Certain subjects have always brought my teenage daughter to tears when it came time to do homework or study for tests.
I’ll give you two guesses as to what those subjects are.
If you immediately thought science and math, then you’re right. As someone who has always loved math and science, it was a hard pill to swallow when my own daughter would literally cry just at the thought of doing those subjects. It immediately made me feel like a failure as a parent.
However, what she goes through isn’t unique to her. African American girls do not naturally gravitate towards those subjects. This leads to us being sorely underrepresented in these fields as professionals. Even in chemical engineering (well engineering in general), I normally will hi-five another black woman, when I run across her. It’s just that rare, that it’s absolutely amazing to witness or even meet another woman in your demographic who has those same interests.
I don’t want this to come as a shock to any of my four girls or my niece. As they get older, I want this to be the norm for them. The only way to accomplish that is by starting now and making sure they know that math and science don’t have to be scary.
There are two main things that I have learned over time that I can do in order to help my daughter love STEM.
Make myself available during homework/study time
It can be easy for me (or any parent) to get caught up doing other things when their kids are doing homework. And if you have older kids, it can be easy to just assume that they “got it”, especially if they don’t come to you. I’ve started paying attention to Aly’s body language particularly when she was working on those subjects. This allowed me to jump in and immediately help her, instead of her just sitting there and suffering through it. Even though this doesn’t always cut down the amount of time spent, it does make it less frustrating for her and helps to calm any anxiety she has as she is working through it.
Encourage her to ask questions
Even though my husband and I both studied engineering in school, and very well versed in math and sciences, we aren’t with her while she is at school. If there is something, in particular, they are discussing in class in that she doesn’t understand, it’s important that she asks right then and there, to get a better understanding instead of waiting to come home and ask us. This empowers her to take control of her future in a way and also teaches her that she has to be responsible in some aspects of her education as well. We want her to be comfortable asking questions in any environment without fear and starting early was the best way to make her comfortable.
It’s not just my teen that I am instilling these concepts in…
My four and five-year-old daughters, and six-year-old niece are learning these same lessons early on. It can be something as simple as asking them any of the following questions:
Can you describe what the rain feels like?
What things does your body need to grow?
How do you think a coat or blanket keeps you warm?
This helps them to develop the much needed critical thinking skills that are needed in STEM fields.
Big picture encouragement
To encourage them, in the long run, there are things that we can do as parents to keep them inspired:
-Inspire to dream big. Teach your children to never let fear get in the way of following their dreams.
–Learn by Doing. Inspire your children to care about world issues and create change.
–Raise your voice. Teach your children that their voice matters and to fight for what they believe in.
–Unlock the potential of your brain. Teach your children that their potential is limitless.
My oldest daughter has thoroughly enjoyed reading WordFire Press’ Danielle, Chronicles of a Superheroine, and this has helped to inspired her even further with STEM (she recently signed up for the engineering track at her high school).
Danielle, Chronicles of a Superheroine has been an amazing book my daughter and I could bond over.
If you have a daughter who nervous about math and science or even if she absolutely loves it, I highly recommend pre-ordering WordFire Press’ Danielle, Chronicles of a Superheroine (pre-orders will ship January 2019).
Did you love science and and math while you were in school? Let me know in the comments below!
I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.
Love of impromptu dance parties, 80’s cartoons, and horizontal life pauses (aka naps); Natasha Brown is a stay at home mom of 4 kids, and wife to one lucky guy! In her spare time, she is co-editor of Grits & Grace, as well as editor for The Mother Hustler Blog and Creative Director for the Mother Hustler podcast.