to remain unenthused in their presence. The effective parent/teacher inspires the child to learn. The effective parent/teacher has a genuine interest and concern for others. The effective parent/ teacher is more concerned about the child's desire to know then what they know.
If we can help our child learn how to learn, we cannot stop them from learning. If we as parents can help our children cultivate their own interests, we cannot stop them from gaining skills.
How can we do this? How can we provide the influence that will kindle the fire of learning within them? The following are a few suggestions.
Be enthused. Even if what you are teaching/studying is commonplace, be enthused. Let me relate an incident from my past to illustrate. It occurred during a family outing. We were walking along the Lake Michigan Sand Dunes when I noticed some small funnel shaped indentations in the sand. These were a sure sign of Ant Lions. I immediately captured some ants and placed them on the edge of the funnel. I called one of my daughters over and we watched as the ant was eventually captured by the Aunt Lion. We must have spent about 45 min to an hour enjoying this phenomenon of nature. We were enthused. We were curious. We had fun. We asked questions. We remembered. We still talk about this time together. It was not the knowledge of Aunt Lions we remember. It was not the biological and observational skills we remember. It was the joy and enthusiasm of learning together that we remember.
Follow the child. When I taught emotionally disturbed children I had the idea that enthusiasm alone could create the desire to learn. So I set up elaborate experiments. I had explosions in the classroom and dramatic examples of the concepts I was trying to teach. My students were still bored. So I switched tactics. I spent a lot of time discovering what each child was interested in. Once I knew them a little better, I tailored the material I presented to their interests and needs. This made a world of difference. The students started asking me questions and my challenge became one of finding material that would take them one step further toward their goals. Teaching and learning occurs when we follow the child.
Never stop learning. Take care of yourself. Not just physically but emotionally and spiritually. See each day as a new challenge. The message given when a parent is not actively learning and taking care of themselves is, "Life is to be endured. Learning is work." It is more difficult for a child to learn when the message sent is, "You need to learn but I personally feel learning is a bother."
Teach how to learn, not what to learn. If you teach a child how to gain knowledge the fact that the world is changing and that technology is changing makes no difference. They will be able to adapt to whatever changes occur. This can be done in the class room by teaching the Scientific Method not the facts of science. Once the child knows how to discover he/she can get the facts themselves. In the home this is done by teaching the reason for values not the values. When a child discovers or invents their own values they belong to them. They are not someone else's values that they are expected to adhere to.
Education is a lifelong adventure. If we can help our children learn how to learn, nothing can stop them from learning, being happy, and succeeding. Facts and skills will then become tools utilized to learn, not an end in themselves.