We’ve all heard it before, possibly even said it, or wrote it (educational classes in college maybe?) but what does lifelong learning truly look like? I never really asked this question as an educator, because I was always bogged down by so many things, like teaching, grading, planning, coaching and mentoring. I never had the time (maybe I just didn’t take the time) to stop and think about how I’m working to help my students be lifelong learners. Every day I watched teachers scurry to the photocopiers to copy that last second worksheet, or spend hours setting up their classrooms for proper standardized test configuration. What do worksheets and standardized tests have to do with learning for a lifetime?
As a new parent, I had the most fortunate opportunity to stay home with my children for several months and during that time I wanted to teach my children, but how did I go about doing so? Learning through life. Meaning, we didn’t just do flashcards and count out numbers. No, we went on nature walks and counted how many pebbles we could pick up, or how many ducks are in the pond. We identified colors by walking through tulip gardens. We learned new shapes by riding our bicycles (stop signs are octagons and yield signs are triangles) around the neighborhood. My twins were able to identify body parts by playing games at the park and we determined who had the most dexterity and balance by swinging and walking across a short balance beam. By the time they entered their 2-year-old class, they knew their numbers up to 20, they could identify several letters of the alphabet and could say their major body parts in two languages (sounds like they are geniuses!). My kids do not have off the charts IQ’s, rather they had an opportunity to learn in a way that brought learning to life. Everything we learned had an activity involved, everything we did had a real impact on their daily life. From bouncing through long, green grass to learning the names of our neighbors, my young toddlers became equipped with the love of learning through several mediums. We played to learn new information, we played to reinforce and review information. Instead of reading about brown dirt, we actually used our hands and feet and dug into the brown dirt and happened upon a wrinkled worm. I had the great honor to show my kids that lifelong learning is learning through life!