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Over the years, Wozniak has spoken openly about his childhood and the role that his upbringing played in his early success with technology. Since parting ways with Apple in the mid-80s, Wozniak has been an avid spokesman of early tech education and has dedicated much of his life to helping children develop and pursue their passions in the field of technology. From participating in various philanthropic ventures to founding Woz U, Steve Wozniak has made it his personal mission to bring quality tech education to learners of all ages.
Despite the incredible importance of formal education in a child’s life, Wozniak has always stressed the role of the parent and the learning environment within the home. Unfortunately, many parents today are unsure how to inspire their children and prepare them for a successful career in technology. Additionally, there are many parents out there who may be wondering, “Is there more I could be doing for my child’s education?” and “how can I raise the tech innovator of the future?”
At the Nordic Business Forum in Stockholm, Steve Wozniak spoke specifically about this topic and gave the following tips to parents on how to raise the next Woz:
According to the Woz, one of the greatest determining factors of a child’s success is their ability to discover and explore freely. Rather than pushing your child to study certain subjects for economic reasons, allow them to pursue their interests and let those passions motivate them.
“Let them explore. Let them be a part of the whole world, and things that they like and the directions they want to go in,” says Wozniak. “But don’t say, ‘Here’s what you should study. Here’s the school you should go to because it will make more money in your life.’ No, no, no, no. Let them do what they enjoy,” says the Woz. “Ultimately, that will help them develop self-esteem.”
And while education may require more structure in later stages, too much structure in early childhood development can suppress a child’s creativity and their love for learning. Instead, focus on giving them a safe place to learn and explore their passions.
“Don’t put really forced structure,” says Wozniak. “Be a little loose, let them explore and try their own things, a little bit like a hacker does. … So, have less restriction.”
Since every child is unique, you can’t force them to enjoy certain topics over others. However, you can equip them with the necessary resources to grow in the direction they want to go. As you learn more about what interests your child possesses and what factors motivate them, provide them with the tools they need to go further.
“Help them go in that direction. Give them support, give them education, give them materials, things they don’t have,” says the Woz.
As a parent, giving moral support and signs of approval can also encourage your child to pursue their dreams. Furthermore, making learning materials readily available at home is key to their success.
While the majority of parents worry about getting their kids into top schools and institutions, formal education is just one of the many places where kids can learn. For Wozniak, the place where he learned most was at home.
One of the defining characteristics of Wozniak’s upbringing was the example of his father, an engineer at Lockheed Martin. As a child, his father would bring home diagrams of the latest technologies and ask the young Woz to help him solve engineering problems together.
“I saw diagrams of the first chip that would have six transistors — now we have got 20 billion transistors on a chip for the same price,” said Wozniak. “I grew up very young not realizing I was seeing the path that was leading to the path of the future of technology and electronics.”
Being exposed to cutting-edge technologies opened his eyes to the field and sparked his curiosity. And while Wozniak firmly believes that “passion can’t be assigned by a parent,” the parent plays a strong role in their child’s educational development.
Finally, let your children start their own projects and learn through each success and each failure. Even Wozniak himself didn’t find commercial success in everything he did, but he enjoyed every minute of it.
“I did project after project after project in my life that wasn’t worth a company or big money but, oh my gosh, I love doing them and showing them off and it motivated me to keep going and going on to learn better and better techniques at learning things tiny and small,” said the tech legend.
As long as your child enjoys what they’re doing, they will come out with a renewed desire to pursue their passions and further develop their talents along the way. Standardized education simply doesn’t meet these needs. Instead, a child’s passions will lead them to experiences that give them unique skills and talents.
“What you want to do is more important than all the knowledge you have and education you have been trained, because you have the same knowledge as millions of other people out of the same books. So you are just on equal footing with them,” says Wozniak.
Parents who want to raise the next Woz should focus not only on what school their child attends but also on the learning environment within the home. Creating a home that is conducive to learning requires providing children with the freedom to explore and discover their passions, the tools to pursue them, and inspiration for the future. Above all, make sure to be active in your child’s education at home without creating restrictions or pushing them in one way or the other. With the proper balance between oversight and freedom, your children will discover their unique talents and begin to flourish.