It’s a common scene that many parents have experienced – your child sitting at the kitchen table, textbooks open, shoulders slumped, and a pout on their face. They may say things like “Why do I have to do this?” or “What’s the point of all this anyway?” Perhaps you remember thinking the same thing when you were a kid!
As parents, it can be frustrating and disheartening to see our children question the importance of education when we know how key a good education is to their future career success, well-being, and happiness.
Let’s explore the importance of education for children’s overall development and cover practical tips for convincing your kids of its importance.
Why is education important?
An educated population makes life better for everyone, which is the theory behind publicly funding schools and making going to school compulsory under the law. Countries with a better-educated population indeed experience increased economic growth, better health outcomes, and lower rates of violence.
On an individual level, there is a significant body of research that shows a strong correlation between quality education and better outcomes throughout a child’s life. For example, a study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that each additional year of schooling can increase a person’s lifetime earnings by 10%.
But it’s not just about earning potential. Education can also have a significant impact on a child’s brain development. A study published in the journal “Child Development” found that children who attended high-quality early childhood education programs had better language and literacy skills, improved cognitive abilities, and better social-emotional development than children who did not attend such programs.
Moreover, the importance of education for children is not just about academics, but personal and emotional development. According to the American Psychological Association, educated people are more likely to have higher self-esteem, confidence, and a sense of purpose, which are all essential for lifetime happiness.
Education also theoretically provides children with opportunities to build positive relationships, develop social skills, and learn important life skills such as teamwork, leadership, and communication. At Prisma, we believe the traditional education system often neglects this aspect of education, so we design our curriculum to explicitly teach these kinds of skills through our Collaborative Problem Solving Workshops, Life Skills class at our high school, and hands-on projects.
Why education might not feel important to kids
Despite the many benefits of education, some children may not see its importance. Young children may find school tedious and boring, and the pressure of exams and grades can add unnecessary stress. At Prisma, we believe it’s important that kids enjoy school so they can grow up to be lifelong learners, so we intentionally design our curriculum to be engaging, and allow kids to follow their interests. We’ve also done away with the traditional grading system in favor of mastery learning.
Moreover, children may not always understand the purpose of education beyond achieving good grades in school. The traditional education system often doesn’t find it important to emphasize for learners how what they are learning is relevant to the real world, as we recently discussed in our blog post about real world learning. And you might struggle to explain your child’s curriculum’s relevance, too, if you don’t actually use algebra or your knowledge about the Revolutionary War in your everyday life.
Convincing your child of something you’re not totally sure of yourself can be daunting! What we believe is this: Education isn’t necessarily the same as school. There are ways to value learning in your home that don’t mean you need to convince your child of the importance of every single worksheet they bring home. We also believe that homeschooling, worldschooling, and even unschooling can be just as valuable forms of education as that offered in the traditional education system.
How to convince your kids education is important
To help your child appreciate the importance of education, here are some practical tips you can try:
Make sure they’re in the best learning environment for them
Every child has unique learning needs, and finding the right learning environment is crucial to their success. Whether it’s a traditional classroom, homeschooling, online learning, or a unique blend of homeschooling and online learning like what we offer at Prisma, it’s essential to create an environment that meets your child’s learning style and preferences. If you’re finding your child is frequently complaining that they don’t see the point of education, consider having a discussion with them about possible alternatives to their current situation.
Model a positive attitude toward learning
Children learn by example, and they will pick up on your attitude towards learning. If they see you taking an interest in learning new things, they are more likely to follow suit. Make an effort to engage in lifelong learning through finding your own learning opportunities, whether it’s attending a workshop or taking an online course. Or, simply model an interest in learning something new. Let your child see you asking how something works, researching a current event, reading a book, or trying a new recipe.
Avoid anti-intellectualism in the home
Anti-intellectualism is the cultural rejection of education, “looking smart,” or critical thinking. It can manifest itself in statements such as “I hated school,” or “I’m not smart enough for that,” or even “What a nerd.” If you find yourself making such comments, or if this is the kind of thing your child hears from other family members, know that these statements can influence children’s attitudes toward education and create negative associations with learning.
Give them diverse learning opportunities
Encourage your child to explore different learning opportunities from the ones that aren’t resonating with them, both inside and outside of school. Consider enrolling them in extracurricular activities such as music lessons or sports, which can help them develop valuable life skills such as teamwork and self-confidence, and apply the practice of education to an area more interesting to them.
Non-traditional learning opportunities such as travel, volunteering, or apprenticeships can also provide valuable learning experiences that extend beyond the classroom.
Allow opportunities to talk about learning
After they engage in school or one of the other, interest-driven learning opportunities described above, take time to talk with your child about what they’re learning and encourage them to share their thoughts and ideas.
Encourage them to document their skill development and discuss how they’ve improved slowly, over time, through practice. Then, apply that observation to school—how might their math or writing skills develop if they put that kind of time in?
It’s important to acknowledge that education is not always easy, and that there may be obstacles along the way. Whether it’s struggling with a particular subject area or just general overwhelm, help your child understand that these challenges are natural. At Prisma, we believe learning should be “hard fun,” and that being challenged means you are learning. We encourage kids to develop grit and frustration tolerance to see those moments of struggle as something to relish, not run from.
However, we also believe that kids shouldn’t feel so stressed by school that they lose out on the joy of being a kid. If that’s your child’s daily experience, it might be worth a conversation with your child’s school or a mental health professional.
Show the purpose of education
Help your child understand that education is not just about getting a good job or making money. It’s also about developing skills that will help them become better decision-makers, problem-solvers, and critical thinkers. Of course, the best way to show this is through experience, not discussion.
Consider having your child shadow family members or friends at their jobs, or talk with them about the skills they use at work and how they learned them. Try exposing them to unconventional combinations of skills that make some people successful, like how fashion designers use geometry, or how some people combine a love for video games with writing to become gaming journalists.
Highlight the benefits of higher education
While not all children may choose to pursue higher education, it’s important to highlight the benefits of doing so, so kids work hard and keep all available options open to them. A higher education degree can open up more opportunities for personal and professional growth, and increase earning potential.
Try having your high school aged learner sit with you and review available job postings on a site like LinkedIn or Indeed. What education requirements do the jobs have? What is the pay available, and is that below or above the average pay for your area? This activity may help illuminate the benefits a college degree can bring.
Education is crucial for a child’s personal and professional development, well-being, and overall quality of life. As parents, it’s our job to help our children see its importance beyond just getting good grades in school. By creating a positive learning environment, modeling a love of learning, and emphasizing the role education plays in a child’s overall development, we can help our children become curious, passionate, and engaged learners who are ready to tackle any challenge life throws their way.