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Exposing Children to Culture Might Be a Battle of Wills, but Probably Worth the Experience

Could learning to tune out the kids' complaints of boredom give them a richer education outside of school?

Showing children the diversity of our rich culture is something that I find to be an important part of human growth. By the time my children leave the nest, I would hope they have had enough experience with the outside world to understand and respect the society that surrounds them. 

On a drizzly fall day when I was 7, my family went on a walking tour of Frank Lloyd Wright architecture through Oak Park. Even though the memory is hazy, I remember being scolded by a docent for touching an original Wright dining table. I had no idea why it was such an important table, and I’m sure it was explained to me. But that’s not something you can really comprehend unless you’re old enough to understand the importance behind Wright’s work, which didn’t happen until I was well into adulthood. However, the experience did plant a seed of interest inside of me, and I grew to enjoy architecture, especially the designs of Chicago’s great masters.

Unfortunately, most kids find these things boring, and probably aren't even actually paying attention to what's going on around them during a guided tour of the Fabyan Villa, (I know mine weren't), but, I don't think that means they're not taking something away from the experience.

I’ve been to the Art Institute in Chicago at least 100 times, but I never really enjoyed it until I was old enough to have a somewhat basic understanding in the interpretation of art. Without the early exposure though, I feel there would have been no base to build the knowledge I gained later in life. 

Children can find anything to complain about, and pushing them to do something that isn’t as fun as seeing a movie or going to the circus is as difficult for parents as it is for them.

Was the family weekend spent at the Henry Ford Museum near Detroit when I was in seventh grade a total bore for me? Yes. Am I excited to take my kids there so they can also form a respect for the history of the automotive industry and its importance to the United States economy? Yes! Will they complain the whole time and beg to go back to the hotel pool like I did? Probably.

Had I not been given those experiences as a child, I’m not sure if I would be as well-rounded as I am today. The biggest lesson that I came away with was that it was important to my parents that their children took from life every opportunity to see what was outside of our bubble of comfortable living.

I feel that with exposure to outside cultural influences, even when it’s somewhat unwilling, comes a natural sense of wanting to gain more out of life through education, in and out of school. 

I would like to know how you find ways to broaden your children's lives through cultural education. Do you think that teaching them the importance of gaining insight from cultural history is a building block for intellectual growth? 

Charlotte Norgaard April 06, 2011 at 09:39 PM
Our parents must have come from the same era, because I can't tell you how many cultural excursion my mom and dad took me on as a child, that had me nearly dying of boredom. Not just day trips either, but all of our vacations had some kind of educational theme to them. When all of my friends were getting on a plane and flying to Disney World for spring break, my parents drove us to Williamsburg, VA. A trip that took us three days to make because of all of the sightseeing stops we made along the way. What I did find was that once the agonizing drive was over, the final destination was not only educational, but fun. I am now anxious to take my own kids to Williamsburg one day, even though they are begging to go to Disney World. I think we will likely fly though. So, I guess this is a long answer to your question, but yes, I agree that it is worth the complaining you may get from your kids to introduce them to cultural and educational opportunities.

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