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Inspiring children to value authentic academic achievement can be a challenge. Instead of emphasizing solely outward signs of “success”—such as an A in calculus or an award-winning science fair project—parents should focus on instilling in their children a true love of learning.

What exactly is a love of learning, or “intellectual curiosity”? According to Michael W. Austin, Ph.D., in an article for 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. It is what propelled Thomas Edison to experiment with over 2,000 filaments when building an electric light bulb. And it is what has ignited the passion behind each new discovery throughout the ages.

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

So, how can parents equip children with a love of learning that will stand them in good stead for the rest of their lives? Back to Basics Learning Dynamics, the area leader in 1-on-1 tutoring, offers three simple approaches parents can implement to spark a passion for knowledge in children of all ages:

1. Remember: Children model what they see.

A parent is a child’s first—and most important—teacher. From early infancy on, children absorb vital life lessons like sponges.

World-famous psychologist Albert Bandura developed the Social Learning Theory, which posits that people learn simply by observing others. Parents can implement this modeling behavior by displaying a love of learning in their own lives. Get excited about whatever inspires you—whether it’s ancient Greek architecture, digital photography or gardening—and share that enthusiasm with your kids. Take books out of the library. Do online research. Visit an exhibit. Watch documentaries on your favorite topics. Your active pursuit of knowledge will show your children more than you could ever simply tell them.


2. Explore real-world applications.

Many students are apathetic about school because they can’t see or understand their subjects’ relevance to the “real world.” A common refrain among students is: “But this book report/social studies lesson/math project is so meaningless! When will I ever use this in real life?” Pointing out how often adults actually do use what’s learned in school—or at least demonstrating a correlation between school subjects and future jobs—can be a real eye-opener. Linking existing passions to “book knowledge” will establish in students a need to know more. (If your child dreams of a career as a film animator, nurse or astronomer, for example, explain how a solid background in math and science will help him or her attain such goals.)

3. Give your child ample opportunities to further his or her interests.

If your child has an interest in bugs, for example, head to the Museum of Natural History, and then do some online research into how bugs are being used to cure diseases. If your child is passionate about music, take in a free concert in a genre that is completely outside his or her primary interest area.  

Whatever his or her initial interest, the key is to help your child expand and grow by learning more, questioning more and developing a true thirst for knowledge.

Beverly Stewart, M.Ed. | Founder and Director of Back to
Basics Learning Dynamics, Inc. and Back to Basics Private School

Ready to get started? Back to Basics Learning Dynamics can help! Back to Basics is the area leader in 1-on-1 tutoring for children and adults, and offers exceptional instruction by professional, degreed instructors in over 60 different subjects, from foreign languages to art, math to music, science to photography. Visit Back to Basics Learning Dynamics, Inc. to learn more. Or, call us at 302-594-0754 to speak with an education expert about your child’s unique interests and needs.

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