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Why Do I Need to Know This?

by Joe Lawrence | March 6th, 2023 | Elementary, School

calculator“I will never use this again!” This is something we have all said at one point in school. How can we change this mentality in our children?

I mostly had this thought in high school when I would rather talk to my friends than listen to the teacher drone on about the Byzantine Empire; however, I did still feel this way in elementary school as well. Recently, I went to a work conference and was reminded of these feelings once again.

Oddly enough, I was asked to deliver a presentation about the Air Force’s basic leadership doctrine to a group of very experienced leaders (Do not worry, I will bring this back around to our elementary kids in a moment). The original plan was to outline the foundation and evolution of our principles over the last 69 years. However, after sitting in briefings like this, I called a last minute audible. Instead, I went back to some simple lessons of education.

There are two basic ideas of military training: train and educate. Training is teaching someone the step-by-step process to do something, and education is sparking the critical thinking portion of our minds. For example, we can train our kids to tie their shoes by memorizing the steps. Education would be teaching them the importance of shoes and why they need to be secured to our feet. Training gets them through the task at hand while education enables them to see the bigger picture and opens their minds to other possible solutions for securing their shoes.

Our elementary children are taught to memorize all sorts of things like the alphabet, songs for the planets, days of the week, and everything else. They are being trained on specific tasks. Sadly, it is not until a much later grade that they are encouraged to use this training. By then, they know how the system works; memorize the definition, pass the test, flush.

As parents, we can help this a great deal. What child does not ask ‘why’ a hundred times per day? Sadly, we encourage them to stop asking why. Instead, why not answer them while they are curious? When I saw my daughter doing math homework, I noticed she was just going through the motions. So, I made it relevant with her allowance. I educated her on how math can benefit her. Somehow this morphed into a conversation about my plane, and my daughter asked me how planes fly and I showed her how air flows over the wings. If something comes up that you do not know, learn together by showing her how to look things up.

We know our children need the lessons they are learning in elementary school. If we use a little creativity, we can help them see the ‘why’ of what they are learning. This will encourage them to learn more and truly understand the importance of school at an early age.

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