child doctorOn one of our more recent trips to the Philly Please Touch Museum W became incredibly involved with the hospital section. The museum is fantastically divided into many different kinds of worlds. We’ve been to the museum many times and on different visits he typically gravitates towards the construction site section. He has spent entire afternoons stacking foam blocks into a wheelbarrow and carting them to the back of a dump truck.

But on a more recent trip he walked right on by the blocks and truck and walked into the hospital. He did a scan of the room and then stopped when he saw something sticking out from behind a chair. “Oh no! Someone needs my help!” He walked over to the neglected stuffed animal and placed him on a nearby exam table. “You are going to be ok.” And he gave the animal a gentle pet.

It was sweet to watch him in this role and in between his exam I asked him, “do you think you want to do this when you grow up? Be someone who takes care of people?”

He thought a long time about it, so long that I was fairly convinced he either didn’t hear me or wasn’t interested in the question. Then he replied, “yes, I could do this. But I also want to drive a garbage truck.”

Of course.

One of the life lessons my son struggles with is one I am all too familiar with. We both become very interested in things and immediately want to be experts. While I do enjoy learning, the act of it has sometimes been daunting. For W, he simply can not stand a delay. Why delay starting a game to read the rules? Just PLAY!

You can imagine how frustrated he gets.

This first year in kindergarten has been eye-opening for him. He started the year furious that he could not already read or solve math problems. In his mind when you got to school these skills were somehow automatically fused into you. He didn’t realize there would be a process and that at times it could be slow.

Half a year in and he is a completely changed boy. His love for school has always been there, but now he seems to truly love learning. He is of that age where everything is a question and a puzzle waiting to be answered or solved and for him, school is the key to doing that.

When he has mentioned things he may want to be when he grows up – a doctor, a garbage truck driver, a robot maker – we explore what that kind of world will look like for him. Part of that exploration is education. What kind of classes would a doctor need to take? What kind of school would a garbage truck driver go to? What if you wanted to build a robot garbage truck? Where do you learn how to do that?

Since W likes to be an expert I have tapped into that by letting him know the more he learns the more of an expert he will be.

This weekend I casually asked W again what he wanted to be when he grows up. He’s so into creating math problems that I wondered if he would want to investigate a way to do that as a grownup. As usual, W surprised me. “I want to be a gym teacher.” Oh? “Yes. I want to play games and teach kids how to do exercise and tell everyone about how the body works.”

Before I could even respond he followed with, “and yes I know I need to find out what classes I need to take to be a gym teacher.”

To read more about how parents can get involved in their children’s education, visit the National Education Association. Their site has outstanding and inspiring resources available to parents.

This post reflects a collaboration with the National Education Association’s Raise Your Hand for Student Success campaign. All content and images are my own.

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