This time of year, your children may be counting the days to winter break. If their school uses the traditional academic model—hours at a time spent sitting, listening, reading, and writing—they’re likely getting particularly antsy.  


Sad but true, the “sit still” method not only gets boring, it’s helped create the idea that kids are supposed to hate school—and helped make “learning” practically a dirty word. So has the idea, all too common among “fully educated” adults, that “success” means getting everything right the first time—so why risk making a fool of yourself by trying to learn something new? 


If that’s your attitude toward learning, you’re setting a dangerous example for your children. Do you really want them to graduate college “thanking heaven that’s over,” and then remain stuck in a knowledge rut for the rest of their lives? 


If you feel stuck in such a rut yourself, it’s not too late for you either. You don’t have to go back to school or even take a continuing-education class to rediscover the true joys of learning—you can find personal growth and new interests through activities you love. And as a bonus, you’ll teach your children, through example and shared time, that there’s more to “learning” than being fed informational input. 


You can do any of the following alone or as a family: 


Take an observation walk. If there are parks with trails nearby, that’s ideal; but even an urban neighborhood can work. Walk slowly, taking in the surroundings with all your senses. Write down observations that catch your interest: How many kinds of trees can you count? What on that “familiar” corner did you never notice before? Can you find the bird you hear singing—and when you do, how well does its size match its voice? When animal behavior or something else puzzles you, add your own theories to your notes before looking up the facts. 


You can also adapt the “observation” theme for a trip by car or public transport. Just don’t expect to be the driver and the primary observer! 


Attend a museum program. No, it won’t have to be a boring lecture by some college-professor-type curator: even small museums offer intriguing documentary films, hands-on activities, and field trips. Besides general science and art museums, there are many lesser-known places with unusual themes: look up nearby options and their calendars of events. Also check out zoos, arboretums, and libraries—even stores and restaurants often host special programs.  


Try out a new skill. Think of something you “always wanted to learn”—from carpentry to yoga—and do an Internet search for nearby classes, or ask a local business that provides related services. (Ask specifically for beginners’ courses, and “looking clumsy” will become a shared and fun experience.)  


Excited yet? Children get excited even more easily. Teach them the truth about “learning” starting today!