How do we learn from our own children?

I have always looked for older, wiser, more experienced people to teach me the important things about life and I have recently figured out that it is our children that have the answers…

I was an early expert at questioning: When I was a young boy, I would ride with my parents as they went to work in Fort Wayne, Indiana and I would ask, ask, then ask some more.

“Mom, why does the smoke come out of that truck?”

“Mom, why are the lights red? Why do we have to stop at the red ones and some people don’t?”

“Dad, why did he not hit that pitch? It was right down the middle?”

“Mom and Dad, why would you put a window right on the side of the house where I throw my ball off the house? Oh, by the way, I broke the window again.”

Always answer my questions: The greatest thing my parents taught me was always answering my questions. They would tell me, to the best of their ability, what they thought made sense as an answer. If I asked a really good question, they would both tell me they don’t know, but they would figure it out…and they did.

Answering questions helps learners: This definitely helped me as a student. I asked questions of my teachers and expected them to give me the resources and the chance to find the answers. I was always inquisitive, but not always decisive, and sometimes it turned out to be an expensive process. In college I changed my major three times from pre-med (then I realized I didn’t care for science), to Secondary Education (until I realized that I loved working with younger students and seeing their educational discovery), to Elementary Education. I ended up with enough credit hours to probably have a Bachelors’ degree and a couple Masters’ degrees, but just ended with the “most well rounded” Bachelors’ degree EVER! I am convinced that as a pitcher on the baseball team in college I was never happy with starting or relieving so I changed a couple times a year…

Jack of all trades: As a teacher, I have always been excited about new academic challenges, taking on new extracurricular opportunities, teaching new classes and creating new creative curriculums. I have taught a few things in 13 years as a Professional Educator. I think my principal sets me aside when making the master schedule and then plugs me in where he needs me at the end, regardless of the subject area:

6th grade Math, 6th grade English, 6th grade Social Studies, 7th grade Math, 8th grade English, 8th grade US History, 7th grade Technical Education, 8th grade Technical Education, 7th grade Business Math, coached 5th & 6th grade basketball (I am probably the only guy from the state of Indiana who isn’t good at basketball, Go Hoosiers!), High School Varsity Baseball, been a student council advisor, playground supervisor, lunchroom supervisor, boys tennis coach, girls tennis coach and most always been the guy who will force students to say, “Hi” in the halls.

Field Work (i.e. Parenting): Now that I am a parent to some really terrific children (All the credit goes to my wonderful, beautiful, smart, creative, thoughtful wife) I have learned from the other end of the questioning and I feel like I know EXACTLY what my own parents went through.

My 7 year old daughter wants to be an independent learner desperately! She wants to be able to read “chapter” books, download apps for her iPad on her own, set her own password that nobody knows (including her sometimes), sleep in her own room downstairs, help with her younger brothers and make money for it, watch the “big kid” shows on Disney Channel


My 5 year old son asks questions! That boy takes in the world and asks question about things that he doesn’t understand. He asks and asks until he gives the, “Oh! Cool!” That means the explanation was good enough. Until I get that response, I know my work is not done and there will be follow-ups.

My two year old son can’t wait to try all the things his older brother and sister are doing. He is talking up a storm, asking questions just like his older brother, riding his “bike” (big wheel) just like his older brother, eating “at the table” like his siblings, and he loves his mommy just like his siblings.

What have these kids taught me during my “field work”?

  1. Never stop learning!
  2. Always ask when you are not sure!
  3. Be open to new ideas and “try it out”!
  4. Most importantly, Enjoy the process and don’t get too caught up with the end results!

If something on this post strikes you, please share with a comment below and feel free to share and connect with me through Twitter @KiplingEric

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3 thoughts on “How do we learn from our own children?

  1. As a librarian and instructor, I can’t agree more. I especially like the credit you give to your wife, of course.
    The four points you credit to your children are the essence of the life long learner.
    It is so wonderful that you see the process and that you embrace it for your children. It will create a curiosity and need to learn in them that cannot be undone.
    Your thoughts reflect the results of a liberal education which so many institutions today are trying to achieve in their graduates.These very points are what we hope to instill in our students and graduates of our university.
    Mission: “Grand Valley State University educates students to shape their lives, their professions, and their societies. The university contributes to the enrichment of society through excellent teaching, active scholarship, and public service.”

    I think a fifth point which might actually be handed from parent to child:
    Go for depth. Choose your passion and follow it. Learn as much about something you love as possible. Don’t let others dissuade you or keep you from following that passion.
    Mark Twain, one of my idols stated:“Keep away from people who try to belittle your ambitions. Small people always do that, but the really great make you feel that you, too, can become great.” ~ Mark Twain

    But as to a liberal education; Albert Einstein said it best: ” The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”

    Your librarian extradoniaire……

  2. Denise Krebs

    I love your post! Your enthusiasm for learning is stellar! You know some teachers would complain about all the different classes you’ve taught, but I love your take on it:

    “As a teacher, I have always been excited about new academic challenges, taking on new extracurricular opportunities, teaching new classes and creating new creative curriculum.”

    For you, your school, your principal, it’s all good! Thanks for sharing your learning and encouraging the doubters!


  3. Eric,
    I’ve enjoyed “meeting” you on Twitter – through all this learning, you are optimistic, and still questioning! I agree – that’s the way to be. When I feel like I’m finally getting some answers and understanding, something else always comes up that I’ll need advice for. I love your four points at the end, especially, “Enjoy the process and don’t get too caught up with the end results!” It really is about the process – we just need to make sure our students know we care about them and want them to continue learning.
    Thanks for sharing your thoughts! Have fun keeping your four points in mind as you delve into another year!

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