I grew up in a low income area. My elementary school was categorized as Title I, meaning 80% or more of the students are living at or below the poverty level. My parents never attended college or any higher learning, but what they lacked in formal education they made up for in their determination to provide more for their children.
Did you know that children who grow up in low income homes statistically hear 30 million less words than their same age peers by the time they are 5 years old? By the time these children start school they are already at a severe disadvantage. This can be due to lack of education for their parents, lack of access to information, and more. 30 million fewer words. Based on where I lived, attended school, and other factors, I should have been one of those statistics, but thanks to my amazing parents I was offered so much more.
Reading and learning was always important in my home when I was growing up. I remember being provided books, seeing my mom read constantly, going to the library for story time and summer programs. We watched documentaries on The History Channel all the time and Jeopardy was a staple in our nightly television routine. As a child my family had a pass to Charles Towne Landing and my mom would take us there to ride bikes and explore the little village with horses and candle making that was once there. Family vacations were spent going on history tours, visiting museums, and exploring historic areas. My parents provided answers more than, “because I said so”. We were encouraged to learn more, do more, and be more. My parents cultivated in my a love for history and a love for learning.
As a parent now, I hope to provide the same opportunities for learning for my child(ren). Creating lifelong learners is a task. It starts early and it never stops. It requires hard work and dedication on the part of the parents and the child. As my son creeps up on a year, I try everyday to show him how to explore, to use his imagination, to strive to learn more. That sounds crazy for a one year old, right? But you have to start somewhere.
No, I’m not drilling my kid with flashcards! However, I do talk to him constantly, reply to his little noises, provide books/shapes/colors/whatever for his entertainment, encourage him to climb and adventure, and more. The simple act of asking W questions about what he’s seeing or doing is fueling his cognitive and language development. Not to mention that I don’t look as crazy talking to a baby in public as I do when I just talk to myself!
I’ve already started taking W to my favorite historical places around Charleston. We recently spent a few hours at Charles Towne Landing and have plans to hit up the Charleston Museum this summer. He has no clue what’s going on, but bonding time and exposure are still awesome benefits.
All of that to say: You can create a love for learning in your children, but you first must model that. Be a lifelong learner and encourage your children to join you. Take trips out with your kids to nearby historical sites. Check out your public library’s summer schedule. See when Home Depot is having their next weekend workshop for kids. These things don’t have to cost money, so don’t let that excuse hold you back! It just takes time and effort, but in the end everyone will be better off for it and you’ll have great memories to talk about for ages.