The Collins English Dictionary defines “lifelong learning” as “the provision or use of both formal and informal learning opportunities throughout people's lives in order to foster the continuous development and improvement of the knowledge and skills needed for employment and personal fulfillment.”
Introduced in Denmark as early as 1971, the term “recognizes that learning is not confined to childhood or the classroom but takes place throughout life and in a range of situations” (Wikipedia). Many educators and parents actually advocate lifelong learning because it is considered something that is crucial in a person’s development and growth.
Teacher Tanya Franco Velasco, early childhood educator, CEO and founding member of GURUFIRM, wife and mother of two, encourages parents to do what they can to help their children become lifelong learners.
“It is very important that, as parents, we reflect on our goals for our children,” she shares. “We should ask ourselves questions such as: What kind of children do we want them to become? What kind of future do we want for them?”
“To develop and nurture our children to be lifelong learners is one of the best gifts we can impart to them,” she continues. “Why? Because we want to raise children who are not just knowledgeable but who are also self-motivated to learn on their own — children who do not need prodding or external reinforcement in order for them to understand concepts.”
Velasco reiterates, “We want children who understand, who analyze, who ask questions rather than children who simply memorize.”
“In short, we want to equip children with life skills such as: being curious; independent; sensitive to the needs of others; expressive — these skills are what matter as they go through life.”
If you want to encourage lifelong learning in your own child, here are some expert tips for you:
1. Value your child's uniqueness. Velasco encourages parents to find out their children's interests, and strengths that bring out the best in them.
“It is by knowing your child well that you will be able to discover how he learns, and by doing so, you will be able to support him in ways that will make him love learning more,” she expounds.
2. Involve your child in activities that will help him learn best. “These activities need not be restrained to classroom-learning only, but it can actually include activities that will expose your child to the bigger world outside the school,” Velasco shares. “Take your child outdoors, travel with your child and do activities that will make learning more enjoyable.”
3. Encourage growth. Clarice Talavera-Aviñante, Certified Positive Discipline Parent Educator, and mom of three kids ages 7, 4, and 1, shares this simple tip to help children be lifelong learners:
“Encourage [your kids], and if you praise, praise using the correct guidelines. Instill the growth mindset.”
4. Don’t focus on grades. Ched Arzadon, a teacher educator, researcher, advocate for inclusive education, and mother of three grown children ages 21, 23, and 25 says parents should not be “grade or credential conscious,” and should encourage their kids not to be so either.
“What is important is how you are learning in all aspects of life, not just academics,” she explains. “Teach your children that they are not limited by the requirements of their teachers, and to do things not for the grades but for the love of learning.”
5. Let him ask questions. Arzadon, who homeschooled her kids while they were younger, shares how their family values questioning around the house, which she believes is crucial when it comes to encouraging lifelong learning.
“What is more important is the questions we ask, and how we process things rather than finding answers,” she explains, “and if there are answers, we usually seek alternatives, or see how such answers are framed by contextual factors.”
“As our children grow, the more they should be able to tolerate ambiguities,” she continues. “It's good for them to realize that you cannot put all things in neat ‘boxes.’ It makes you live in awe and wonder.”
6. Teach him how to learn. “One key competency that's being inculcated among young learners today is learning to learn,” Arzadon explains.
“You can do a Google search about how knowledge expands and multiplies, especially when it comes to technology — that once a textbook is made, a new version is created.”
Thus, it is important to teach children how to learn, and how to acquire knowledge, more than just memorizing facts and figures.
7. Be part of a community. Velasco emphasizes this point because learning with a group “makes it even more fun.”
“When children are discovering new things with his peers/friends, it makes learning more enjoyable,” she continues.
Thus, she encourages parents to find playgroups or interest groups that will expose their children to a community that “loves to learn and to experience.”
8. Model lifelong learning to your child. “Children look up to their parents as their role models,” Velasco explains. “Thus, it is good to demonstrate to them and be a good example when it comes to becoming a lifelong learner.”
On a practical level, Velasco advises parents to show their kids what it means to “explore” and “be curious.”
“Show them what it means to value knowledge by reading, researching (through the use of books or the Internet) and to find out new concepts through a variety of means — through traveling; learning from peers; reading; etc.”
9. Develop a love for learning. Last, but not the least, Lizamarie Olegario, an educational psychology specialist and mom of two kids ages 12 and 14, encourages parents to first develop a “love for learning” in their kids.
“Make learning fun. Make reading fun. Make Math fun,” she expounds. “Make every learning experience fun and don't make learning very passive.”
“Instead, make learning active so that they remain curious. Curiosity drives them to always want to learn more.”
In the end, lifelong learning, like most other things related to our children, is something that is better “caught” than “taught.”
Let us show our children that lifelong learning is something to be pursued by pursuing it ourselves, and encourage them to make every life experience a learning one. As American philosopher, psychologist and educational reformer John Dewey once said, “Education is not preparation for life; education is life itself.”