If you’re anything like Brad Rosenkilde, father of a preschooler at St. James Academy, you send your child to school each day to learn the ABCs and 123s. But you also hope to build a passion and love for learning as well.
“I send my child to school each day, hoping that he will continue asking the questions that will not only make him a good student, but make him a well rounded individual. I want him to continue asking the big questions — the whys and what-ifs both in and out of the classroom,” shared Brad. “With careers ever changing, it’s important for our kids to see things from different perspectives and be comfortable learning new things academically and socially.”
Yes, lifelong learning begins in preschool. But where do you start? Instilling a love of learning in your own child might seem daunting. We sought the expert advice from Lori Dembo, Head of Lower School at St. James Academy, and Lisa Davis, Head of Middle School.
5 Ways to Raise a Lifelong Learner
Tip 1: Build Resiliency
When faced with a challenge, your child may have a tendency to get upset or walk away. “To build resilient children, teach your child that when they fail, keep trying, and look at the problem from a different perspective,” said Ms. Dembo. “When you are able to come at a problem from a different angle, you encourage students to step toward challenges with confidence.”
Tip 2: Spend time investigating
It can be easy to get stuck in the day to day, but when your child expresses an interest in a new topic, “visit places that they wonder about,” encourages Ms. Dembo. “Spend time with your child, engaging in new topics. Ask open ended questions.” When your child has the time and space to explore new and exciting things, you allow new thinking and learning outside of the classroom.
What are open-ended questions? Questions that encourage your child to express their own thoughts and opinions. They are questions that can’t be answered with a simple ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ Instead, the questions engage your child in the process of thinking.
Tip 3: Frame questions with “I wonder…”
When we asked Ms. Davis what she hopes students will remember about their experiences at St. James when they get beyond college, her response was simple. “We want our students to continue to ask ‘What if?’ and ‘I wonder…’”
These questions seem rather simplistic, but when you can help a child initiate the thinking process with a simple inquiry, it opens the doors for further investigation and reflection further down the road.
Tip 4: Help Your Child Find Their Passion
“At SJA, we encourage our students to try new things,” said Ms. Davis. “From the studio to the stage, from the makerspace to the science lab, we really want our students to find their passion.”
Where do you start? Through exposure to the arts, sports, sciences and more, beginning at an early age. “Showing them a variety of opportunities in the earlier grades, helps students moving toward their high school years gain a better understanding of themselves and be passionate about learning.”
Tip 5: Make It Safe to Take Risks
Both Ms. Dembo and Ms. Davis shared with us that the smiling faces, student engagement, and personal confidence that they see each day in classrooms are great indicators that students truly enjoy learning. But to enjoy learning, they have to feel comfortable exploring new things and accepting challenges. “When you can provide a place where educators can do what’s best for their students, and students feel like they can all participate and be leaders in all grade levels, you create confident explorers in a safe and warm environment,” stated Ms. Dembo.
Looking for more resources to help your child become a lifelong learning? Ms. Davis suggests “The Blessing of a Skinned Knee” by Wendy Mogel, Ph.D., and “The Gift of Failure” by Jessica Lahey. Ms. Dembo suggested the author, Dr. Leonard Sax for his work with evidenced based parenting, as well. You can see Dr. Sax speak at St. James Academy on Tuesday, December 4. The psychologist and New York Times best-selling author will speak at St. James Academy. At 9 a.m. he will discuss “Why Gender Matters” and at 7 p.m. he will discuss “Evidence-Based Parenting.” The free, adults-only events are open to the public. REGISTER HERE
This article is sponsored by St. James Academy as part of our Cool School Partners series. Read more about the St. James in our Independent Schools Directory. Photos by Laura Black.