1. Learning is fun, right!? Well, of course it can be, but it isn't always and nor should it have to be. Think about it: Must learning be fun in order for it to be appreciated; for it to be loved? Absolutely not! Though at times it can be exciting and energizing, learning can also be exhausting, frustrating, and confusing. Yet we gladly accept the hardships and challenges that come with learning because of the great reward it returns: growth and understanding.
PRO TIP: Refrain from forcing the direct association with learning and fun, as it may actually disappoint your child when they decide that memorizing their times tables doesn't quite measure up to their idea of fun. Instead, focus on the many other qualities learning has to offer us! Rather than saying things like, "See... isn't this fun!" or "Come on! Enjoy this, learning is fun!" you might try saying, "See... isn't this rewarding?" or "Look at what you have achieved. How does that make you feel?"
2. Try not to put that act of learning into a single box. Learning isn't a one-size-fits-all type of deal. Learning is not just about going to school, nor is it about doing homework or reading a book. It doesn't have a time and a place. Learning is life. It is everyday. It is in every decision we make and the result of our actions. It cannot be contained and it knows no boundaries. Find opportunities to show them this.
PRO TIP: Voice your observations, your findings, your revelations, and your questions. By doing so, they will allow themselves to do the same.
3. Don't scare them into learning. Too many of us will threaten students with the consequences and repercussions of doing poorly in school. Remember, learning occurs when we fail just as it does when we succeed.
PRO TIP: Let your child feel the sting of failure and allow them the opportunity to embrace learning when it is due.
4. Give them the chance to truly learn for themselves. Refrain from giving away the answers. Let them be frustrated! Let them sort through it. But don't let them give up; give subtle hints and clues when you are able. There is no greater reward than discovering the solution to a problem on your own.
5. Ask them questions, but not in an obvious way, or in a way that you clearly already know the answer to. Kids know when you know the answer and may find you to be inauthentic or worse, condescending. I'm talking about questions you, yourself would really like to know the answer to. Questions about the world that they too, are capable of wondering about. Questions that cannot be answered completely. Allow them the opportunity to ponder, because pondering leads us in our desire to learn more and more; to become infatuated with absolving any discomfort we may have with the unknown.
6. Give them experiences and let them experiment with their creativity. If they want to draw outside the lines, let them. In fact, let them come up with their own rules from time to time. Have them use conditioner before shampoo and see what they discover. Let them choose what they want to wear and allow them the opportunity to observe the reactions they receive from others. Allow them to make choices and learn from them.
7. Don't exclude them from important conversations just because you think they can't handle the 'truth'. In doing so, you are stripping them from an otherwise powerful learning opportunity. Find ways to explain difficult things to them and push through the discomfort. Of course, be sensitive to their reactions and know their limits. Kids are tougher and more resilient than you would think and often they are able to offer their own unique insights.