Saturday, November 17, 2018

Put Your Child to Work

Old-School Apprenticeships Help Children Learn in Modern World

It might sound really old fashioned, but apprenticeships are coming back in style, just like retro tees for women and Zubaz (ahh – the memories) for guys. And these aren’t the apprenticeships of old where you lease out your children as soon as they turn 13 so that they can learn a trade you think will be valuable to them and your entire family. Modern apprenticeships take the passion and abilities of children and combine those with phenomenal real world opportunities to learn from masters of crafts, trades, and higher thinking.

When my kids want to learn more about changing the oil in the truck, they go to Dad, but if they want to find out how to make an amazing cheesecake from scratch, they come to me. If they want to learn how to throw a better sinker at the plate, we tell them we can’t help them. But then we go, like we did with our son, and find a professional who can help. The kids have learned what so many adults have unfortunately pushed out of the way to make room for the more convenient brick and mortar ways of learning: hands-on learning and exploration with guidance by experts is one of the most effective ways to develop skills and to help people find their own true paths.

Modern Apprenticeships

I recently heard about The Institute for Educational Advancement, a non-profit based in California, which takes exceptionally gifted children and matches them with apprenticeships that match the students’ particular passions. These aren’t your run of the mill programs, either, as we are talking about high school students who might become an apprentice in anything from liver stem cell maintenance research, to aerosol pollution issues, to a state’s Supreme Court. As the studies are rigorous and intense, they are only designed for the very upper percent of the most academically successful students.

While programs like those offered through The Institute for Education Advancement might seem intimidating or unavailable for many students, even those above average ones, this type of program highlights a very valuable and underused approach in modern education. Apprenticeship is one of the most powerful ways our children can get a true feeling for the day-to-day operations and expectations of a career. The apprenticeship doesn’t have to last for years like those of the past – the ones arranged by The Institute for Education Advancement are only weeks in duration, but they are intense and give a perspective that just can’t be found while sitting in a classroom listening to a lecture.

If we don’t have access to elite apprenticeship programs like these, how can we as parents help prepare our children to pursue their passions, especially when those might be in areas where we have no personal or relevant experience?

Find mentors in your children’s fields of interest. In the handbook Parenting Teens, by Dr. Clifford L. Johnson, chapter 3 begins with “Your teenager needs a mentor. It doesn’t matter whether your child is a 4.0 student or a failing student, a mentor can help him or her be more successful.” I have found that many professionals are more than happy to lead children in these specific, goal oriented type approaches. If you are seeking for mentors for your kids, consider the following:

Look for possible mentors in your neighborhood, church, and among your friends. You can even call universities and businesses and ask if they have people who are willing to work with youth on goal oriented learning experiences through mentoring. Our daughter’s dog training class leader is also a veterinarian (the life goal of my daughter), so my daughter asked her if she can come and observe her during work. Not only was my daughter welcomed into the clinic, but she got to participate in certain portions as well. 

Be up front with the possible mentor (or better yet, have your child be up front). Let that person know that his career, hobby, or other pursuits are of great interest and your child is really interested in learning as much as possible him.

Help your child set goals specifically pertaining to that mentor. If the mentor is an expert in sewing and your child wants to learn how to sew a quilt, make that the end goal and talk with the mentor about all of the steps in between that will be necessary in order to reach this goal. This gives your child and the mentor the opportunity to assess the situation and make a plan.

Try to make visits with the mentor more than just a one shot deal. It takes time to build a relationship where both your child feels comfortable and where the mentor feels engaged enough to let your child see the “not so fun” aspects and make some mistakes.

Look for mentors and experts in unusual places. Right now my boys are excited about yo-yos – they fling through my house with lightning speed and have caused a few injuries. I can barely get the toy to move up and down, so when my boys want to learn more tricks, they turn to experts they have found online. They watch videos, ask questions of the experts, and have plans to attend a demonstration/competition where they can meet in person with these experts.

Have you ever watched the television show The Apprentice – that one with business mogul Donald Trump firing all but the last competitor? We need something like that for our youth – a way in which kids can experience real world job situations and learn on the fly. Apprenticeships might be old-school, but they can probably give our kids benefits that just can’t be found in school. If you had been exposed to your career path in this way, would you have chosen the same direction?

Related posts:

  1. Why You Should Put Your Kids to Work
  2. How to Work at Home with Teenagers in the House
  3. Surviving and Thriving as the New Generation Work-at-Home Mom

View full post on Parenting Tips For Raising Successful Kids |

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