What does my child need to learn? I rarely get this question put this way but this is what many parents mean when they ask about how they can help their child.
The questions – How can I help? Why is he struggling? What can I do? all lead to the same thing – parents want to know what their child needs to learn?
And they want to know this because they want to help their child learn what is needed to do well in school.
Only when parents know what their child needs to learn can they offer support. Does their child need to learn math? Science? How to write book reports? Parents want to know so they can help.
The trouble is that teachers are not very good at telling parents what children need to learn. They either don’t know or don’t want to tell parents in case the parent does something that confuses the student.
But there are some things that all children need to learn that only parents can teach them.
For example – Who taught your child to walk? Who taught your child to talk? Who taught your child how to make friends and be a part of society? These are really important skills and they are not skills that teachers teach.
Does your child need to learn to read? Sure.
Does your child need to learn Math? That too.
Does your child need to learn social studies, history, geography, computing? Of course.
And teachers and tutors are very good at helping children learn these skills.
But there is something else that all children need to learn, something so important that learning all the other stuff pales by comparison. And this ‘something’ that all children need to learn, must learn if they are to do well in school and life is hardly ever taught.
Teachers don’t teach this – they don’t have time. Or the information and skills to be able to teach it even if they could.
Parents don’t teach it – well not systematically – and even they don’t know what it is and what to do about it.
What am I talking about? What is so fundamental to a child’s success in school and in life but is never formally taught but left to kids to work it out on their own?
What is so overlooked that no one pays much attention to it – with the result that many children struggle to learn and never reach their full potential?
What is something so simple yet so profound that it can change a child’s life in the blink of an eye – forever?
I am talking about learning but at its most foundational level. Children need to learn how to learn.
Seems simple right? Seems so basic that no one thinks about it. It is like a fish not thinking about the water it lives in or you not thinking about how you do housework. You just do it, right?
But you had to learn HOW to do it. You had to learn how to do everything in your life. You had to learn HOW.
And children have to learn how to learn. To my shame, I had been teaching for over 25 years before I realized this basic fact. Let me tell you now that teachers – maybe not kindergarten teachers – assume that children know how to learn and that what they need is the ‘stuff’ of learning. How to multiply, how to code, how to write, – and of course kids do – they do need to know this ‘stuff’. But most of all they need to know how to learn this ‘stuff’.
What does ‘learning how to learn’ mean?
You are making dinner – what do you need to know?
You need to know how many people will eat it, what they like to eat, where to buy the food, how to cook the food – all the ‘stuff’ of making a meal.
But knowing all the ‘stuff’ is not enough. You need to know how to use the stove, how to avoid disasters, how to keep the kitchen clean, how to cut up vegetables…. And on and on. You need to know the HOW of cooking.
Who taught you that? Unless you were lucky enough to get specialized lessons in school the chances are that you learned how to cook from watching your parents. In fact, you learned many things from watching and listening to your parents.
It is the same as learning how to learn. Parents teach kids how to learn. They may not do it deliberately or systematically but it is what is happening every time a child is around you.
But parents are not aware that they are doing this. So they don’t show kids all the skills they need to be able to learn. Parents are not to blame, no one has told them how to help their kids learn how to learn. So some kids miss out. Some bright kids miss out. They don’t get a chance to develop all the skills they need.
That is why many bright kids struggle in school, never get eh grades they are capable of getting, never get into the college of their choice. Not because they are stupid. Not because they are lazy. Not because they are not trying.
Because they don’t know how to learn!
Helping your child learn how to learn is the most important thing you can give your child. When you do this you are giving your child the opportunity to learn anything, anywhere from anyone. Your child is almost guaranteed to be successful.
And it isn’t hard to do.
Over the next few weeks, I will be posting tips that will show you just how simple it is, and how you can do this as part of your everyday life.