Your job as a parent is not to teach your kid everything you know, but rather to encourage him to want to discover things for himself. If you instill in him the mindset that learning is fun, he will grow up to be a lifelong learner who can do anything he puts his mind to.
Here are eight ways you can inspire your child take control of his education:
1. Surround your child with books.
Reading is a universally appreciated activity. There’s a clichéd story about a kid who spends his afternoons getting lost in libraries. For many people, this is the story of how they became avid readers. A library card, therefore, is one of the best gifts that you can give to your child. With millions of books in circulation, there’s a book for everyone.
2. Encourage your child to teach.
Teaching is an integral part of learning. Once you reach a stage where you can teach someone a concept, that’s when you know that you truly understand it yourself. You also learn important lessons by teaching. You learn to have patience, for example, when your student doesn’t understand a concept that you’ve explained multiple times. Although older siblings will naturally fall into the role of teacher, younger siblings often have good insights as well. Everyone can teach, regardless of age or qualifications.
3. Let your child play.
Learning is meant to be fun. Although traditional schools often rely on textbooks and rote memorization, the most effective classes are the ones where students get a chance to work on a cool project or go on an awesome adventure. Similarly, kids whose parents encourage them to have fun are the ones who truly develop an appreciation for learning.
4. Let your child choose what to learn.
This is the most important and straightforward rule. Even though you might be convinced that your child needs to learn ballet or soccer or art, you should also take into account what he wants to learn. When you give your kid the power to direct his own learning, he will take responsibility for his own education. In the process, he will be inspired to become a lifelong learner.
5. Help your child find people he can learn from.
At the beginning, your child won’t know where to look. Getting access to interesting people can seem like a big hurdle. But finding interesting people is just a matter of choice—we are all connected now through the Internet. Help your child find the adults who will fascinate him. Accessing these adults might come in the form of internships, apprenticeships and jobs.
6. Point your child to the resources.
To some of us, the Internet looks like a portal for games and friends. But what many parents might not realize is that the web is filled with so many resources, you might want your kid spending more time on the computer than you thought. Whether it’s viewing lectures or reading essays, the Internet has it all. (You can find a list of great online resources here.)
7. Help your child navigate the world.
There’s a good chance that if a kid puts what he learns into practice (the best way to learn), they might fail at first. Whether it’s interacting with adults or trying to find the best way to do something, you need to help your child navigate the world—but not do it for him. There’s a fine line between doing the work yourself and giving him a nudge in the right direction. At first, you’ll need to give these nudges frequently, but as he starts diving deeper into his interests, he’ll start to feel more confident in his own abilities. Let this confidence build; it’s the reason you’re here.
8. Let him understand that learning is lifelong.
It seems like the biggest difference between thought leaders and the average Joes is their mindset. Learning is lifelong—you can’t stress this point enough. The right to learn should always be exercised, not just during school. The top thinkers of our time pushed past what was expected of them and learned on their own.
Loving to Learn
Loving to learn takes effort, but when you foster that love in your own child, you’re already opening him up for a better life. To live is to learn. There’s no way around that sentiment.
Opening your child up to the vistas and experiences that life has to offer might easily be the best thing you can do for him. But the real magic happens when he starts to realize that he can open up these opportunities by himself. All parents should get to unlock this realization in their own child one day—it might be more rewarding that you think.
Dale Stephens founded the website UnCollege, which seeks to prove that education isn’t limited to the classroom. Penguin/Perigee published his first book, “Hacking Your Education," in March 2013. He was named a Thiel Fellow in 2011 for his work in education.