Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Very Early Childhood Education

When I taught seventh grade, my students came into my classroom with their opinions of school fully formed. Kids who loved school were still going to like it whether or not they enjoyed my class. Kids who hated school were, for the most part, going to continue to hate it. It felt like I was getting them too late.

I worked with a group of second graders several years ago on a playground mediation program. Some of them already disliked school or thought they were “bad at math.” By the time kids reach school age they already have years of education under their tiny little belts. When my daughter was born a year and a half ago it really hit home for me that all parents are teachers. We just don’t get underpaid for it like in the public school system.

Here’s what I hope I’m teaching my daughter right now:

Reading is fun. I try to enjoy books at her pace. Sometimes we read from back to front. Sometimes we just point out what’s in the pictures and don’t read the text at all. When my daughter says “book, lap” I drop whatever I’m working on. It’s one of the rare times she sits still enough to snuggle.

Try things more than once. Pouring sand into a cup is hard the first time. And the second and the tenth. But it’s fun to practice and eventually you won’t even remember that you couldn’t do it. I try not to do things for her if I think she is close to doing them herself. I give lots of praise for effort. And we celebrate when she learns a new skill by showing it to Daddy or with singing and dancing.

Sing, dance, participate. It’s embarrassing to perform the itsy-bitsy spider in the grocery store. But only for me. My daughter thinks it’s great, and she always enlists random passers-by. So I participate and try not to be embarrassed because on this one I think she’s teaching me. Kids who are willing to be creative and try things are much better off when they get to school. They’re not afraid to raise their hands and participate.

I want to instill in my daughter a love of learning. I’m pretty sure the way to do this is to model it myself. We are not doing any expensive mommy-and-me classes. We didn’t sign up for preschools while I was pregnant. For now we’re just exploring the world together.

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