One of the trickiest aspects of cultivating lifelong learning is that lifelong learners are not taught. They learn by example and by trial and error. They learn by seeing adults model continuous learning habits – persistence, curiosity, constant learning. Teens have the opportunity to learn these traits from their parents.
Watching your teen learn throughout their entire life has afforded you with valuable insights into the way they learn. You know their favorite subject, and the time of day they best learn. You do everything you can to ensure that they do well in school, but what about outside of school?
Lifelong learners enjoy the process of learning. They are curious and persistent in their desire for knowledge on a subject or task. Cultivating a desire to learn can be a little more daunting than helping your child pass an Algebra quiz, but it is definitely possible.
1. Make Learning Fun
Create learning experiences for your teen in your everyday life.
- Teach them how to double and cook a recipe that was passed down in your family.
- Take advantage of museums and spend time wandering through exhibits together. Engage your teen in conversation about what they see.
- Go on hikes and prepare beforehand to talk about the wildlife you see.
The best thing about creating a lifelong learner is that you don't need all of the answers. Instead, you need to ask questions. If you and your teen are enjoying a museum or a hike together and you come across something that neither of you knows, make a note to look it up later. Or pull out a smartphone and look it up right there. Make your teen feel comfortable asking questions and encourage them to remember to find the answers!
2. Model Best Learning Practices
Asking questions is one of the best ways to model learning practices, but there are other things you can do to show your teen that learning is always a work in progress. Encourage self-reflection and practice it in front of your teen. If you make a mistake, talk through it. Show your teen that by creating an internal dialogue, you are not only teaching yourself to rebound from mistakes, but you are also learning how to find solutions to problems. Developing a healthy sense of self-talk is vital to lifelong learning.
3. Learn with Entertainment
Teach your teen that not all media consumption must be passive. If you regularly have a movie night with your teen, try watching a documentary one week on a topic in which you are both interested. Look up podcasts about topics your teen is interested in and listen to them in the car. Encourage them to find answers to their questions in YouTube videos or applications on smart devices. Teach them that all the tools they use for social media or games can also be used for valuable learning experiences. Entertainment is great and a necessary way to relax, but make sure they know that curiosity should not be limited to just the classroom and their textbooks.
4. Be Active Consumers of Knowledge
If your teen regularly looks up the answers to their questions or watches documentaries or news shows, teach them to think about bias and point of view. Ensure they know and are able to form their own opinions on topics. Teach them to question the media and to seek information from many reputable sources.
It can be hard to convince teens that learning should occur outside the classroom and that they may not get "credit" for it, but if you make it part of your everyday life and model behaviors consistently, they will naturally learn the skills to become lifelong learners.