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Our Future of Education

Part 1 of 7- Parents as learning coaches

By Sherrie Neff

Recently, in my reading, I came across a 2014 educational forecast concerning the future of education in America and the role each of us plays.

It describes education at that time and forecasts the future. It also offers opportunities for change and a call for action. It is well written and well thought out by some of the best minds in our country on the subject. Here we will break it down to set simple and achievable goals.


In a world where both parents are expected to work to have the means to raise children above poverty, the "parents as learning coaches" sounds impossible to succeed at. Our responsibilities with work, chores, errands and meals fill our days. Then the child needs sports, hobbies, and socialization also. Where does it end? It doesn't, but it does not have to be as complex as it sounds.

We will use our museum as an example, yet we coach our children daily with every interaction. So let's be aware and be on purpose.

Our museum, as an experiential education institution, offers guests learning opportunities. What is not commonly known is some of the ways this learning is taking place. The obvious is education through description, manipulation, and exploration of a particular subject matter.

Less obvious is that by bringing a child to self-directed, hands-on exploration, they can gain empowerment within their self-awareness to make decisions. They can analyze the good and adverse outcomes and then choose their action in a safe environment.

We require supervision so that wrong choices will not cause injury to them or destroy items within the museum. Yet we also encourage participation from the adults because each cognitive development that the child gains is deepened and more concrete when an adult or someone they trust follows their lead.

We are not given a guidebook with parenthood, and it can be overwhelming, frustrating, and confusing how to care for them and prepare them for adulthood.

As mentioned in this forecast, parents are the fundamental teachers, but it is not because of the time they try to teach; it is often through the time they spend with the child. Our actions speak louder than our words, even when we are yelling.

When your child sees you enjoy learning something new or being actively curious about a hobby, skill, or subject, it is also part of their paradigm. But, taking it a step further, get excited about their learning and interest. For example, their fascination with bugs could begin a lifelong learning journey in science, agriculture, and medicine.

Schools indeed need more parent participation, yet it is also true that the key to lifelong learning is curiosity and experimentation with new skills and subjects. Lean into the topics they are interested in to keep the spark alive while they dredge through the other uninterested assignments. If they believe they can, they will.

We are impacting the children around us whether we are conscious or not. So let's set small goals that will significantly impact their growth potential. Encouraging them in their interest can manifest by books from the library, simple DIY projects in the subject easily found online, sharing your latest learning journey, and a million other small ways.

The Whizzard Academy afterschool program offers these types of projects, and the Director, Heather Richardson, is passionate about assisting families in every way she can. Feel free to call her to find out more @ (406) 452-6661.

Next week we will look further into this forecast and, almost ten years later, see what direction we are headed with education.

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