“Society has learned by sad experience that illiteracy and poor school performance are often a common denominator for juvenile delinquency. In light of this, it is important to create an atmosphere of learning in the home. Let us strive to make it exciting and rewarding to learn. One of the most noble things a parent can do to bless the life of a child is to help him or her have a desire to learn. Education in all of its ramifications should truly be the quest for truth. Truth will make us free. Gospel knowledge understood and appreciated will help us live a Christ-like life and lead us back into the presence of our Heavenly Father.” (Ed J. Pinegar and Richard J. Allen, excerpted from a forthcoming book called, “What We Need to Know and Do.)
While schools might have the primary responsibility for educating most children, the entire process can’t be left to the
schools. Parents need to help their children learn to value their educations and to succeed in them. Following is a family night lesson to help your children understand why they need an education. It includes helping children create an educational life plan.
Ask your children to draw or write what they want to be when they grow up. If they choose something unrealistic, such as a rock star, remind them that although some people do achieve these dreams, and it is fine to strive for them, most people don’t earn enough from those careers to support themselves, and when they do, it takes years to achieve that. In the meantime—or just in case they don’t make it to the top of that career, they should have a backup plan. Many famous people majored in something that could provide them with a good living should their first choice not work out. Ask them to next write or draw their backup plan.
If you don’t already know the answer, help each child look up the educational requirements for this career. If a formal education isn’t required, find out what college majors would assist the student in preparing for it. (For instance, writers don’t need degrees in many cases, but they can major in English, which improves their skills and allows them to teach, or they can major in something they want to write about, so they have good credentials.)
Hand out copies of the entrance requirements for one or two colleges in your area, or that you hope your children will attend. Point out that the requirements must be met in high school—four years before the student actually starts college—and that in order to meet them, the student also needs to prepare in the lower grades to be able to cope with high level classes and tests.
If your children are traditionally schooled, help them evaluate their report cards to find weaknesses and strengths. If they are homeschooled and you don’t give grades, discuss this together and decide what their weaknesses and strengths are. Remind them that everyone has strengths, some of which are not reflected on report cards. Add those non-graded strengths to the list. The list of strengths can be used to help a child choose a career.
Remind them that just because something is a weakness doesn’t mean it has to stay a weakness. How can they improve in their weaker areas? Help each child formulate a plan for improving in one school subject and explain how they will know when the goal is met. For instance, they might get a tutor, or ask a family member to help. They might alter their study habits. They may look for books and games that make the subject more interesting. Put the plan in writing and have the children decorate the paper if they’d like. If you feel your children benefit from small recognitions, leave space on the paper to place a sticker each time the child does something that will improve his skills in that area. Plan a non-material celebration when the goal has been met, such as a special dinner or a day at the park.
Finish your meeting by helping your children discover the benefits of a good education. For instance, they can spend their adult years doing something they love, rather than having to take any job that comes along. They can have a better income, which will allow them to do some things that cost money. They can have personal satisfaction and the pleasure that comes from knowledge.
You may want to ask older children to write a letter to themselves about how they picture their lives at age 25. Place the letters in an envelope and date them for the year they are to be read. Put them somewhere safe and mail them to your children when the time comes, but give them each a copy now, so they can begin to formulate a plan to make this dream happen.