The One Thing Every Child Should Learn (But Is Not Taught in School)

Apr 28

We all want our children to succeed. For those of us with school-age children, a large part of their success right now is placed on their grades at school. When one of my sons bring home an ‘A’, I’m thrilled – throwing  accolades upon him for his achievement. When a ‘C’ shows up on a test or report card, my brow furrows with dismay as the questions pile up – did you not study enough? Is the teacher not doing her job? Are we going to see more of these rounded letters (’cause I prefer the one with the straight lines)?

It’s natural for a parent to panic when a child’s marks are below expectations. After all, just as a good university degree (or two) will increase a person’s career opportunities, so will good marks improve a student’s chances at obtaining that great university degree. Right? Well, maybe not. Unfortunately, a great university education cannot even guarantee professional success. Today, there is no shortage of unemployed twenty-somethings with a collection of hard-earned degrees.

So, if even stellar marks AND a great university education cannot guarantee a well-paying, fulfilling job, what hope is there for our kids who have yet to graduate to high school? The answer, I believe, comes down to one single word: Innovation.

Innovative thinking, unfortunately, is not taught in the classroom. In fact, except in the most progressive schools and under the most progressive teachers, today’s kids are fed their information in the decades-long drill and kill style of learning. I talk, you listen.

While there are many signs that this form of teaching is changing to incorporate a more hands-on approach to instruction, it could be another decade before we see major change. I think everyone can agree: sitting quietly at a desk all day does not encourage innovative thinking. While I do believe rote learning is necessary to teach kids much of the content of the curriculum (I have great faith in our many amazing teachers), I also recognize that kids need far more opportunities than they are getting to explore their imagination and seek answers to their own questions.

By encouraging our kids to innovate, we are preparing them for a future where there are no straight-cut paths to success and where the job market of today will look nothing like the one they will face in twenty years. Innovators aren’t afraid to ask the hard questions and then search for creative solutions, even in the face of possible failure.

Lucky for us, kids are born with innovative minds. It’s over-programmed adults, like us, that drain them of it. How many times during the day does your six-year-old ask you a question? How many times do you wave her off? Good luck getting a thirteen-year-old to ask anything other than ‘Can I have some money.’ Go figure.

So, what can a parent do to improve their child’s ability to innovate? Well, stop relying on schools, for one. The onus is on us to encourage kids to keep asking questions and to find their own answers… while still having fun. More work for them is not part of the equation.

You can join me as I embark on an innovation quest with my three boys through science experiments, cutting-edge software programs, improv, even LEGO building (love that stuff) and who knows what else. I can guarantee that things will get messy. Am I doing this in the hope that my kids will be the next great inventor of our age? No (although I’m not against the idea…) I simply want to ignite a lifelong spark of innovation that will help them become the best entrepreneur, inventor, musician, social activist – this list could get long – that they can be. I want them to know the sky’s the limit.



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One comment

  1. Isabelle Carter /

    Great article Danielle, I couldn’t agree more!
    An authentic Montessori education addresses this and then some!
    I’m attaching a really great article from last week’s Globe and Mail that talks about how Montessori education encourages innovative, “outside the box” thinking in children vs. the limited thinking and reward/punishment based educational model our traditional schools are built upon.
    Here’s the link


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