Beyond the Classroom: Be Your Child's Learning Role Model
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Imagine a world full of people who only knew what they learned in a classroom. It would probably be uninspired and stagnant. Those who go furthest in the world are the ones who never stop learning and growing, regardless of their age.
Education doesn't begin and end at the classroom door—there are opportunities to learn and grow in any community. Think about the hours you’ve spent answering your child’s “why?” questions; children are naturally filled with wonder about the world around them. Nurturing and modeling this instinctive curiosity will allow your child to be motivated throughout her education and beyond. How can you model a love of learning close to home and do it without spending boatloads of money?
Be tourists in your own town
The little things that make your area unique tend to fade into the background of your busy daily life. Take a walk and stop to look at all the things you normally fly past in your car. Help your child search the Internet for information about the history of your area, and let her play the role of the tour guide. Check out the historical downtown, read the plaques, observe the statues, visit important landmarks and buildings and learn about the architecture. Find old photographs to see how the area looked in times past. Visit shops that have a long history in your area to understand how they’ve stuck around for so long. You may discover that there’s more to your city than meets the eye. You can show your child that history and social studies aren’t only accessible in heavy class textbooks—they’re topics that you can actually immerse yourself in!
Find a local park, reservation, or wildlife refuge
Take a hike … literally! Use a magnifying glass to look at nature close up: leaves, grass, dirt, logs, bugs, flowers. Listen to what's around you. How many sounds can you identify? Play Lewis and Clark and make a map of the park based on what you see. Check out a bird-watching or plant identification book from your library and try to catalog what you find. Visit that same place at different times of year and see how it changes over time and in different weather. There are endless possibilities in nature for learning, no matter where you are. Exploring the natural world will likely kindle your child’s interest in the science behind the environment surrounding her and make science more relatable (even captivating!) than it may seem in the classroom.
Round up the family for a day of public service. Choose an activity that interests your child. If she’s outdoorsy, pick up litter in a park or plant a tree. For an outgoing child who likes to chat, visit a nursing home. Volunteer at an animal shelter if she loves caring for pets. Volunteering will give your child an opportunity to be mentored by not only you, but also other caring, knowledgeable individuals in your community. Each community service activity will cultivate different interests, but all activities will allow your child to see an immediate effect of the works of her hands—a planted tree, a smiling face, a well-fed animal. Kids often lose interest in certain subjects because of a mental division between the classroom and the “real world” outside of it. In a volunteer setting, subjects like ecology, health, and biology, take on a visible purpose. Making a difference in the world is something we each hope to do in our lives, but finding a way to do it doesn't have to wait until we are adults.
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