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The Gift of Learning

It’s a new school year. The headline of a local paper reads: “Only 179 Days to Go Before Summer Vacation Begins.”

An area supermarket chain, trying to be cute in advertising school supplies, runs a radio ad in which the word “school” is never spoken but is always negatively referenced: “Remember that place where you had to sit still all day?”

A DJ on a radio station interviews children on the first day of school. “What is your favorite part of the day?” the announcer asks. “Recess!” answers a little girl with a lisp. The DJ rewards her response with laughter and a prize — prompting the next three kids to come up with variations on the same theme: “recess,” “lunch,” “going home.” More laughter. More prizes.

There’s something very wrong with this picture. Just what are American values around education anyway?

Learning Can Be Joyful

Learning and, more important, the drive for learning is a natural part of being human. The greatest gift we can give our children is a lifelong enthusiasm for learning new things.

Remember our babies? Every moment was a moment of learning. Everything in the environment was touched, smelled, tasted, turned over, and examined. Every day was filled with curiosity and insatiable exploration. Watch any 2-year-old and you’ll see a learning machine. Talk to a preschooler about almost anything and you’ll find yourself having to think about it in a new way. Put a 3-year-old on a playground where no one speaks his language and watch how easily he learns words and phrases by the end of the day.

How do we make sure that this natural drive for learning isn’t snuffed out by the first grade? It really is up to us. Like everything else, we communicate how much we value education and learning in hundreds of direct and not-so-direct ways each and every day. We don’t have to say a thing. The kids know what we think is important and what we don’t by how and how much we talk about a subject. A friend of mine says that kids pick up our attitudes through the soles of their feet!

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So clear out any negative feelings you yourself may harbor from your own school days, brush off your attitude regarding “no more pencils, no more books,” and keep your child’s natural thirst for knowing alive. There really are many, many practical things you can do. Why not renew your commitment to your child’s education this year by resolving to incorporate a few of these ideas into your family’s routines?

The Gift of Learning

Marie Hartwell-Walker, Ed.D.

Marie Hartwell-WalkerDr. Marie Hartwell-Walker is licensed as both a psychologist and marriage and family counselor. She specializes in couples and family therapy and parent education. She writes regularly for Psych Central as well as Psych Central's Ask the Therapist feature. She is author of the insightful parenting e-book, Tending the Family Heart.

Check out her book, Unlocking the Secrets of Self-Esteem.

APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, M. (2020). The Gift of Learning. Psych Central. Retrieved on August 13, 2020, from
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 17 Jan 2020 (Originally: 17 May 2016)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 17 Jan 2020
Published on Psych All rights reserved.