William J. Bennett, excerpted from The Educated Child
Nothing stirs stronger passions among educators—or parents and policymakers—than the issue of how children should be taught to read. Which is better for your child, phonics, or the “whole language” approach?
In phonics, children begin by learning the basic sounds represented by letters and combinations of letters; they are then taught to “decode” written words by “sounding them out,” letter by letter and combination by combination (e.g., the difference between the and a).Phonics teachers usually emphasize the single accurate spelling of any word. Lessons often include games, drills, and skill sheets that help youngsters associate the letters with sounds. Students read “decodable” stories containing only words they can sound out using the phonics lessons they’ve learned.
Whole language teachers, on the other hand, generally take the view that phonics drills and stories with phonetically controlled vocabulary turn students off. They hold that children acquire reading skills naturally, much the way they learn to speak. In their view, understanding the relationships between sounds and letters is only one of many ways students can learn to recognize new words, and sound-letter relationships do not necessarily need to be formally taught. Whole language theory says that children learn to read and write best by being immersed in interesting literature, where they learn words in a context they enjoy and understand. Students are encouraged to figure out the meaning of new words using a variety of cues, such as by associating them with accompanying pictures, or looking at the ways they are used in sentences along with more familiar words.
The argument between phonics and whole language advocates has been raging for decades. (“I have seen the devastating effects of whole language instruction on older students,” a Colorado teacher writes, for example. “These students cannot spell or write properly because of years of learning bad habits encouraged by whole language.”) It’s come to be known by some as the “Reading Wars.” Yet many years of experience as well as research by scholars such as Jeanne Chall, Marilyn Adams, and Sandra Stotsky tell us that there really should be no debate at all. The evidence is clear: an effective reading program combines explicit phonics instruction with an immersion in high-quality, interesting reading materials.
This is an important topic, so we want to be clear. Most children get off to a better start learning to read with early, systematic phonics instruction. Therefore, the teaching of these skills should be a vital part of beginning reading programs for most youngsters, and should be in the instructional kit of every primary school teacher. If your child’s teacher doesn’t believe in using—or does not know how to use—phonics instruction as part of reading class, your child may have trouble learning to read proficiently.
Whole language proponents, however, do make a good point. Schools should also offer children intriguing books and wonderful stories. The love of reading, after all, arises not from mastery of decoding techniques but from being able to apply those newly acquired methods to engaging material. Phonics exercises are necessary to help most young children master the letter sounds, but drills and worksheets are not enough. They do nothing to capture the child’s imagination as literature can. All readers, even the youngest, should be given entertaining stories geared to their level.
In this respect, a healthy blend of phonics and whole language makes the most sense. The best primary teachers make phonics a fundamental part of their classrooms, but have at their disposal a whole arsenal of other techniques—and plenty of terrific reading materials. They use both interesting decodable texts and great children’s literature containing vocabulary that is not phonetically controlled.
Some phonics advocates are so enthusiastic that you might erroneously get the impression that phonics is supposed to remain part of English class throughout one’s education. As an explicit part of reading instruction, however, it is something to be taken up very seriously in the earliest years; for most children, it gradually fades into the background by the end of third grade. Learning phonics should be like learning to balance on a bicycle—at first it takes lots of conscious practice, but once mastered is virtually effortless. You want the act of decoding words to become automatic as quickly as possible, freeing your child to focus on meaning and the pleasure of reading.
How do you know if your child’s teacher is paying the right amount of attention to phonics in the earliest grades? Simply put the question to her: Do you teach phonics? If she responds, “No, we don’t stress that,” you may very well have a problem. You need to find out exactly what her instructional philosophy is, and what kind of track record it has.
Even if she nods and says, “Yes, we teach phonics,” it does not tell you how effective a job she’ll do. Outrageous though it is, some primary school teachers have a shaky grip on effective methods of teaching reading. This is rarely because they’re stupid or uncaring, but rather because they’ve passed through a teacher training program or college of education that didn’t do the job properly, or where the professors frown upon the whole notion of phonics. (“I was told by the ‘professionals’ that they didn’t teach phonics because ‘English is not a phonetic language,’” one disconcerted mom reports.)
