Humans have a natural desire to learn new things. As a species, we are curious and like to know “how things work.” So school should be perfect for the complex minds of children with ADHD and related learning challenges. Right?
But what if school doesn’t teach the way your child learns? What if school teaches things your child isn’t interested in? What if traditional schooling begins to sap away your child’s joy of learning?
The Most Educated Society in History
Our society has set up a complex web of schools and universities that make us the most educated society in history. Culturally and educationally, we are focused on getting our children to graduate college, and the more prestigious the college the better.
But this is a dangerous venture for parents of children with learning challenges. School can wear down a child who doesn’t fit into the “typical student” mold. And when a child doesn’t fulfill the “college dream,” her self-image suffers. Many parents with children in there twenties and thirties wish they had a re-do.
College Degree Not (Necessarily) Required
Instead of focusing on “the college degree,” consider focusing on installing a love of learning in your child. And just as important, help install a positive self-image for your child as a curious individual who loves to learn. This may lead them to one day go to college; but if they love to learn on their own, it may mean that college is not required.
We’ve all heard stories of “college-dropouts” who changed the world, like Steve Jobs. He was a lifelong learner, though he never graduated college. In 2005, in his commencement speech to Stanford University, he explained that after he dropped out of college, he sat in on calligraphy classes because he found it fascinating. Years later, he used this knowledge to bring beautiful typography to the Macintosh computer. He felt this knowledge was key to Apple’s (and later Window’s) acceptance and success.
This example shows that college is just one of many ways to acquire knowledge. College should not be the only way we measure success in our children.
4 Strategies To Instill a Love of Learning:
Help your child learn about what they are interested in
School is all about learning on the school’s timetable, and yet students with learning challenges and differences love to ask, “Why do I need to learn this?” It’s a legitimate question. On a daily basis, engage your child in what they are interested in. If they have time to delve into what they want to learn, it can make the more mundane subjects more bearable. And you never know when the knowledge they gain will become valuable in school, or in life.
Just In Time Learning
Children (and adults) ask questions about what is pertinent to them. They are letting you know they are ready to learn. This is an opportunity to engage and to encourage learning. If you are lucky, you can relate their interest into what they are learning in school. At InventiveLabs, we call this “Just in Time” learning. It is about teaching a topic that is pertinent to the individual, or to something they can easily relate to.
Encourage Learning Over Grades
Schools and Universities want to create “well-rounded” individuals by teaching in depth about a great many topics. Students are expected to spend equal time on all topics. However, children who struggle with school tend to love some subjects, and hate others. Give them the freedom to spend time on the subjects they love, and set an expectation that they pass the other subjects, learning just enough detail. Don’t force them to focus an unbalanced amount of time on subjects they struggle with.
Set Learning Goals
Set goals with your children about what they want to learn. Maybe they want to learn all the characters in the Marvel universe, or the latest fashion trends coming out of New York. Celebrate their desire to learn. Quiz them on the topic. It may not help them in school, but it will help their self-esteem. Help them brand themselves as some one who loves to learn. (After all, is learning all the Greek gods really more important than knowing the characters in the Marvel universe?)
Do You Want to Raise a Lifelong Learner?
School can teach knowledge, but does not necessarily instill a love of learning.
So I encourage you to spend time thinking about what you really want for your child. Is the “college dream” what you want? Or do you want a life long learner? Which leads to a greater chance of success?
If the “college dream” is not fulfilled, your child can still be successful. Especially if you’ve fostered curiosity and instilled a love for learning. It may not be the path you expected. But then again, aren’t you a little curious about what life would be like for your child if he found motivation in learning?