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A Simple Truth that Changes Everything: Learning Happens All the Time

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A Simple Truth that Changes Everything:

Learning Happens All the Time


"It's amazing what kids can do when we give them a chance."

By Linda Dobson

We hear it constantly, first from educators and, more recently, from politicians who have latched on to education as a “hot button” issue: We need to get children ready to learn.

Some parents have discovered there’s nothing one can do about children learning. Sound defeatist?

Actually, the opposite is true. Learning is just something children do. All the time. Even when no one is teaching. Talk to these parents, and you’re sure to hear stories of six year-olds learning to read, seemingly by osmosis, and 12 year-olds who never even glanced at a textbook who are ready for college math.

Learning Through Life Instead of  Textbooks

Look at Jacob Powell who spent his formative years in northeast Michigan as a very young businessman. He started with a paper route and moved up to door-to-door greeting card sales. Then, as a teen, he began a home-based mail-order business, learning what he needed to know as he went along. “I knew Jacob was continually learning about numbers even though we never followed any math curriculum. When he decided he wanted to go to college,” says his mom, Lynn, “he picked up a couple of math texts from the local college bookstore, studied for a few months before taking the SAT, and scored well enough to head off to the college of his choice.

“It’s amazing what kids can do when we give them a chance.”

Lillian Jones’ son was seven years-old when he was very sick and home from school. “For days he looked like he was bored stiff lying in front of the television and a public television science program,” she says, “but when he felt better he greeted his dad at the door and told him all about the wonders of atoms! I didn’t think he was even watching or listening.”

When We Know Children Are Learning All the Time, What They Learn Becomes Most Important

When we think within the learning box, we think we need to get our children “ready” for the rigors of school. Thinking outside the learning box – starting with the premise that children are learning all the time – we see what they learn is the important element. This truth helps lead the learning guide parent to a place that best helps her child.

Accept that children learn all the time, and you’ll pay more attention to what you say to and about your child, spouse, neighbor, deliveryman, child’s teacher, and computer. You’ll be more mindful of what you do and how you do it. You’ll consider what you read, watch on television, listen to on the radio, and hear from others. You’ll give more consideration to who takes up your child’s time, and how and where and why.

Learning Successful Attitudes, Values, and Behavior

Throw away the notion that children only learn while sitting behind a desk, and you’ll see that at the same time they pick up reading, writing, and arithmetic, they also pick up attitudes, values, and behavior. If your child hangs around with someone who curses all the time, you can easily figure out where he learned that four-letter word. Most of his other learning is taking place more subtly than his learning a four-letter word, however.

See also Can Kids Teach Themselves?

If your child spends large portions of time away from you and your positive outlook and influence, be extra vigilant about subtle negative influences. You need to consciously respond to them with your positive thoughts, words, and deeds. In return you’ll find a child more supportive, interested, discerning, cooperative, and caring.

These are the attitudes, values, and behaviors of a successful human being, including an academically successful one.

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