Furthermore, hearing a teacher say “We teach phonics” does not tell you how much phonics she puts into the mix, or how it’s done. On the one hand, it may mean so much work with thebah, bob, bih, boh, buh sounds that reading turns into a dreary chore. On the other extreme, there are some schools that throw a few token sound-letter games into the lesson plans just so parents will feel assured that their children are “learning phonics.” Schools have discovered that most parents “believe in” phonics—but sometimes teachers are perfunctory about it.
The best strategy is to keep an eye on your child’s progress when the school begins to teach reading, whether in kindergarten or first grade. Take a good look at the materials and assignments. Visit the class one day and observe a reading session. Is there an emphasis on making sure children learn the connections between letters and sounds, through drills, worksheets, word games, questions from the teachers, and entertaining stories that children read?
Even more important, though, is to sit down with your beginning reader on a routine basis to see how and what he’s reading. If he can read more words this week than the week before, if he tries to sound out new words, and if he seems to enjoy spending time with his books, the balance is probably right.
Thomas Armstrong, PhD
The theory of multiple intelligences was developed in 1983 by Dr. Howard Gardner, professor of education at Harvard University. It suggests that the traditional notion of intelligence, based on I.Q. testing, is far too limited. Instead, Dr. Gardner proposes eight different intelligences to account for a broader range of human potential in children and adults.
These intelligences are:
Dr. Gardner says that our schools and culture focus most of their attention on linguistic and logical-mathematical intelligence. We esteem the highly articulate or logical people of our culture. However, Dr. Gardner says that we should also place equal attention on individuals who show gifts in the other intelligences: the artists, architects, musicians, naturalists, designers, dancers, therapists, entrepreneurs, and others who enrich the world in which we live.
Unfortunately, many children who have these gifts don’t receive much reinforcement for them in school. Many of these kids, in fact, end up being labeled “learning disabled,” “ADD(attention deficit disorder) [sufferers],” or simply underachievers, when their unique ways of thinking and learning aren’t addressed by a heavily linguistic or logical-mathematical classroom.
The theory of multiple intelligences proposes a major transformation in the way our schools are run. It suggests that teachers be trained to present their lessons in a wide variety of ways using music, cooperative learning, art activities, role-play, multimedia, field trips, inner reflection, and much more. The good news is that the theory of multiple intelligences has grabbed the attention of many educators, … and hundreds of schools are currently using its philosophy to redesign the way it educates children. The bad new is that there are thousands of schools still out there that teach in the same old dull way, through dry lectures, and boring worksheets and textbooks. The challenge is to get this information out to many more teachers, school administrators, and others who work with children, so that each child has the opportunity to learn in ways harmonious with their unique minds.
The theory of multiple intelligences also has strong implications for adult learning and development. Many adults find themselves in jobs that do not make optimal use of their most highly developed intelligences (for example, the highly bodily-kinesthetic individual who is stuck in a linguistic or logical desk job when he or she would be much happier in a job where they could move around, such as a recreational leader, a forest ranger, or physical therapist). The theory of multiple intelligences gives adults a whole new way to look at their lives, examining potentials that they left behind in their childhood (such as a love for art or drama) but now have the opportunity to develop through courses, hobbies, or other programs of self-development.
How to Teach or Learn Anything 8 Different Ways
One of the most remarkable features of the theory of multiple intelligences is how it provides eight different potential pathways to learning. If a teacher is having difficulty reaching a student in the more traditional linguistic or logical ways of instruction, the theory of multiple intelligences suggests several other ways in which the material might be presented to facilitate effective learning. Whether you are a kindergarten teacher, a graduate school instructor, or an adult learner seeking better ways of pursuing self-study on any subject of interest, the same basic guidelines apply. Whatever you are teaching or learning, see how you might connect it with…
For example, if you’re teaching or learning about the law of supply and demand in economics, you might read about it (linguistic), study mathematical formulas that express it (logical-mathematical), examine a graphic chart that illustrates the principle (spatial), observe the law in the natural world (naturalist) or in the human world of commerce (interpersonal); examine the law in terms of your own body [e.g. when you supply your body with lots of food, the hunger demand goes down; when there’s very little supply, your stomach’s demand for food goes way up and you get hungry] (bodily-kinesthetic and intrapersonal); and/or write a song (or find an existing song) that demonstrates the law.
