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In our busy and hurried world, there are many priorities for parents as they raise their children.  A most valuable priority is to instill within their children a passion for learning and a desire to seek for wisdom and knowledge.  Being so busy, how can we as parents do this?

We can have our own thirst for knowledge. My husband and I both share a passion for being lifelong learners. We both share an insatiable desire to know more and to be ever learning.  We read, we research, we write and we use the margins of our lives, the tiny snippets of time between commitments, to gather more and more knowledge about the world around us. We listen to NPR while we are driving, study foreign languages on phone apps, and we listen to insightful talks while we exercise.  I usually carry a book everywhere I go and hope to read, even for a few minutes, just a little more of my latest library find. Learning is always a priority over entertainment. Or perhaps you could say that learning has become our entertainment.

Since example is the always the best teacher, we can model constant learning for our children and others as we satiate our thirst for knowledge.  We can read books – paper or digital, listen to audiobooks while we travel, and take a book with us wherever we go. I was inspired by the blogger Crystal Paine of MoneySavingMom to set a goal for the number of books I read each month.  Making reading a personal goal has helped me to read more and therefore learn more.

We can ask questions and seek for answers.  Of course Google, Alexa and Siri respond to our questions with factoids like “How long is the Mississippi River?” or “How many bones are in the human body?”, but if we need more complex help, we can turn to experts in our schools, community, local university or online sources.  One of my personal favorites is the Khan Academy, a free online resource for students (and their parents!) who are struggling to understand Common Core mathematics (ask me how I know!) and a myriad of other subjects such as biology, computer programming, AP World history, art history, as well as standardized test prep. Another YouTube educational resource is Crash Course which also has a broad offering of subjects ranging from world history to media literacy to engineering.  I appreciate the humor and the fast past at which the material is presented.

When faced with some of life’s more perplexing questions and problems, we can also find potential solutions by querying our personal networks, reading books (libraries are a great source!) and searching online for relevant research and expert help.  Often Google will not provide easy answers to these questions but perhaps can direct us more quickly to the help we need than in pre-internet days. When our children had significant orthopedic surgeries, I appreciated how our own extensive research connected the answers we were receiving from our doctors and with the insights of others who had experienced the same medical procedures.   Empowered by this information triad, my husband and I then felt informed enough to seek heaven’s help to make the best possible decisions for our children. Undoubtedly, learning everything we could from as many sources as possible was critical to every decision we made during the many years our family struggled with significant medical challenges.

We can focus our learning by studying a subject of interest.  The prevalence of internet accessibility has made online education more accessible than ever – from our desktop, laptop, tablet or smartphone.  I enjoy taking online classes from Craftsy and Udemy, as well as other online educators. YouTube is an invaluable resources when you want to learn something new.  I know many people who fix their cars by watching how-to repair videos on YouTube. A friend perfected her pottery skills by watching the online videos posted by a pottery master who lives in England.  There is no way she could have ever connected with this brilliant artist had she not accessed his online videos. What have you always wanted to learn? Challenge Google to help you find a way to start learning it.

We can show our children we value education by pursuing our own higher level of education.  It is never too late to finish that degree, start a new one or change careers. Fortunately, online education makes this easier than ever.  Following my mother’s example of obtaining her Bachelor Degree in Family Studies at the age of 51 and my grandmother’s example of earning her Masters in Nutrition at age 56, I certified as a Health Coach this year.  I sought to accomplish this intermediate goal until we can move in proximity to a school where I can fulfill my dream of studying acupuncture and traditional Chinese medicinal herbs. It’s not too late for any of us to learn more about anything at all and in our day, it could not be easier.

Library day:  an embarrassing quantity of books, I would call it.  Can we even check that many books out of the library at one time? I often asked myself. With our six oldest children in tow we would leave from the public library with so many books we could scarcely carry them all.  Once we lugged them inside, our children gathered together their chosen books and read for hours about whatever interested them that day: skyscrapers, animals from the African Savanna, Harry Potter cookbooks, picture books with pink covers and princesses or the latest sci-fi novel that had been on hold for weeks. On those days my heart beat with happiness as I helped my children pursue their own love of learning.  I expect that those frequent library visits with our children’s exploratory book selections helped them to discover their passions and now, for our oldest, their post-secondary education and career paths.

I fondly remember listening to the 6 p.m. CBC news on the radio during dinner as I was growing up.  My parents carefully followed local, national and world events, so consequently my four brothers and I did too.  As we grew older, we often discussed current events and political happenings around the dinner table, and we still do whenever we get together.  This rich laboratory of learning was fueled by debate and discussion, an invaluable way to encourage our children’s current and future education.  

When our two oldest sons were young boys, my husband often discussed physics, chemistry, biology and engineering with them.  I am sure it was no coincidence when both sons pursued undergraduate and advanced degrees in the sciences. During our nightly family scripture study, we have long followed the pattern of reading a scripture and then discussing its meaning.  Often our children share the profound insights during these scriptural discussions which not only enriches our own perspectives, but reinforces their own.

I once heard that in any situation, there is value in figuratively crossing the street to look from a different perspective.  Just as your understanding of a car accident or a house fire may be different depending on which street corner you are standing on, this is also the case with national politics or international crises. It is easy to make quick judgments looking narrowly at a problem. I find myself doing this far too often. It is much more difficult to seek out myriad perspectives to uncover the complexities of both the problem and the solutions.  I believe it is imperative to figuratively cross the street to see from another’s vantage point and thus obtain not just knowledge but wisdom.

In conclusion, let me share a quote about wisdom from Maren Butcher, a member of the Big Ocean Women global strategy committee.  Maren said: “The world is becoming a rapidly connected classroom with knowledge and ideas being shared in a matter of seconds. With much of mankind’s knowledge now accessible in the palm of the hand, converting this knowledge to wisdom remains a highly personal and family-centered quest. Again, it is within families that we first learn to process and organize the information that we gain access to. Without this guidance, we will find ourselves in a sea of knowledge still lacking and hungry for wisdom and may lament as once did the ancient mariner: ‘Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink’ Are we becoming equally wise as we become more knowledgeable?“  And when all is said and done, isn’t that the question we all need to answer?  

 Written by Andrea Smith