What are "Teachable Moments"?

Relationships are created and nurtured moment by moment, line by line, and in between the lines. How many of us bought into the idea of trying to separate life into batches of quality time, only to be left with fragments instead of fulfillment?

Planned teaching and training time is good, but the spontaneous and natural teaching that happens during the minutiae of daily life lends variety and fun to what is often seen as mundane. 

It starts with being aware of your surroundings and your child. Learn to balance the importance of the tasks in which you are engaged with your child’s need to connect with you and understand the world around them. Even when time is short and errands are essential, you still can give your child snippets of meaningful information and a lesson in efficiency and focus.

Teaching is not a constant stream of explanation in the model of the top-down lecture. Because we often suffer from ‘the curse of knowledge’, we forget what it is like to not know what a word means, or how things work. Instead of rattling off explanations, ask questions that guide your child to answers, and listen as they work it through in their minds. Asking and listening is an excellent teaching method, because it reveals what our kids don’t yet understand.

For instance, while you are waiting in line at the bank, ask your child:

So while you are waiting in line. . . 

So while you are waiting in line. . . 

  • Why do you think workers at the bank are called “tellers”?
  • What does the bank do with our money after we deposit it?
  • How do banks make money?
  • What kinds of services does the bank offer?
  • Who makes sure that banks are safe?
  • Can banks go out of business?
  • Are there different kinds of banks?

You, of course, may feel like you need to be prepared with all the answers to these questions. You don't. It's fun to discuss the possibilities with your children, maybe even having them jot down some notes of what you can look up together when you get home.

It doesn't hurt, however, to leave your house prepared. Think about what kinds of errands you have to run, and brush up your knowledge of the places you visit on a regular basis.

When you research the above questions about banks, you would find that the word “teller” is from an Old English word that means “to count”. We don’t use it that way much anymore, but we still teach kids how to “tell” (count) time. 

Banks are actually very important for keeping our economy healthy. Sometimes kids imagine that the money deposited in a bank goes into a giant safe and waits there until we want to use it. But banks don’t literally store our money for us. When we deposit money in the bank, it’s like we’ve put our money with everyone else’s into a big pool, although your account is credited and debited according to how much to deposit and spend, and how much interest you earn.

Then the bank uses the pool of money people have deposited and they put it to work by lending it to businesses, home buyers, students going to college, and for other purchases. The Federal Reserve tells banks what percentage of the money they are allowed to lend out. All loans are paid back to the bank with interest, so the bank can afford to offer all these services.   

Because the banking industry is so dependent on consumer trust, it is highly regulated by the government. If everyone went to the bank at the same time and wanted their money, the bank would fail. However, banks are insured by the FDIC (Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation) so people would still be able to get their money. But it's still true that if we all went and got our money at the same time, our economy would crash - which is what happened at the beginning of The Great Depression.

There are several different kinds of banks:

Retail banks fulfill the basic needs of the general public, offering checking and savings accounts, certificates of deposit, and safety deposit boxes.

Commercial banks handle the needs of businesses, both large and small. They also offer checking and savings accounts, lines of credit and loans for large business purchases, and letters of credit.

An investment bank helps organizations use investment markets, such as raising money by issuing stocks and bonds. Although investment banks usually only serve businesses, some investment banks also act as retail and commercial banks.

A central bank manages banking at the federal level by setting monetary policy and supervising financial firms. America's central bank is called the Federal Reserve. Other countries have their own central banks. 

Some people don't realize that there is a difference between credit unions and retail banks because they look and act so similarly. However, credit unions are nonprofit organizations owned by their 'members'. The credit union limits its membership to people who work in a particular field or live in a specific area. 

Online banks are like retail banks except that they don't have a physical location, but are used via internet access. Because they don't have as many overhead expenses, they sometimes offer more competitive rates for services and investments.

Savings and Loan banks specialize in home mortgages.

I will continue to post information and suggestions for Teachable Moments, so come back for more helpful hints to give you ideas about how to make every day moments into Teachable Moments.