Parents underestimate the important role they play in educating children. Don’t tune out, this isn’t a lecture about parent-teacher conferences, reading to your children, or listening to them read to you. My children taught me that by conversing with them, we both learn.
My oldest two children were about 7 and 5 years old. There was a fire on the Port of Sacramento, only a few miles from our home. Huge piles of wood chips burned for days as fire fighters kept watch watering them down. One Sunday afternoon, we were out for a ride and ventured near the port. The conversation went something like this:
7-year-old: What is burning?
Me: Wood chips.
7: Why are they there?
Me: We put those wood chips on ships, sell them to the Japanese, and send them to Japan.
7: What does Japan want with our wood chips?
Me: They take them and press them together really tight to make logs, then sell them to us for our fireplaces.
7: Why don’t we just make our own fireplace logs?
Me: Because of World War II.
7: What does World War II have to do with wood chips and fireplace logs?
Me: Japan was our enemy during the war. After the war, we rebuilt Japan. We made all sorts of trade agreements with them to help them rebuild their country, and we’ve been trading with them ever since.
7: Why would we rebuild Japan if they were our enemy?
Me: Because we are Americans, and that’s what we do. We don’t hold innocent citizens accountable for what their government or armies do.
This conversation went on for a long time, but you get the idea. My daughter is now an adult with children of her own, and to this day she is interested in the history of World War II.
We didn’t have a lot of money to take vacations. Most of our vacations were spent in Idaho and Nevada with extended family members. We would plan activities around which Camp Fire emblems or beads our children could earn. I remember spending a lot of time one summer in cemeteries learning about family history, as well as learning a little math as the children calculated how old people were when they died from information on the gravestones.
It is so easy to brush off our children when they babble to us. We have important things to think about, like how we are going to pay the bills this month, as well as some not so important distractions like what our next Facebook or Twitter post will be about. Don’t miss out on those precious opportunities to educate your children. As you educate them, you will also learn. My husband and I were often found educating ourselves about topics that held the interest of our children.
Don’t be afraid to pull them out of school for educational opportunities. (Teachers, you didn’t hear that.) I remember keeping my children home from school the day the foundation was poured for the addition to our home. We let the children gather things for a time capsule that was sealed in the foundation. Not long ago, one of my kids was telling me some of the things they remember putting in that time capsule. They learned about the earthquake measures that were taken to hold the addition to the foundation, and they learned that the old part of the house wasn’t subject to those same safety measures. That spurred a conversation about which part of the house would be best to store our 72-hour emergency kit. These are things that they would not have learned in the classroom.
Let’s challenge ourselves to put away the cell phones and other technology and listen to our children and grandchildren. Let’s answer their endless questions, and let’s learn together!