By Beverly Stewart, M.Ed. – Published June 2014

While legions of children may wish otherwise, it’s back to school time! And this school year, you can inspire your children to academic achievement, not just with the outward trappings of “success” like an “A” in Calculus or an award-winning Science Fair project, but with a true love of learning.

What is a love of learning or intellectual curiosity, exactly? According to Michael Austin in a recent article in Psychology Today, “The intellectually curious person has a deep and persistent desire to know. She asks and seeks answers to the “why” questions. And, she doesn’t stop asking at a surface level, but instead asks probing questions in order to peel back layers of explanation to get at the foundational ideas concerning a particular issue.”

Intellectual curiosity is what drove brave explorers to cross the Atlantic Ocean in search of the New World, what propelled Thomas Edison to experiment with over 2,000 filaments before achieving success, and what has ignited the passion behind each new discovery throughout the ages.

According to education experts, the amount of intellectual curiosity displayed by students directly correlates to academic performance. While “learning to the test” may have some short-term rewards, academic achievement preceded by intellectual curiosity is a far more accurate indicator of eventual success.

So, how can parents inspire children with a love of learning that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives? Here are three simple approaches parents can implement to spark a passion for knowledge in children of all ages.

First, children model what they see. A parent is a child’s first, and most important, teacher. From early infancy onward, children absorb like sponges life lessons like how to walk, talk, and feed themselves.

But, other vital lessons are also taught, often unconsciously. For example, world-famous psychologist Albert Bandura, developed the Social Learning Theory based on the premise that people learn simply by watching others.

Parents can use this modeling behavior by displaying a love of learning in their own lives. Whatever inspires you, whether it’s ancient Greek architecture, digital photography, or propagating new roses, get excited about it and share that enthusiasm with your kids. Take books out of the library. Do online research. Visit an exhibit. Your active pursuit of knowledge will show your children more than you could ever simply tell them.

Next, explore the real world applications. Many students are apathetic about school subjects because they can’t understand the real world applications to “book learning.” A common refrain is often, “but this book report/science lab/math project is so meaningless!”

Pointing out how often we actually do use what’s learned in school can be a real eye opener. Plus, by creating a link between what is learned in school to existing passions, a need to know more is established.

For example, if your student dreams of a career as a film animator, nurse, or astronomer, explain how a solid background in math can help and how many diverse careers use math every single day.

Although your child’s dreams of discovering new planets may never materialize, by sparking that desire to learn more, watching the heavens as a backyard astronomer may become a lifelong pursuit.

Finally, provide him with opportunities to further an interest. If your child has an interest in bugs, a visit the Museum of Natural History is a natural first step. But also do some online research into how bugs are being used to cure diseases.

Or, if his passion is music, take in a free concert in a genre that is completely outside his primary interest area. From country, to reggae, to classical, you’ll be opening his eyes to a completely new musical experience. The key, whatever your child’s initial interest, is to help him expand and grow, learning more, questioning more, and developing a true thirst for knowledge.

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Beverly Stewart, M.Ed.

Beverly Stewart, M.Ed. is President and Director of Back to Basics Learning Dynamics, Inc., an area leader in 1-on-1 tutoring and test prep for children and adults, and translating/interpreting since 1985. In addition, Back to Basics is a Department of Education approved 1-on-1 Private School for K-12, as well as a Business and Trade School for ages 16+.
Email Beverly at beverly@backtobasicslearning.com, call her at (302)594-0754 or visit on the web at www.backtobasicslearning.com or www.backtobasicsprivateschool.com.

Back to Basics Learning Dynamics, Inc. is located on 6 Stone Hill Road, Wilmington.

Beverly Stewart inducted to Hall of Fame of Delaware Women