You don’t have to teach or learn something in all eight ways, just see what the possibilities are, and then decide which particular pathways interest you the most, or seem to be the most effective teaching or learning tools. The theory of multiple intelligences is so intriguing because it expands our horizon of available teaching/learning tools beyond the conventional linguistic and logical methods used in most schools (e.g. lecture, textbooks, writing assignments, formulas, etc.).
To get started, put the topic of whatever you’re interested in teaching or learning about in the center of a blank sheet of paper, and draw eight straight lines or “spokes” radiating out from this topic. Label each line with a different intelligence. Then start brainstorming ideas for teaching or learning that topic and write down ideas next to each intelligence (this is a spatial-linguistic approach of brainstorming; you might want to do this in other ways as well, using a tape-recorder, having a group brainstorming session, etc.). Have fun!
Excerpted from http://thomasarmstrong.com/multiple_intelligences.htm.
William J. Bennett, book excerpt
Getting your child’s education off to a good start does not take extraordinary efforts or extravagant stimulation. You do not need a degree in child psychology. Raising a child does not require “trained caregivers” to supply expertise that parents lack. On the contrary, you are the most qualified person to teach and guide your young child, because he is a part of you and loves you.
You should supply five basic ingredients in these years before school: your love, protection, and care; your time; a positive learning environment; an attitude that values learning; and strong moral training.
Your Love, Protection, and Care
All children come into the world fragile and helpless. In order to survive even a few hours, they need adults to supply food, shelter, warmth, and care. But meeting their physical needs is just the start. To develop well, from the very beginning children need a family. A deep commitment from at least one responsible, caring adult is crucial. (Obviously, having both a mother and a father in the home is the best arrangement.) Every child needs someone who gives uncompromising love and boundless devotion, someone whom that child can learn to love back. This is a basic fact of human growth and emotional development. Nothing is more crucial than giving your young child the feeling of being loved and cared for, and instilling a basic sense of trust that he can depend on you for nurture and protection.
The emotional bond between parent and child has powerful effects on education. Preschoolers who feel loved are more likely to be confident, and confidence makes exploring a new world much easier. A strong, loving relationship increases youngsters’ eagerness to learn new things. For example, a child wants to learn how to read in part because he wants to please his parents, whom he sees reading and who encourage his own efforts to read. Children like to learn because they love their parents, and know their parents love them back!
Forming a close bond with children is a natural part of the parenting process. Most moms and dads need no urging and little guidance here; these manifestations of love spring from the heart. The kinds of actions and gestures you instinctively want to offer your child are exactly the kinds he needs to gain a sense of nurture and protection. Holding and cuddling him from the day he is born, talking to him, playing with him, setting rules that are good for him, telling him over and over again that you love him—such actions and expressions have a profound impact on his development now, and on the kind of student he’ll be later. Children thrive when they have parents who are loving and dependable, when they know that, no matter what may happen in their lives, someone will look after them, keep them safe, and show them the limits of good behavior. When it comes to young children, loving and learning go hand in hand.
The best way to show your love and help your child learn is to spend time with him. Shaping good attitudes and habits takes time. Setting good examples takes time. The encouragement your youngster craves—whether it’s for learning how to climb the stairs, how to read his first word, or how to write his name—requires your time and presence. You have to be available, perhaps more than you imagined.
It has become popular in recent years to distinguish between “quality time” and “quantity time.” Some parents want to believe that they can spend fewer hours with their children so long as they put that shared time to good use. The fact is that children do not flourish on small, concentrated doses of attention from mothers and fathers. They need your frequent company if they are to learn from you. This may be a hard truth to accept in these modern days, but it is reality. For children, quality time is quantity time. When it comes to teaching and learning, there is no substitute for lots of time together—and children know it.
In the eyes of your child, your presence in his life is proof that you are interested and that you care. It shows that he comes first—not your work, or your friends, or a ball game on TV. In his book The Hurried Child, Professor David Elkind tells this anecdote about a conversation he overheard when visiting his son’s nursery school class:
Child A: “My daddy is a doctor and he makes a lot of money and we have a swimming pool.”
