One of our goals for our kids’ education is to raise each to be a ‘lifelong learner’. Little people who love learning who grow into big people who love learning. When you’re a lifelong learner, you are striving, seeking and refining yourself your whole life. It’s what makes life interesting and satisfying.
There’s a lot of information about how to raise lifelong learners, but I happen to know the #1 contributing factor. It’s actually the #1 contributing factor to raising your kids to do anything, but it’s particularly applicable to inspiring a lifetime of education:
Be a lifelong learner yourself.
The course was ‘gifted’ to me by Valerie Khoo – who founded the Australian Writers’ Centre in 2005. Val is practically family, having been a good mate of my sister Al for about 127 years (the pair do the excellent So You Want to Be a Writer? podcast together). I knew the Newspaper and Magazine Writing course would be exceptional because Val is exceptional at everything she does.
Why F2F matters sometimes
The course was a weekend intensive, which I elected to do instead of a weekly course for six weeks or the online course, which is, incidentally, taught by my multi-talented sister. But avoiding Al was only one of the reasons why I elected to do the face-to-face course rather than the online version (ha!).
The thing is, I wanted to take some time out of my usual existence and really immerse myself in learning something new. It was that simple. I work online, so an online course – of which I try to do many because it’s an awesome way to learn – just isn’t ‘distracting’ enough. A weekend dedicated to learning a new craft felt indulgent and special.
The course was taught by Alex Spring who knows the biz inside out and backwards. There was such a generosity in the many and varied ‘insider’ tips that she shared over the two days. You cannot beat being able to ask any question you like of someone at the top of their game, someone who has been doing what you want to do for years.
Learning about learning
mind you, I don’t actually know if I want to write for newspapers and magazines, but now I feel like I could go for it if I wanted to. It’s important for me right now to diversify my income streams so I’m not relying on any one style of writing to pay the bills. This is true of any freelancer and definitely true of someone who is in many ways just starting out.
I talked with the kids a lot about my reasons for doing the course and why an old mummy like me might want to learn something new. We had a giggle over Mum having to go and do her homework after dinner, and my darling Arabella was quick to say, “Do you need a hand, Mum?” Ah, doing something right there, folks.
Mind you, we agreed that homework sucked, no matter how old you are.
“But, of course, I’m doing it,” I was equally quick to point out. “You learn best by doing and homework is the doing. Making time to revise the things you learn in a day makes a lot of sense, doesn’t it?”
Heads were nodding all around. Then a realisation dawned on Max’s face.
“So I can just NOT do my homework when I’m your age, right Mum? It would be up to me, right? Just me?”
Yep, I told him. When you’re my age and you’re given your homework, you can totally decide whether you do it or not. Cheers to being a lifelong learner, son.
3 more ways to raise a lifelong learner
1. Encourage kids’ natural curiosity – one of the best things about having kids is getting to explore the world through their eager-beaver inquisitiveness. They turn over rocks without fear, invent new ways of using everyday tools and look up when the rest of us are looking down. Always encourage them to turn over the rocks.
2. Teach resourcefulness – As far as I’m concerned, instilling resourcefulness is one of the fundamentals of parenting. Throw questions back to your kid as often as you can (“What do you think the answer might be?” / “I know the answer, can you guess what it might be?” / “Bet you can’t find out the answer in the next 5 minutes”). Insist that they find things out for themselves (“Why don’t you Google that?” / “Who else do you think you could ask?” / “What would help us solve this problem?”). Teach the art of reflection (“What do you think we could have done better?” / “How well do you think that worked out?” / “Is that the best we could have done?”)
3. Take them somewhere new – Kids thrive on new experiences (in a way that their tired ol’ parents sometimes don’t). Sadly, we don’t get to visit new places and experience new things as often as we did when the kids were little. These days life gets in the way. But we do try to get out there enough. New suburbs, new cuisines, new faces, new sounds, new routes, new places to be. Everytime we manage to get out there, I’m reminded that experiencing the new is important to old lifelong learners, just as much as it is to new ones.