How Do We Get There Part 2 – The Parent’s Role

Updating curriculum to reflect what’s happening in the real world is one way to rethink school and better prepare students for future careers, however, it’s not just curriculum that needs to change but how we view education itself.

Given the pace of innovation there will always be new tools, information and skill sets required for successful careers, therefore, education is likely to be an ongoing process, even if you have a degree in hand. Instilling a passion for learning at a young age will help today’s students prepare for this lifetime of learning. This begins with parents.

Nurturing a Love of Learning

“Kids who enjoy learning tend to explore things more deeply, work harder and be more successful in school and in life,” says Kathy Seal, co-author of Motivated Minds, Raising Children to Love Learning. That doesn’t mean parents need to be proficient at teaching, they simply need to encourage everyday skills that children inherently possess.

Children are naturally curious, and frequently ask questions to help understand the world around them. Though these questions can be tedious for parents, they are critical to a child’s development. In fact, children who come from households where questions were encouraged begin school with the ability to take in information from those around them. This makes them better and faster learners than children who were discouraged from asking questions (DesMarais 2017).

Inviting questions from curious children is a great way to help them gather information, but dialogue isn’t the only way to inspire them. Children already have the capacity for observation and exploration, which can fuel a passion for discovery. Ask them to describe what they see or let them tinker to find out how things work. In doing so parents can lay the foundation for critical thinking and problem solving, the skills many employers are beginning to value over test scores.

One of the most beneficial skills parents can impart on their children is the ability to fail. Letting children fail is a tough pill to swallow, but it can have lasting positive effects. Think of FAILure as the ‘First Attempt In Learning.’ Over time, children who have experienced failure will build resilience and are more willing to attempt difficult tasks because they are not afraid to fail, while rescuing your child sends the message that you don’t trust him or her (Pfaff, 2017).

Actively encouraging the development of skills at home can help instill a love of learning, but setting examples can be just as powerful. Don’t reach for technology during downtime to teach patience. Show children it’s ok to be bored. Have them participate in the household chores with you to learn responsibility. Eat dinner together to provide opportunities for conversation and communication. These simple tasks lay the foundation for hard work and collaboration.

Perhaps the greatest life lessons can be learned through the family vacation. Not only do these trips fuel curiosity and exploration, they teach personal growth and global citizenship. In fact, according to the Student and Youth Travel Associate (SYTA) children who travel have:

  • Increased tolerance of other cultures and ethnicities (74%)
  • Increased independence, self-esteem (69%)
  • More intellectual curiosity (69%)
  • Increased respectfulness (69%)
  • Better adaptability (66%)

International travel has the most positive outcomes, but any travel can have similar benefits because it exposes children to life outside their local community. Regardless of whether you visit another country, another state or another city, the act of exploring something new can have social, cultural and educational benefits.

Get Real About Post-secondary Education

For many families a college degree is the mark of success. Parents from all walks of life, including those who never attended college, those who did and those who pursued graduate degrees, believe college represents the ultimate achievement and the best chance for future success. But is it necessary?

There are many professions where a college degree has value or is required. Careers in healthcare, management and even education require a degree, and skills learned in college such as research and collaboration are prerequisites for success in these careers. Even if a student doesn’t pursue one of the paths where a degree is required, the ability to complete a postsecondary program and earn a degree indicates hard work and commitment, which any employer will value. But in many other fields, particularly those where innovation is the norm, a degree may be obsolete shortly after its obtained.

This is not to say that a degree doesn’t have merit, but it may not be required for all jobs. In fact, according to CNBC Reports, more than a dozen companies including Google, Apple and IBM are no longer requiring applicants to have a college degree.

Today there are a number of paths students can pursue to find a job. Coding boot camps are an excellent precursor to a career in programming or information technology. Online courses offer many of the same lessons as physical colleges at a fraction of the cost. Apprenticeships are a great way to learn a trade, and that experience could lead to additional opportunities down the road like business ownership.

Angela Lee Duckworth, author and psychologist, believes grit is one of the best indicators of future success. “Grit can be learned through launching a freelance career, securing funding for your business or traveling the world and working remotely, all of which can be achieved without your learning credentials in hand.”

Ms. Duckworth notes that while college can help grow skills and make connections, it is the real world challenge of figuring out how things work that determines success.

Ultimately each family will have to decide what makes the most sense for them in terms of higher education. But the factors on which we base that decision are different today than they were 20 or 30 years ago, and it’s important for parents to consider that there are more paths to success today than there were in years past.

Ask the Right Questions

Throughout their youth children are asked what they want to be when they grow up. It’s an innocent question, but it forces children to conform to a box of available options rather than encouraging them to pick a career of their own making.

Consider, there was no such thing as an app developer ten years ago, but that’s now a viable career option. How many other careers fall into that box? Since we don’t know what the jobs of tomorrow look like, asking a child what they want to be in the future is limiting their options. It conditions them to think they have to pick from what’s available today, not what they can create tomorrow. What we should be asking is, ‘What are you passionate about?’

What we love is often times what we’re good at, but it may not fit into a commonly known career. For example, a child who is good at math and loves football may not grow up to become a professional football player. But he might become an analyst, an agent, a coach or he may use equations to develop a helmet that prevents concussions.

By asking him what he is passionate about parents can help identify careers that might further his passion, whereas asking him what he wants to be will likely push him towards a career that matches his skill set, like accounting or finance. He might be good at those jobs, but if he doesn’t love them he may not excel or innovate in them.

Join the Conversation

The paths children take to their future careers will be different than the ones their parents chose, but that doesn’t mean they won’t find success. What do you do at home to nurture a love of learning and set positive examples about education and work? Can you help them pursue their passions, even if that means foregoing college in favor of a non-traditional education?


Connley, C. (2018) – CNBC. Google, Apple and 13 other companies that no longer require employees to have a college degree. (

DesMarais, C. (2017) – Science Says the Most Successful Kids Have Parents Who Do These 9 Things (  

Dholakiya, P. (2016) – Entrepreneur. Do You Really Need a College Degree These Days? (

Patel, S. (2017) – 7 Reasons You Don’t Need a College Degree to Earn Big

Pfaff, L. (2017) – Fuel Your Child’s Desire to Learn (

Samuelson, C. (2018) – Entrepreneur. Does a College Degree Still Matter? (