Child B: “My daddy is a lawyer and he flies to Washington and talks to the President.”
Child C: “My daddy owns a company and we have our own airplane.”
My son (with aplomb, of course): “My daddy is here!” with a proud look in my direction.
Keep in mind that one reason the preschool years are unique is that, in all likelihood, this is the period when your child wants your company more than he wants anyone else’s. He’s interested in what you have to say (most of the time, anyway). You’re his best pal. Later, he’ll often be elsewhere: in class, with his friends, or in his room, away from mom and dad. The preschool years offer the most opportunities to be together. Don’t neglect them.
Chore Time Is Teaching Time
If you’re like most parents, much time with your child is also chore time. Sure, you’d like nothing more than to spend most of the day reading aloud, taking trips to the zoo, and playing “educational” games that will help him grow. Unfortunately, you’ve also got to get an oil change, rake the backyard, take out the trash, and clean the spare bedroom before Uncle George comes to visit. The good news is that those pesky chores also have teaching value. With a little effort, you can turn many household routines into good learning opportunities for your child. He learns an enormous amount in your company if you simply talk to him as you work. Never mind feeling slightly foolish. Explain what you are doing. Tell him why you are doing it. He’ll pick up all sorts of vocabulary and absorb knowledge about what things are and how they work.
Almost any household activity can become an informal lesson. Writing a grocery list can be a perfect chance to practice recognizing some letters. (“I’m writing the word butter. Do you remember what that first letter is?”)
Cooking invariably involves weighing, measuring, counting, and grouping. (“I have to fill this cup until it is half full. Will you tell me when the milk gets to this line right here?”) Doing the laundry can be a sorting game. (“Why don’t you help me put all the socks in this pile, and the shirts in that pile?”) Sprinkle your routines with questions. Running errands in the car: “Who can count the green cars on the road? In the study: “How many books do I have on my desk?”
Daily routines draw on a whole range of organizational and problem solving skills, the same skills your child will someday need to complete a school assignment or project at work. He can learn the value of planning ahead, and then executing the plan. He gradually comprehends that every large job is really a series of smaller tasks. He sees that work is a means to an end. When he helps, he learns about teamwork.
Certain character lessons will seep in too. By watching you, he learns about sticking with a task until it’s finished. He sees how to perform a duty thoroughly and responsibly. If given the chance to make even small contributions, he begins to learn the satisfaction of a job well done.
Above all, keep talking. The stimulation, the exchange of ideas, and the responses elicited will all serve to build up a host of skills, making chore time a teaching time, and making it more enjoyable for both of you.
A Positive Learning Environment
One of your fundamental jobs is to give your child some experiences that pique his curiosity and supply fundamental knowledge about the world. This does not mean bombarding him with glitzy, noisy stimuli all day long, going out and buying lots of fancy “educational” gear, or enrolling him in the most expensive preschool in town. It mostly entails making sure he has interesting things to do. Since the world is so novel to him, and he naturally wants to explore it, this is not a difficult task. In fact, for children this age, a “learning environment” often consists of everyday activities—playing with toys, watching a parent do chores, or running around the backyard.
Expose your child to a widening range of experiences as he grows. A baby who has just learned to crawl is a little Marco Polo, anxious to explore all those mysterious corners of your living room and kitchen. Give him the freedom to investigate while you are nearby. (Make sure you’ve taken precautions to childproof your home!) As he grows, give him changes of scenery. Take him with you on errands to the bank or hardware store. Take a trip across the street to meet your neighbor’s new puppy. Find a hill for your toddler to run up and down. Just about any place you go, there will be something to stimulate his curiosity.
As he grows through the preschool years, organize little “field trips” to check out less familiar bits of the world. Spend an afternoon at the science museum. Take him to the airport to see planes land and take off. Or into the country to get a pumpkin. Lie on your backs to watch the clouds on a summer afternoon. And, of course, read all sorts of books to him.
Introduce your child to different people: extended family members, neighbors, and figures in the community. Point out the police officer, the fireman, the postman. Youngsters who know only their immediate family are less likely to thrive in the larger world and may be either too trusting or too nervous of others.
