What did you learn today?

Today we learned

About 15 years ago, I remember watching a real bad Bruce Willis movie – I mean really bad – The Story of Us, don’t watch it, it’s dreadful . But it had one saving grace. The family depicted always sat down for an evening meal together, and every night the Dad (Willis) made his kids tell everyone one thing they learned at school that day. Just one thing that they didn’t know yesterday.

Watching this (before I had kids of my own) a nerve struck me about this as an idea. ‘How was school today?‘ gets the normal grunt and “OK‘” from the teens. Making them come up with something they actually learned today to the evening dinner table does not allow them to get away with a throw away line. They have to explain something they learned today that they didn’t know yesterday. Try it, kids love it.

Not only does this keep the conversation going around the dinner table, it sends an important signal to your children – as their parents you are interested in their education, and they can explain something that maybe even their parents did not know. On all sorts of levels, this is fabulous.

When our kids began school, we started doing this every night. It works a treat. We’ve been at it for years now. It’s automatic. They are now clamouring to the be the first one to tell us something they learned today. We take an active, real interest in our kids’ education, and we learn something ourselves. The signal this gives off is very powerful.

I was a teacher for 13 years, and now I’ve been a parent of 13 years. I can say that the whole education system can be boiled down into one strong premise: it’s not the fancy school you send your kids to, it’s the fact that education works as a triangle: the school is one corner of that triangle, the child is the other, and a supportive home life/parents is the other. All have to work together. Each is as important as each other. You cannot default learning (or parenting for that matter) to the school, it’s a triumvirate. If one (or two) corners are weak, education is weakened. One element cannot do all the heavy lifting – it’s a team game.

The simple act of asking your kids what they learned today closes the loop perfectly.

Don’t just take my word for it. This is steeped in educational research. In fact, a new online service has been developed in Perth that looks to promote just this – an app that updates parents in 60 seconds about what their kids learned today – simply called ‘Today We Learned‘, it won the RAC Seed Spark accelerator top prize of $25,000 (as the best new tech idea in WA) and the team are currently being mentored and are looking to commercialise the idea.

So, why not ask your kids what they learned today at school? This simple act, done regularly over many years, could be the single most important thing you do to improve your childrens’ educational outcomes.

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