Written by Natalya Ganchina M.Ed.
Education is a lifelong adventure. For me, education means becoming more aware of the world and culture around you. There is no final destination in this journey. I believe that the well-educated person is not necessarily the one who received a degree or earns a lot of money. A truly educated person can change their inner being and outside world with simple deeds.
Where do we learn? Who are our teachers? School teachers are only part of the story. As a pedagogue, I believe that parents should be involved in the process of education for their children. Parents should understand what is happening in the classroom and the playground, from birth through teenage years. Do not expect a school, a daycare or someone else to be able to spend the individual time and attention to educate your child fully. According to a 2015 study by Lenz et al., “between first through twelfth grade, kids spend less than 20% of their waking hours in school. That means they spend more than 80% of waking hours outside of school.”
Even if we don’t think about it this way, much of a child’s education happens at home. From the day we are born, the people who surround us are the first educators in our lives. When your child wakes up in the morning, their brain absorbs information about life, looking at their home environment to set an example. You teach your child how to live by what kind of mood you wake up with, what exercise you do, what breakfast you eat, and more. Children are like sponges — they absorb everything that happens around them.
Parenting choices also teach children about what behavior is allowed, what habits are healthy, and what actions are right. For example, children are being educated when parents decide what age their child should get a cell phone, whether they should watch TV, read, or play board games before bed, and how children are allowed to socialize with their peers, online and in real life. These choices shape the way children grow up.
When you think about parenting as a kind of education, it can change your perspective. Close your eyes and ask yourself some simple questions. “What kind of person do I want to nurture? What are the most important qualities I would like to see in my child when they become an adult?” Think about the reasons for your parenting choices. Educate your child from the point of unconditional love that you can find in your heart. Believe in your child. Everything can be a learning experience, if you communicate with your child. In this way, parenting is not about punishment for bad behavior, but continual nurturing and teaching.
The best education you can provide your child is the good habits and skills that will keep them safe, healthy, and ready to be independent in the wider world when they grow up. But every parent should be aware that if they do not spend the time to educate their child with purpose, their child will still be learning automatically — but they will pick up knowledge and habits from everything, including friends, TV, and the classroom, and you cannot control the results for your child’s personal education.
A parent is not a school teacher. A parent doesn’t teach school subjects — they teach life itself.