Choosing Toys That Teach
Toys are the “tools” of learning for kids in the pre-kindergarten years. Keep in mind, though, that rarely does the teaching value of a toy have a direct relation to how many batteries it uses or lights it flashes. A high price tag does not make it better for your child. Expensive toys that claim to teach tykes are often less “educational” than some pots and a big wooden spoon from the kitchen. Computer software is often little better for kids than sitting and watching TV. It certainly isn’t as helpful as spending time with a parent reading, counting, playing games, or taking a walk in the park.
Often it’s the simple toys that do the best job putting little imaginations and muscles to work. For toddlers, the old standbys you played with in your childhood are still fine: balls, blocks, cups, pans, plastic rings, simple puzzles, a sand box. A well-stocked box of construction paper, crayons, washable markers, glue, buttons, felt, and safety scissors is a treasure chest for preschoolers. A big basket filled with grown-up clothes and costumes (dime store crowns, plastic armor, discarded necklaces) is a big draw for most children.
There is no need to keep adding toy after toy to the mix. Most parents eventually learn that the more toys they buy, the more toys they see sitting untouched in the back of the closet. Children who possess several chests full of playthings often flit from one to another without really appreciating any of them. Ironically, too many toys can lead to boredom—or worse, to a spoiled and ungrateful child who constantly thinks he’s entitled to another present.
An Attitude That Values Learning
How do you teach that you value learning? First, and perhaps most important, by your good example. Your actions always speak volumes to your child. Your own reading, wondering out loud, pointing things out, and showing a general interest in the world are powerful signs of your attitude about learning.
You also instill ideals about education with your excitement over your child’s discoveries and achievements. Enthusiasm is contagious with preschoolers. If he sees you responding warmly to his attempts to learn, he’ll take pleasure in them, too. Ask questions about what he’s doing, and answer any questions he has. Take part in his activities by introducing him to a new book or game, or helping him with something that’s giving him trouble. Even just playing with your child will be interpreted as a sign that you care about what he’s learning.
Keep in mind that it is difficult for anyone else to take a parent’s place when a young child looks for reinforcement about learning. Chances are, no one else (except perhaps grandpa and grandma) will get as excited as you when your child takes his first step, or speaks his first word, or counts to ten for the first time. No one else is going to be able to muster quite as much interest in that misshapen piece of clay he says is an elephant. The more you are there to encourage his efforts, the more he’ll want to learn.
Adult responses can mean everything. Imagine three children, each frequently receiving a particular message:
Little Girl: “Daddy! Look what I found!”
Dad: “What have you got there? That’s a beautiful leaf. Where did you find it?”
Little Girl: “In the yard.”
Dad: “Where do you think it came from?”
Little Girl: “That tree.”
Dad: “I bet it did. What does it feel like?”
Little Girl: “Like paper.”
Little Girl: “Daddy! Look what I found!”
Dad: “We need to go, honey. Leave that here.”
Little Girl: “It’s a red leaf.”
Dad: “I told you to put it down. It might have bugs on it. Now come on, we don’t have time for that.”
Little girl (dropping the leaf): “Yuck. Leaves have bugs on them.”
Little Girl: “Look what I found!”
Baby-sitter: “That’s nice.”
Little Girl: “It’s a leaf.”
Baby-sitter: “I see that. Why don’t you go play with your toys?”
Little Girl: “I want to show Daddy my leaf.”
Baby-sitter: “Daddy won’t be home until after you’ve gone to bed. You know that. You can show him on the weekend, OK?”
It’s not difficult, is it, to tell which child’s curiosity is being encouraged, and which ones’ inquisitiveness is being dampened?
Early Moral Training
A child who is already learning about traits such as responsibility, self- discipline, and perseverance before he begins school has a good shot at doing well at his studies. Conversely, if he shows up in class with bad habits such as laziness and disrespect for elders, there is little that teachers can do. An education disaster is already in the works.
This is not to say that your preschooler must always be an angel. All children test boundaries and stray from model behavior. In the end, however, despite some who will tell you that peers or the popular culture have more influence than nurturing parents on how a child acts, the buck stops squarely with you. You are responsible for the way your young child behaves.
