“Let’s Look It Up”

At the breakfast table one morning Dad solemnly warned the children, “Beware of the summer solstice today.” Their many questions availed only a sly smile and “You’ll see. But don’t say I didn’t warn you.”

When Mom also refused to reveal the secret, the kids had only one recourse: “Let’s look it up!” And off they ran to the encyclopedia and science books.

Within a short time, they had unraveled the mystery of the summer solstice and were plying Mom with related questions. By day’s end, the family had constructed a homemade sundial, visited the nearby planetarium, and done some stargazing through a borrowed telescope.

Too often children lose the joy of discovery as they grow older. They forget that learning can be fun, probably because they have come to equate “learning” with homework and a series of “must do” assignments. Learning thus becomes something to be endured, to be passed over as quickly and with as little effort as possible.

But parents can do much to help their children retain their innate love of learning. The key lies in fostering the idea that learning is fascinating, that learning is an all-the-time, lifelong pursuit. Once children realize their parents are interested, helpful mentors, their horizons broaden and they are on the road to becoming independent learners.

Mealtimes are an excellent time to discuss new ideas. And try going on family field trips. I’m constantly amazed at how few of my students have ever been to see the sights right in their own city. When you’ve exhausted all local resources, you can roam farther afield or take specialized vacations.

For long trips, make an itinerary that older children can follow. Prepare maps showing the route you will travel. Include geographical landmarks, towns, or points of interest every few miles so children can have many items to watch for as the miles roll by.

Learning experiences don’t have to be expensive, either. When you’re camping, for example, look at those eggs in the trout you just caught. Or try to discover what animal made those big tracks.

Use stories to broaden children’s interests. Instead of relying solely on fiction and fairy tales, use a variety of materials on all subjects. Our children were nearly grown before they realized that National Geographic was not necessarily in the business of writing bedtime stories. By then they knew about Kenya, the Himalayas, Mardi Gras, diamond mining in South Africa, bears, cats, peoples of many lands, and scores of other subjects.

Don’t be afraid to tackle big family learning projects. One time our family built a five-by-eight-foot plywood topographic jigsaw-puzzle map of the United States. In addition to woodworking skills, our children learned much about the physical geography of their country, the names and locations of the states, and much, much more.

Probably the single most important thing you can do to help your children enjoy learning is to be constantly learning yourself. By your own example you can show that learning is worth both the time and the effort that it takes. Let them see you reading and wondering and investigating. Parents who adopt this attitude can expect rich rewards of increased knowledge for themselves and for their children. Donna S. Moyer, Salt Lake City, Utah

[illustrations] Illustrated by Bill Swenson

The Job Hunt

In a study on career education I made recently, I was impressed with three ideas. To be prepared for a career, you should know yourself well—your interests, talents, and values. You should also know about the many jobs available and their training requirements and opportunities. Last, you should know how to get a job.

Knowledge of individual interests and of the job market can begin when a child is young. Parents can expose their children to many ideas. My family vacations were always fun because we learned as we traveled. We stopped to see parachutes packed by firefighters; trees felled, transported, and sawed in mills; paper made from pulp and books printed on the paper. We visited automobile assembly lines and cotton mills. The more a child knows about himself and his world the better able he will be to choose a career which will be both useful and satisfying.

Although some type of education is needed to qualify for many jobs, researching specific career and job opportunities will help you get the job you want. For example, with my education in psychology and English, I might have sought advice from technical writers, organizational behavior professors, editors, principals, and teachers in all types of education. When doing this type of research, you might ask the following questions: What do you do in your job? What training did you need? What do you like about your job? What is your greatest challenge? At this point, your goal is not necessarily to sell yourself to an employer, but to find out whether or not you would enjoy a particular type of employment and what the future job outlook is.

With such background information, you can then tailor your resume to a particular position. Resumes should usually be limited to one page. They should be professional, not clever, in appearance. If yours is printed on a light beige or gray paper, the employer will be more likely to notice it in the pile on his or her desk. Sometimes it is better to request an interview from the person who has the power to hire you, instead of always going through the personnel office. It is also a good practice to write a thank-you note immediately after the interview to the person who interviewed you and to the secretary who helped you.

Contacts such as friends, teachers, and ward employment specialists can be very helpful in recommending you when they hear of job openings. In fact, most jobs—as many as 80 percent—are never advertised.

Knowing you are trained for a career gives a sense of security. Even if you never work full time, your skills can help you at home, in the Church, and as a community worker. Such training can help expand your abilities and talents so you are always ready to serve. Arlene Flanders, Ogden, Utah

[illustration] Illustrated by Bill Swenson

“Now What Can I Do?”

Do your children complain they have nothing to do, even though they have toys enough to keep them occupied? I have found that my children would much rather do “real” things—help me around the house or create their own useful objects—than play with toys.

I discovered early that my children enjoy feeling that they are contributing to the family. When I bake, the little children grease the pans. It is just as creative as finger painting and it keeps them busy while I mix the ingredients. It is a necessary part of the operation, so they feel good because they have been useful. When I make bread, each child has a piece of dough to shape and bake. It is more fun than working with modeling clay and it results in something we can all enjoy.

The children help with other cooking, too. They sometimes mix a meat loaf with their hands while I add ingredients. They also wash potatoes, shuck corn, and tear lettuce for salads. It takes them longer than it would take me to do these things, but by the time they are old enough to start school they can fix a meal. (An added benefit is that they are not fussy about what there is to eat because they have cooked it.)

During canning season the children stem cherries, pit apricots and prunes, peel apples, and slip the skins off peaches, beets, and tomatoes. We write their names on the lids of the jars they fill so they can survey their work when they are done. While we are canning, we tell stories, make up songs, and just enjoy being together.

Instead of buying building blocks for our children, we get wood scraps from cabinet shops and saw mills. The kids help us stack the wood, and then play with it until we have burned it all in the fireplace.

We teach the younger children to help around the house by playing games. Sometimes I say, “I’m thinking of a particular toy. Whoever happens to put it away gets a surprise.” Or I’ll say, “Your ticket for dinner is a spoon,” or whatever else needs to be picked up.

We also use real-life situations to help our children learn academic subjects. I told one of our daughters who had a hard time learning to read that she could cook as soon as she could read the recipes. By the time she was eight, she was making cakes and cookies from scratch without my help. She also learned math from cooking. We always have to double or triple a recipe; soon she was making the necessary calculations with ease.

We encourage family members to develop new skills and talents. Our older children are involved in making slide shows for their grandparents for Christmas and birthdays. They write their own poems and songs and plan to submit them for publication.

When children’s learning activities are part of real life, they feel confident about their abilities and can begin planning their own activities. They don’t need us to tell them what to do. And they feel secure in trying new things because they have succeeded in the past. Above all, they don’t have to spend time preparing for life, because they have already been living it. Mary James, Orem, Utah

[illustration] Illustrated by Scott Knudsen and Richard Hull