There are endless ways for people to approach new learning. Sometimes it’s fun to take a closer look at this, to appreciate all of the possibilities.

For example, picture three children who come upon a swimming hole. The wader kicks off her shoes and wades in slowly, to feel the water and to feel the bottom of the pond on her feet. The diver runs to the edge and dives in head first, opening her eyes underwater and checking out the depths of the pool. The scout keeps his shoes on and scouts around the pond, studying it carefully, attempting to understand this new swimming spot.

Which of these (or how many of them) do you see in your child?

The Wader

The wader is that careful child who needs to get involved, but not immerse herself in her learning. She likes the feel of something new and, at the same time, keeps her eye on the shore (what she knows). Once the water feels good to her, she might take her favorite floaty with her and explore deeper water, but only as long as she can see the bottom clearly. Knowing the shoreline and the shallows are her main goals. There is no need to know all about the deepest parts of the pond, because there is plenty to enjoy in the shallows.

Safety, comfort and peaceful ripples are her zones of interest. She’s happy where she is. It’s not fear that keeps her from the depths, she is content with learning about the depths by exploring the shallows. The wader will learn partly from being involved with the new pond and partly from conversations with others. It’s important to her to feel good about the depth she’s at, rather than carelessly plunging into the “new.”

Is there a wader at your house? Have you explored the shallows together?

The Diver

Our diver jumps into the pond headfirst! She’s swimming around and experiencing a new pond by playing and immersing herself in the water. There’s no getting used to the temperature for the diver. She’s happy with the shock of the coolness and wants to get wet right away!

She’s going to be the first in and last out of the pond. Late in the afternoon, the diver will be splashing and playing and picking up rocks from the middle of the pond. The enjoyment of the pond for the diver is in the swimming and exploring and experiencing of every inch of it. Obvious enthusiasm drives her to throw caution to the wind and immerse herself in the new.

Wow! The diver may be hard to keep up with, but she enjoys every moment she can and offers you the chance to dive in with her. Have you taken that leap recently?

The Scout

The scout is the inquisitive one of the group. He carefully analyzes everything he sees. The shore is full of information and he probably has a copy of a Guide to Ponds in his pocket. This book will be compared to what he sees as he walks around the entire new pond, looking for meaning in it.

The pond is more than just a swimming hole. A scout learns about the ecosystems in the pond by observing and not disturbing. He respects the pond and is more comfortable trusting this experience rather than exploring by getting wet. Before he ventures into the pond, he will know everything there is to know and study every aspect it. He is a thoughtful explorer, making notes and having discussions with others before disturbing the new area.

Have you gathered information with a scout at your house?

Three In One

When thinking of the wader, the diver, and the scout, we tend to describe them as separate and unique sets of traits. In reality, we find ourselves as a scout, a wader, and a diver in different situations or in different moods.

We see parts of all three in our children, too, depending on the time of day, their social comfort level, the season of the year and a multitude of other factors. Children of all ages are unpredictable learners who may be scouts one day and then dive into an unknown swimming hole the next. The wader may decide to study a bit first and the diver may lay on a towel watching the other two explore and play.

Observe your children and see how they approach new learning and other activities. You can observe yourself, too. Do you prompt their different styles? Or are you able to adjust what you do to what they do?