Communities that Care: Parents can help children learn by fostering their interests

August 28, 2013 

Welcome to the start of another school year. As parents and family members, you play a significant role in helping our children to experience success as learners and to prepare for lifelong learning in the 21st century.

This school year, consider making it a goal to help your child take advantage of learning experiences that occur inside and outside of the classroom over the next nine months. Specifically, help your child to reflect on their personal interests and passions, learn how to handle setbacks, and understand “how to learn” as they grow as people and students.

The Centre County community offers a great deal of learning experiences outside of the classroom environment. As your child begins to have these experiences, point out themes that seem to be revealing themselves in your child’s life. Do they enjoy team/group activities, or are they more inclined to work and play as individuals? Do they tend to get excited about challenges involving people or objects?

It’s never too early to start identifying individual interests and passions. Share these insights with your child over time and allow them to add their own insights and observations to your reflections. Your child will benefit from analyzing their talents and passions, especially as they consider post-secondary educational pursuits.

As much as we want our children to succeed 100 percent of the time, no one goes through life undefeated. As part of educational and life experience, help your child learn to deal with setbacks. According to Samuel Smiles, “We learn wisdom from failure much more than from success. We often discover what will do, by finding out what will not do; and probably he who never made a mistake never made a discovery.” Whether your child views not making a sports team or underperforming on a test as a failure, encourage them to keep trying. A great way for you to be involved is not to prevent failure from occurring again, but by helping your child plan and strategize for success at the next opportunity.

Our constantly changing society has made lifelong learning a requirement for managing life in the 21st century. It has been stated in several resources that we are “currently preparing students for jobs that don’t yet exist using technologies that haven’t been invented in order to solve problems that we don’t even know are problems yet.” The best way to help prepare your child for such a dynamic work environment is to talk to them about the strategies they use to help them learn, and provide opportunities for them to apply these strategies in new situations. The ability to learn will help your child become successful in their future ventures.

The new school year is a time of excitement, hope, and optimism. By helping your child learn about their interests and passions, deal with personal setbacks, and develop skills for lifelong learning, you will be helping them to experience success both now and in the future. Have a great school year.

Scott DeShong is the principal of State College Area High School South. This weekly column is a collaboration of Centre County Communities that Care serving Bald Eagle, Bellefonte, Penns Valley and Philipsburg-Osceola area school districts, and Care Partnership: Centre Region Communities that Care serving the State College Area School District.

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