Fun, excitement spice learning in all its forms

Building Children's Aspirations

Posted: Wednesday, October 17, 2001

A census taker approaches a house and asks the woman who answers the door, "How many children do you have, and what are their ages?"

Woman: "I have three children, the product of their ages is 36, the sum of their ages is equal to the address of the house next door."

The census taker walks next door, sees the house address is 13, comes back and says, I need more information."

The woman replies, "I have to go, my oldest child is sleeping upstairs."

Census taker: "Thank you, I have everything I need."

Question: What are the ages of each of the three children?

Fun and excitement come in a wide variety of forms. Brain teasers, card games, jokes, a good story or book, and family adventures all engage us and peak our interest.

The team at the National Center for Student Aspirations defines the condition of fun and excitement in children as: "Children exhibiting genuine enjoyment and endless energy toward activities and being open to learning and growth."

Some of my fondest memories from childhood are not of the long trips and challenging adventures my family took, but of the time we spent together playing card games while camping or discovering a unique and beautiful rock or plant.

The point is that the condition of fun and excitement doesn't need to be an elaborate, expensive activity. It needs to be a sincere desire of parents to be an enthusiastic ally of their children -- to help your child realize the joy that exists and the excitement that awaits us around every corner.

As I did in the articles on belonging, heroes and sense of accomplishment, I am including some questions from the "Parent's Inventory for Affecting Children's Aspirations" from the National Center for Student Aspirations.

This is not a test. It is just a checklist to help all parents in one of the most challenging and rewarding jobs in the universe: raising children. As a parent, evaluate how you strengthen the condition of fun and excitement in your home. Make a mental mark for each of the items so that they are in the following categories.

n This pertains to my family all the time.

n This pertains to my family most of the time.

n This does not pertain to my family, but it should.

1. I see to it that life around the home is fun and exciting.

2. I work with my children to make experiences exciting for them.

3. My children think spending time with me is fun.

4. I participate in a variety of activities that my children like to do.

5. I have fun when I am with my children.

6. Engaging my children in family activities is a priority.

7. My children see me having fun.

8. My children take part in choices and decisions made at home.

9. I challenge my children's thinking in many supportive and interactive ways.

10. My family enjoys each other's company.

What follows is an action plan to help you improve your skills with the condition of fun and excitement. Writing down your answers can be a great help.

1. How can I create excitement in my home?

2. What can I do to create more engaging activities for my children?

3. How can I let my children know it is important to have fun?

4. What daily or weekly routines could I make more exciting at our home?

5. How can my children better share their hobbies and interests with me?

6. What are the initial next steps I am planning on making in this condition?

7. How will I know I have been successful in establishing the condition of fun and excitement?

Fun and excitement do not come from an expensive toy or other material object. Fun and excitement are a state of mind. It requires your time and your participation.

Did you figure out the brain teaser? Here is the solution:

The reason the census taker couldn't figure out the children's ages is because, even with knowing the number on the house next door, there were still two possibilities. The only way the product could be 36 and still leave two possibilities is if the sum equals 13. The two possibilities are: 9+2+2 and 6+6+1.

When the home owner stated that her "oldest" child was sleeping, she gave the census taker the fact that there is an "oldest."

So, the children's ages are 9, 2 and 2.

We are halfway through the eight conditions that foster student aspirations.

As a quick review: the first was sense of belonging, the second was heroes, the third was sense of accomplishment, and the fourth was fun and excitement.

In these troubled times, take time to listen to your children. The events of the last few weeks affect them, too.

For more information on aspirations, please take time to visit the National Center for Student Aspirations Web site at

Hank Overturf, the assistant principal at Kenai Central High School, has 26 years of experience in education. He has been with the Kenai Peninsula School District for 10 years.

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