July – Commitment to Learning
by Kelly Curtis.
“Is Whirlpool a good brand?”
“Is it made in China?”
“Do all things made in China have to be plastic?”
“What is plastic made out of?”
And so goes round 385 of my eight-year-old son asking me questions. This happens every day of his life – and mine. But moments before I Google automatic question-answering robot in search of some sort of relief, I’m reminded that just as the Socratic method utilizes questioning to teach, my son uses it to learn.
Search Institute has identified “Commitment to learning” as one of the eight Developmental Asset categories, which means research shows it’s a characteristic of healthy, caring, resilient kids. The more assets youth have, the more likely they’ll resist risky behaviors in the future. Commitment to learning is defined as developing a lifelong commitment to education and learning.
Young children have a natural tendency toward learning, and they accomplish it in very simple ways. Although the “Why” method that usually begins somewhere around age three may drive impatient parents to the brink of insanity, the elementary child usually branches out into the other question words — Who? What? When? Where? and How?
But have no fear — we needn’t actually answer the questions, in order for the child to learn. Simply responding with another question can be equally effective. For example, in absence of your rote knowledge of the number of krill eaten by a humpback whale in a month, a parent could answer, “Hmmmm, what do you think?” Helping the child to find answers to her or his own questions is a more useful skill anyway, and it demonstrates our own commitment to learning – possibly the greatest factor in a child’s continued interest.
In addition, make use of the resources available. Help her to find the answer in a dictionary, encyclopedia, Google, or Wikipedia (if you’re really desperate.) Better yet, for questions asked at a museum, or other field trip venue (we recently visited the Chicago Museum of Science and Industry), encourage her to ask a curator or volunteer. This is excellent assertiveness training, and your child will appreciate the fact that you’re learning right along with her.
Thanks for joining in to build assets in your kids! I look forward to seeing you again next month for Positively Speaking.
by Kelly Curtis
Pass the Torch