As both an educator and a parent, it’s important to me to develop in students a love for learning that can lead to academic success. That’s why what’s key to helping your child succeed with his or her education is fostering your child’s inner geek.
Or, in other words, drawing out something that a child is enthusiastic about and building it up in them until they’re an expert at it.
So, how exactly can we do this for our children?
Here are a few action steps that you can personally take to start fostering your own child’s inner geek. Apply these steps with your child and you’ll be well on your way to developing a lifelong learner.
1. Be a guide on the side.
Let kids develop autonomy in their learning by going alongside them as they learn – rather than being in front of them to teach them it all directly. Let them explore, discover and figure some things out on their own and for themselves.
You can do this by giving kids opportunities to play, tinker and explore. Then, take the next step to ask them questions about what they notice, what they think is happening – and engage with their answers.
Reinforce that learning is a process and you’re still learning even as an adult. Remember, smart is something you get, not something you are.
2. Do things that take time.
Activities and learning experiences that happen in a single sitting can be great, but there is great value in doing things that can’t be finished all at once. This builds kids’ stamina and helps them to learn that interests and progress develop over time.
3. Create memories.
Part of geeking out is when you can talk about things that no one else knows except for your tribe. These fellow geeks are your people, and your connection to them is part of what makes you a geek.
Build that community within your family by finding common ground with your interests and spending time exploring them. Take field trips together to museums and science centers – or just spend time in the great outdoors (there’s even a DNR museum for that – the Outdoor Adventure Center in Detroit).
4. Show kids what you’re passionate about.
Share your interests, let them see your inner geek and give them a chance to figure out their own by following the leader. Chances are, there might be some overlap in your interests at some point.
So you could consider making special time for kids to explore a particular topic with you that you are passionate about – or to observe you engaging in your interests.
Discovering shared interests and passions can be as simple as reading books, watching informative shows or creating together – even cooking is a way to co-author your passions and learn together.
5. Seek out opportunities in your community.
Every community has resources that can foster your child’s inner geek, like clubs, scouts, Science Olympiad or robotics teams. These could be at your school, library or within a community group to extend learning beyond the school day.
Even if you’re homeschooling your child, you still have access to some of the activities offered by your neighborhood school. These are great opportunities for your child to take advantage of the social context of learning, but without all the pressure of the regular school-day setting.
Now, it may sound like a lot – but don’t worry. We’re all in this together, and we can help each other make it happen. Team up with others in your neighborhood, your family or your friend circles to foster your children’s inner geeks together.
And before you know it, you’ll have a passionate kid who’s finding significance in his or her learning, working toward mastery with it and becoming a lifelong learner in the process.