You teach your child good character in several ways. You do it by your good example. Little eyes are watching. As you do, so will your child do. You teach virtue through high expectations and clear, consistent rules. You also form character in children by talking to them about good and bad behavior. There is much unwarranted cynicism and embarrassment today about “moralizing.” Little children need to be told about right and wrong, and when adults stand silent, then we shouldn’t be surprised if young people grow up with muddled notions of how to conduct themselves. Parents can talk about good character in the context of everyday actions, as well as in stories they read to children. They can talk about it in the context of their faith—which for most of us serves as the bedrock of morality.
Teachers say that many moms and dads are falling down on the job of character training. They are not sending to school children who are well behaved, ready to work hard, and respectful of adults. Says a Texas teacher, “Some kids come to class with an attitude that they don’t have to listen to you, that just because you’re an adult, you don’t have the right to tell them what to do. They think they’re in charge, because they don’t have that structure at home.” Frequent among educators, these exceedingly sad commentaries explain much that is wrong with our schools.
Reference: The Educated Child - A Parents Guide from Preschool through Eighth Grade. Free Press (1999)
Thomas Armstrong, Ph.D.
Richard loved to tinker with mechanical devices. As a six-year-old, he took apart an alarm clock. At nine, he helped his dad fix the lawnmower. In high school, he spent hours tearing apart and rebuilding stereo equipment. Now, as a young adult, he’s a sound technician for a professional theater company. Richard’s parents encouraged his interests at an early age, which helped him become a successful adult. However, Richard was never labeled as “gifted.” In fact, he had trouble with math in school.
The definition of “the gifted child” has traditionally been based on school-related skills and limited to the upper five to ten percent of children who achieve high test scores, write well, and excel academically. These are certainly important, but there may be hundreds of other ways for children to show their gifts. “Today’s intelligence researchers emphasize that nearly all children—not just the celebrated five percent—have special talents,” says David G. Myers, Ph.D., professor of psychology at Hope College in Holland, Michigan. Studies at Harvard University bear this out, suggesting that kids can display intelligence in many different ways—through words, numbers, music, pictures, athletic or “hands-on” abilities, and social or emotional development.
As an anonymous observer once said: “All children are gifted, some just open their packages later than others.” You can play a crucial role in awakening latent talents or developing current strengths through experiences you give your child at home. Here are 50 ways for you to bring out your child’s best, regardless of how his gifts are packaged:
1. Let your child discover her own interests. Pay attention to the activities she chooses. This free-time play can say a lot about where her gifts lie.
2. Expose your child to a broad spectrum of experiences. This may activate latent talents. Don’t assume that he isn’t gifted in an area just because he hasn’t shown an interest.
3. Give your child permission to make mistakes. If she has to do things perfectly, she’ll never take the risks necessary to discover and develop a gift.
4. Ask questions. Help your child open up to the wonders of the world by asking intriguing questions: Why is the sky blue? Find the answers together.
5. Plan special family projects. Shared creativity can awaken and develop new talents.
6. Don’t pressure your child to learn. If children are sent to special lessons every day in the hope of developing their gifts, they may become too stressed or exhausted to shine. Encourage, but don’t push.
7. Have high expectations. But make them realistic.
8. Share your work life. Expose your child to images of success by taking him to work. Let him see you engaged in meaningful activities and allow him to become involved.
9. Provide a sensory-rich environment. Have materials around the home that will stimulate the senses: finger paints, percussion instruments, puppets, etc.
10. Keep your own passion for learning alive. Your child will be influenced by your example.
11. Don’t limit your child with labels. They may saddle her with a reputation that doesn’t match her inner gifts.
12. Play games together as a family.
13. Have a regular family time for reading, listening to music, talking, etc.
14. Have reference materials available to give your child access to the world.
15. Allow your child to participate in community activities that interest her.
16. Use humor, jokes, and [funny] stories to encourage creativity.
17. Don’t criticize or judge the things your child does. He may give up on his talents if he feels evaluated.
18. Play with your child to show your own sense of playfulness.
19. Share your successes as a family. Talk about good things that happened during the day to enhance self-esteem.
20. Provide your child with access to a home, school, or public library computer. (It’s important to provide supervision for any children going online, so that they don’t end up browsing the wrong sites.)
