We're two weeks and several homework assignments into the new school year. If you're a parent (or related to one) you've instilled a desire to learn in the young ones. Otherwise, you've merely turned them loose in the school.

As a teacher for 31 years, this columnist has noted that a true desire to learn fuels the work involved. Work? Sure, being a student is the youngster's job; and report cards filled with grades and comments are his or her wages. And if those grades are good enough, even better jobs are in store.

While history has examples of famous people who gained sparkling educations all on there own (Ben Franklin was miraculous), most need concerned and helpful parents in the mix.

First of all, a parent has to be interested in school, too. When young Rodney arrives home, he ought to be asked what went on in class (or classes) that day. What did he learn? Which class activity was interesting? What books did he bring home? Hey! If his mother or father aren't interested, why should he be?

With one of the books in hand, ask what page our young student is on. If it's a math book and he responds that they're on page 12, find an earlier problem and ask him to teach you how to solve it. The parent doesn't even have to know how to do it. After all, Rodney is the one doing the teaching.


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The same procedure could be used in the other subjects. English grammar? Again, he becomes the teacher. Dad or Mom can learn all kinds of things this way. And, as every teacher knows, we learn a subject better when we try to teach it to someone else. Parents may have to miss several sitcoms or sports shows, but learning should win out over "King of Queens" and "Funniest Home Movies." The education system works best when parents are supportive.

The famous African-American leader, Booker T. Washington, was launched on the learning path by his mother even though, as a slave at the time, she could neither read nor write herself.

She obtained a book for him from somewhere and would point out words every day, then tell him to ask one of the owner's children their meaning and how to say them. Later, after freedom came and he could attend a regular school in West Virginia, he was already hooked on reading.

The story of Helen Keller shows that even the most extreme handicap imaginable can be overcome. Blind and unable to hear as a 6-year-old, her teacher, Anne Sullivan, found a way to communicate using fingers and hands. Keller learned to speak by imitating Sullivan's vocal cord action -- perhaps one of education's most amazing accomplishments.

The desire to learn can be a powerful motivator.

Contact Joe King at alamedanews@bayareanewsgroup.com.