First of all I’m no early child hood education expert. While my educational background was in child psychology and education I was never trained or have ever worked with little children. But, after having two of my own I must have done something right because I’ve had a few moms ask me for advice on how to help their little ones learn. I owe a few people some long emails about this and since I’ve been an email slacker lately I am just going to post here. Since I am an educator at heart I hope that this little post of mine can help or inspire other parents to work with their children, even if it’s just a few minutes a day.
Before I continue, keep in mind that all children were not born equally. My methods might not work for every little person and his/her parent(s). Also, I’ve been blessed with two healthy and intelligent kids. I didn’t have to beat them with a cane or bribe them with a lot of chocolates for them to do what they did.
If you’ve been following my blog for at least a year you all know that I used to work full-time. While Jovie is a stay-at-home girl, M was a daycare kid. Despite the little thought in my head that told me M could have done better if I stayed home, I can’t really complain about how well she is doing in school and how social she is. While Jovie is the smartest little brat I know in person she is not at all friendly. Jovie’s already very shy to begin with and staying at home gives her less exposure to people.
As somebody who came from a developing country I am naturally more competitive. It’s hard not to because I was conditioned to be that way since I was little. Unlike the US where there are a lot of services and K-12 education is free, there’s not a lot of freebies going in Indonesia. Great jobs are also not as easy to come by thus the higher level of competitiveness.
While in college a few people have asked me if my parents were rich. I always told them no, they’re just mid-income folks, and everybody would nod and leave me alone. Today I want to clarify that bit of info. While there’s nothing extraordinary about my family, for Indonesia they’re upper middle income. Although not flashy, we had all sorts of luxury that many Indonesians wish they had. One thing that I was fortunate to have was money for education. I was very fortunate to have been able to go to a few very nice private (Catholic) schools (they made me work hard) and college in the US.
Although I’d never give my kids exams everyday (and I went to school 6 days a week too), what I experienced a few years ago as an Indonesian student is what I base my children’s learning on. Unlike the classes that spent hours sitting in I want to make my kids’ learning fun.
My grandpa told me many times that although formal schooling is important what one can learn from outside the white walls are as important… or more so. he taught me to watch, listen and learn. I didn’t get his teaching at first but as I got older those three things have become very important in my life.
So now that I’m a mom to two girls I try to implement all the above into their daily learning. I want them to work hard for their learning, I want them to have fun and most of all, I want them to always be aware of their surroundings and learn from them. As an educator by trade I’ve been feeling more and more disappointed with the younger students. While many are still highly motivated I see more that are the opposite. The sad part is that they’re not lacking in little gray cells. They’re just used to an easy life with no pressure to work hard. While I wouldn’t say no if any of the girls get offer scholarships or even a regular acceptance to an ivy league school, prestigious higher learning isn’t my main goal. My main goal is to make the girls hard working and intelligent people. Two that will contribute positively to the world they live in. Even the most fun job requires a lot of work!
With M, since I worked full-time, I only had the morning and evening, before and after work, plus weekends and holidays. I’d also take a day or two here and there and have a mommy and M day. They were always fun but I always put some educational pieces into our time. I personally don’t think it’s effective to try and formally sit down with young kids and try to teach them something. They get distracted quite easily and their boredom rating’s quite high.
With the girls, even Jovie, I keep formal learning to five minutes. Then the rest would be through play. Here’s an example: After we drop M off at school, I would grab a few primary color pieces (we have stackables and cups) and show and say the colors to Jovie. During this exercise I’d make Jovie say the colors too (and point to it if possible). This would be our formal session. Then we’d be done… mostly because she got bored. After a few minutes break (me getting coffee/tea) we’d come back to the colors and we’d play games. I’d throw something and ask Jovie to go get it. We’d stack and I’ll say the color of whatever I have or she has. If the weather’s nice we’d take a walk and every time I see one of the colors we worked on I’d point and say it.
I wish I kept a good journal on this but I think it took a few weeks to get blue, red and green.
This was how I taught the girls to sign. I purchased a few videos and we’d watch them together. After the 15-20 minutes were up we’d practice. I do this with M’s French too. Every word she knows in French I’d use it. When we walk to and from school I’d ask M questions in French or we’d say 1-10 or A-Z together.
I use technology quite a bit too. Now that we have an iPod I rely on it for the quizzes. There are a few different ones and some are free (or the lite version with an option to buy the full shabang). In mathematics M’s already learning multiplication. On iTunes I found a free multiplications table and a little quiz to emphasize the learning. When emphasizing what Emma’s learned in school I always ask her how her teacher teaches the material. Based on the info I’d either try to elaborate more or just practice. With multiplying, since she’s learning the why at school I went ahead and made her memorize the table and then do quizzes. We always have so much fun doing the quizzes because I always make it like it’s a game show. Buzzers and all. Emma’s always trying to beat the clock and I always make a big deal out of each outcome. She loves it and it’s usually me begging her to quit learning.
Jovie LOVES the iPod too. She loves it when sis is at school because the iPod becomes hers.
I love the iPod because there’s no way this little girl would accidentally call somebody in our address book… or randomly. Since the iPod can’t multi-task the little one button in the bottom is a nice touch. Jovie knows to push it when she’s done with a quiz/game and she’d, on her own, move on to something else. As you can see from the photo above, the size is perfect for her little hands. This is what relax time is, either on the iPod, snuggling with me, or “reading” a book.
Kids are little sponges. They love to learn, especially when presented in a fun way. Learning with them is also a great way to teach them discipline. It teaches them to listen to you and to follow your commands. I also believe that it’s a bonding moment. I loved it when my aunt helped me study. It was always much nicer when there’s somebody to help. Her and I became very close and I always think of her as the one who taught me good study habits.
I can probably write a book on this topic but I don’t want to bore you all. Have a great one and happy tax day!!! You did do your taxes, right?!?!