21. Listen to your child. The things he cares about most may provide clues to his special talents.
22. Give your child a special space at home to be creative.
23. Praise your child’s sense of responsibility at home when she completes assigned chores.
24. Visit new places as a family.
25. Give your child open-ended playthings. Toys like blocks and puppets encourage imaginative play.
26. Give your child unstructured time to [think] and wonder about things.
27. Share inspirational stories of people who succeeded in life.
28. Don’t bribe your child with rewards. To constantly use incentives to get children to perform sends a message that learning is not rewarding in its own right.
29. Suggest that your child join peer groups that focus on her gifts.
30. Discuss the news to spark interests.
31. Discourage gender bias. Expose your child to both feminine and masculine toys and activities.
32. Avoid comparing your child to others. Help your child compare himself to his own past performance.
33. Be an authoritative parent.
34. Use community events and institutions to activate interests. Take trips to the library, museums, concerts, plays.
35. Give presents that nourish your child’s strengths.
36. Encourage your child to think about her future. Support her visions without directing her into any specific field.
37. Introduce your child to interesting and capable people.
38. Think of your home as a learning place. The kitchen is great for teaching math and science through cooking.
39. Share feelings. A child’s gifts can be stifled by repressed emotions.
40. Encourage your child to read.
41. Honor your child’s creations.
42. Do things with your child in his areas of interest.
43. Teach your child to trust her intuition and believe in her capabilities.
44. Give your child choices. It builds willpower and fuels initiative.
45. Show your child how to use books to further an interest. For example, how-to books for the hands-on learner.
46. Set aside an area of the house for displaying creations and awards.
47. Encourage your child to tackle areas that are difficult for him. Help him learn to confront any limitations.
48. Be a liaison between your child’s special talents and the real world. Help her find outlets for her talents.
49. Introduce children’s literature that honors and develops gifts. Books like The Little Engine That Could encourage a “can do” attitude.
50. Accept your child as he or she is.
William J. Bennett, book excerpt
Here are some critical points about how little children learn, as well as some reminders about what they need—and don’t need—to be ready for school.
You are always teaching by example—not simply with your words, but also by your most ordinary actions. Imitation is perhaps the most important way a young child learns. Teaching by example is probably the most important kind of teaching you do.
Sometimes you will fall short, of course. When you do, acknowledge it to your child. Explain that “Daddy said something he shouldn’t,” or “I lost my temper, and that is bad.” Help your child learn from your mistakes by being honest about them.
Establish good habits and firm rules now, in the pre-kindergarten years. Above all, set limits. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no TV at all under the age of two. So do we. An hour a day is more than enough for older preschoolers. Television should not become a constant baby-sitter. Remember, these early years are critical. Do not let the TV set gobble them up.
Routine is important for little children in part because it provides the repetition necessary for learning. It is crucial in developing good habits. A familiar rhythm in daily life gives children a sense of security in a world they see as strange and unpredictable. Without that sense of security, a child may have a hard time learning. ‘When your child wants to play Hide and Seek one more time, or begs to go down to the pond to see the minnows for the third day in a row, remember that small children need to do things over and over again to learn and to feel confident in their learning.
Children’s first “how” and “why” questions generally appear around age three. They indicate that he has an emerging interest in reasoning. He wants to understand the way things work. If you take the time to answer his questions, his sense of curiosity and desire to explore will be heightened. If you ignore them, or act bothered by all those inquiries, you may make him feel guilty about asking and thereby squelch his urge to learn. (Naturally, parents cannot answer every question kids ask. Boundaries must be set. Sometimes kids need to be told, “Mommy is busy right now—let’s save that question until later.”)
Teaching very young children therefore calls for a great deal of patience and understanding. Sometimes it requires firmly telling a child “No” and realizing that there is no point in trying to reason with him about it, because he cannot understand your logical explanations!
Preschoolers rely much more heavily on direct experience to gather knowledge. They learn through their bodies—by seeing, hearing, touching, tasting, and smelling things that are physically present.
One of your jobs is to show your child the right way to do things. It is also important, however, to give him chances to try on his own, even when you know he’s not going about something the correct way (unless, of course, what he’s doing is unsafe or harmful). As he grows older, urge him to keep trying when things don’t go right the first or second or even third time—because perseverance is the key to a great deal of living and learning.
