We were all kids once and have all heard some of the same bad information from adults. Now that we are adults we need to break the pattern of bad advice and start teaching our kids how to think critically and do so with facts. Not so our kids can be right, but successful. It doesn’t matter if you are a kid or an adult facts leads to knowledge and knowledge leads to success. So when it comes to Raising Kids in the Outdoors knowledge is one of the keys to not only success, but is also the key to kids keeping the outdoors as part of their life after they grow up. 

My oldest son Dan is now eighteen years old and in the middle of his freshmen year of college. In all reality, he was one of the guinea pigs for the principles and concepts in this series of articles. Dan is the kid I made the most mistakes on and learned the most from. In an interview with “Fish Stories” last year, Dan was asked who his favorite fishing trip was with. His answer was the answer would make any dad proud and is a result of the principles I will be covering in this article. In the interview Dan told how his favorite fishing trip isn’t with any one person but when he gets to fish with the residents of Teen Challenge (a faith based addiction treatment center) and teach them how to fish so they have something to look forward to when they get done with the program. The lessons we learn with our kids at home, in the field and on the water are full of the knowledge that leads to success in the outdoors and in life.

Reading is a tough one for a dyslexic guy to cover, but as much as it pains me to say it…reading is the foundation to knowledge. Teaching our kids how to read was the realm of my wife, for no other reason than she could read. It was my job to teach them how to discern and apply what they read. When it comes to the outdoors, our favorite tool still to this day is The Hunting & Fishing Library produced by Dick Sternberg and Bill Lindner. With the exceptions of the archery volume, all the information in this series is applicable, easy to read and with all the illustrations and pictures reproducible on the water and in the field. What this series of books has, is what you should look for in any publications. Facts, history and experience all in one package. If you read any single chapter in any one of these books you will be more successful because of the knowledge you learned. They are also simple enough for young readers and after 30 some years, I am still learning from these books. The Hunting & Fishing Library can still be found online and on used book sites, but what’s important is to find publications that have the balance in this series; then you can read with your kids and work with them to carry what they learned outside. 

A couple of the biggest killers of kids gaining knowledge is two phrases, first is “just because” and “when you are older”. The reason kids ask questions is because they are learning and when anyone responds with phrases like these they are telling kids you shouldn’t learn. We all need to meet kids where they’re at and help them learn. When they ask questions they don’t need all the details all at once, they need enough to keep learning and gaining knowledge. So whether you are in the outdoors or on the couch taking the time to talk through their questions to their satisfaction; it is more important than I can express in this article. A side effect to following this principle is kids that communicate with you for life.

Once you have read about the outdoors with your kids, it is time to go make mistakes. I mean, try out what you’ve learned. Application is the part of knowledge, mistakes are part of application. The principle goes like this, the keys to success is failure, the goal is not to replicate your failures. It is rare to do something right the first time. We have gotten lucky a handful of times on the first try, but rarely got it right. Knowledge also comes from experience and experience come from doing. So to gain knowledge, we have to try and fail until we succeed. Then we need to learn why we succeeded and then share why we succeeded with others. By being part of this process and observing the process our kids learn how to healthfully gain experience.

Teaching or sharing what we have learned is the only way we truly understand what knowledge we have. As parents and adults we need to provide kids with the opportunity to teach other what they have learned.  It is amazing what we all learn when we let kids learn. A whole lot of years ago Dan, Peter and I were out ice fishing and have no luck at all. Both boys were begging to use the flasher and I kept saying it was too complicated for them to use. I went out to check our tip-up spread and started to hear hooting and hollering in the ice house with cries of “I got one” and “me to”. When I got in the house I found Dan teaching Peter how to play keep away with the walleye using the flasher. It was the first and wasn’t the last time I learned from my kids what I had taught them. They were playing keep away until the fish bit or left. Every fish they caught that night came six to ten feet off the bottom before they bit. I learned a lot that night about walleye, parenting and knowledge because I watched Dan teach Peter what I had taught him, instead of getting mad because they used the flasher.

Dan captured the definition of success in his interview. It’s not about limits and the bigger size. Success is about learning together, teaching others and having a positive outdoor experience. The foundation to this success is knowledge and learning together. The lessons we learn together are the lessons bring you success in the outdoors and in life.

Geremy Olson

Geremy Olson grew up in the outdoors. After being burned as a volunteer firefighter, he had to figure out how to teach outdoor skills to his children from a wheelchair while learning to walk. Today he is an inspirational speaker, FCA Outdoors ND director, tournament director, video producer, wildfire consultant and proud father of the owners of Missouri Secrets Tackle & Secrets to Fishing. GOspeaks.live

Original Published in February 2019

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