It’s Father’s Day in the United States. For some this is a good day to Bar-B-Que or go out to dinner. For others, it is just another day or even a source of pain. For me, I can’t help but look back on my childhood and give thanks for the father that I had (and still have).
In no way am I claiming a perfect childhood. I have no rose colored glasses, I assure you. However, I do have a dad with an adventurous spirit and a love of education (and by default, educating). Together, with my mother, Dad created an educational whirlwind of a childhood and opened doors and opportunities that still help me today. So instead of talking about an article or some crazy technology innovation today, I’m going to share some memories and with them ideas that can help you build your child’s future.
It was not uncommon for my weekend to involve finishing Church services and my dad announcing when we hopped into the van that everyone needed to get inside, get changed and load up the car with beach chairs and towels. I’m sure a lot of kids in South Florida experienced that. Fewer experienced the three hour drive as we would go discover some new beach and the ham radio that we all had to be quiet so Dad could be on. My teenage self was not pleased with these Sundays because they prevented me from spending time with friends and watching TV. Looking back, I became an excellent navigator thanks to the multiple times we got lost in the pre GPS days. It’s a tool that I still use today. We also discovered isolated, beautiful beaches and had the chance to really explore them since they were not crawling with other families. So, pack a bag and take your kids on a local adventure today!
Sometimes, instead of the ham radio in the car we would listen to him as he was sitting at his desk and talking to people around the world. He would often run mini contests when we had friends over, just to see how many contacts in how many countries we could make. When the twin towers were attacked, I didn’t need an explanation of where Afghanistan was and it wasn’t the first time I had heard about the Taliban. You see, one evening we were running a contest a few years earlier and we got to speak with a ham operating his illegal station from inside Afghanistan. I remember looking up the country and then the Taliban so I could understand why he couldn’t chat long. Had my father not been willing to interact with me or encourage me to do so with others, I never would have taken that time to learn.
There was never a dream that I had that my father didn’t say was possible. I went through a phase of wanting to be Scully from the X Files, and my dad told me I could absolutely do that. Even though that is nothing close to the career I have found myself in, I never doubted that I was capable. Encouragement to explore and discover who I am and where my interests were was a huge part of me being who I am today. There is no fear when I consider what I want to do in the future. Even now, when I tell my father I want to take on a new endeavor he talks me through the logistics and encourages me.
I’m sure most of us have heard that we, as parents, are our children’s first teachers. A more accurate statement would be we are our children’s longest teachers. I’m still learning from my parents in my thirties and I can’t be the only one. I came close to a perfect score on the Vocabulary portion of the SAT. I’m sure part of the reason is that I have always been a voracious reader. However, a stronger part is likely my father. We would sit around the dinner table most evenings and enjoy a meal together as family. During that time there were many common topics and some not so common ones. Whatever the conversation landed on, we were each able to participate. Often, one of us would use a word that my father thought was inaccurate. At that point, we would be challenged to provide the definition of the word and if we did not know it, we would be required to get the dictionary and read the definition out loud. I love my expansive vocabulary and the only people who have offered a challenge in Scrabble in the past 15 years are my siblings.
We don’t have to do things the same way my father did, but we do need to consciously create and make available opportunities that encourage a love of learning. My father still does this with my children. While other kids are told to stop asking “Why?”, Dad is actively asking, “Do you know why?” It might drive you nuts but he is taking advantage of the sponges that children are. They absorb knowledge from all around them. So, today, go ask a child if they know why something happens. Listen to their answer and then help them discover what an adventure learning really is.
Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads out there and if you are an educational adventurer give yourself a pat on the back. You are a likely a big reason why your child LOVES to learn.
This post is dedicated to my father, a life long learner and adventurous educator. Happy Father’s Day. I love you.