Play encourages exploration. It exercises growing bodies and imaginations. It offers chances to interact with parents and other children, and gives practice using words. Play makes learning fun, and that’s important. When a child gets to school, studying should become a more formal and serious endeavor. In the preschool years, a great deal of learning comes through just having a good time.
Don’t be too pushy. Some moms and dads become obsessed with the idea of making sure their preschool kids “get ahead.” They buy picture book after picture book. They pull their hair when they hear that little Jane down the street is already reading Green Eggs and Ham by herself, and sit down to the next story time with drill sergeant determination. They purchase lots of expensive “educational” toys, shuffle their kids from activity to activity to make sure they’re always “learning” something, and pay big bucks to enroll their three-year-olds in “schools” where they can hone that academic edge.
If you recognize these signs in yourself, lighten up. You could be on the verge of doing more harm than good. Very young children generally do not thrive under that kind of pressure. We do not say it is wrong to set high expectations for your child. Little children should be engaged, stimulated, and encouraged—but not rushed. Don’t try to hurry your preschooler to become a scholar before he’s had a chance to be a little kid. After all, innocence and youthfulness are treasures that last only so long, and then they’re gone.
Reference - The Educated Child: A Parents Guide from Preschool through Eighth Grade. Free Press (1999)
* The older we are, the more wisdom we acquire; but the younger we are, the easier it is to take in and store facts.
* The human brain is so constructed that during the first six years of life it takes in data at an astonishing rate. And not only is that so, but this data literally expands the brain. Thereafter, learning data becomes more difficult.
* Your child may learn information many times faster than you can, and may also remember the information longer.
* You can help your child retain the information for years to come by reviewing it and using it in new ways.
* There is hardly anything that you can’t teach your child.
Tried and proven memorization tips from parents and teachers
(These points can be applied to anything your child is memorizing and studying, not just Scripture memorization.)
How to start
* If memory work is new to you and your children, start by trying to memorize one verse every two or three days. Once you become accustomed to doing memory work, you will probably be able to memorize a verse a day.
* Try reading the memory verse for the day while your children are eating breakfast. Discuss it briefly to be sure they understand what it means and how it applies to their lives. Repeat it a few times. Review it before the children go to bed.
* Keep things moving at a fairly rapid pace. Children actually absorb things much better that way.
* It’s helpful to have a set time and place daily to work on memorization.
* Get your child’s full attention. Minimize distractions.
* Be relaxed.
* Make it fun.
* Keep it short and well within the child’s attention span. Stop before your child becomes bored.
* Try different inflections in your voice to emphasize the meaning and key words. Quoting or reading each verse with the same inflection and rhythm each time will help your child learn quicker.
* Say the reference of the new verse, then say the verse itself and give a simple explanation.
* On longer verses, go over the verse first in parts, and then put it all together.
* Encourage the child to first listen carefully to the verse, or part of the verse, and then repeat it. Quoting along from the very start often hinders children from getting the words exactly right, and once they say it wrong it becomes more difficult to say it right.
* Say it together a couple of times, and then have the child say it alone.
* Encourage your child to speak loudly and clearly, and to put expression into it! Show enthusiasm by your example.
* Be flexible. If one method isn’t working, change to another.
* Remember: Repetition is the law of memory!
Using music and drama
* Children learn by doing. They like to actively participate in the things they are learning.
* Putting verses to song is a fun and easy way to learn Scripture. This can be done by using simple tunes that the children are already familiar with, such as nursery rhymes like “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” “Here We Go ‘Round the Mulberry Bush,” “Row Your Boat,” etc.
* It can be helpful to say the verse to a certain rhythm. For example, clap out the rhythm or march in a circle while quoting the verse.
* Act out the verse to help your child understand and recall it. Have your child mimic you. Young children may initially have difficulty speaking and acting simultaneously, but once they catch on, they love it.
* Incentives encourage the children to learn and review their verses.
* Rewards don’t have to be big—just a fun acknowledgment of the progress your child has made.
* To keep your child inspired and making progress, you’ll probably want to vary the incentive from time to time.
Excerpted from the book "Feed My Lambs: Guide for Parents and Teachers", © Aurora Productions.