Parental involvement in early childhood learning: A stitch in time saves nine
**The Edvocate is pleased to publish guest posts as way to fuel important conversations surrounding P-20 education in America. The opinions contained within guest posts are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official opinion of The Edvocate or Dr. Matthew Lynch.**
By Khaula Mazhar
In today’s increasingly busy world, parents have less and less time to spend with their young children and often miss out on this extremely important time in a child’s life. Children are developing more and more behavioral problems. They are stressed out at ages when they should be enjoying their childhood.
Research has shown the positive effects of engaged parents on a child’s academic success as well as on the emotional and physical well being of a child. It has also shown the advantages of early childhood learning and just how much young children can literally sponge up information and then be ready for even more.
There are vast amounts of reading material on the subject of early learning, hundreds of books by dedicated professionals in childhood education, but I am going to give you the experience of a normal everyday mother. Myself. The reason is when I read those books, it was to improve my skills as a teacher, curiosity and also just because I am a voracious reader. But when I saw another mother, like myself, use those wonderful things she learned on her own child, it was a whole different story. It is something I sincerely wish every mother and father would do with their child. They can if they are provided with the opportunity to learn how to, something governments can do quite cheaply, and it will open the door for enormous pay backs. We must help empower the parents and we must educate the parents first.
When I started as a teacher I was in the school library every free minute I got. They had an incredible resource of good books and I wanted to take advantage of them all. Although I read many, the ones I came to fall in love with were Glen Doman’s. I renewed “How to Give Your Baby Encyclopedic Knowledge” so many times it needed a new sign out card. Yes way back when those cards were still used. My daughter was four and my son was two. I had never imagined that a two year old could read, let alone recognize countries on a world map. They can. My kids were my test subjects although I didn’t know it at the time. Now that they are teenagers, I see the results.
The techniques are simple, and don’t take a lot of time. Working mothers can do it with a little prioritizing. I managed to do it with my job and two small children, and I was not exactly a skilled multi-tasking professional. It was simply a matter of investing time wisely, and nothing is a bigger investment than our kids.
Glen Doman’s Method involved facts cards. Fact cards can be made for everything from colors, animals, countries and key reading words to dot cards (for numeracy). Those are about the only materials needed, the cards can be obtained cheaply in bulk and pictures of everything can be found in old national geographic magazines. Whatever is to be taught can be done so easily by flashing these fact cards to children as young as eighteen months. Ten cards at a time, two or three times a day. Children think it is a game and are happy to spend time with parents “playing”. I started out with just colors, keywords and dot cards, but the “game” became a favorite and I soon added historical figures, musical instruments, animals, monuments and countries. My kids could not get enough of it, my two year old son not only knew where China was but he could tell you interesting tidbits about it. You just needed a translator to understand what he was saying.
Once they started to read I had an endless supply of books that we explored together. Years later their teachers came to me and told me how my kids knew the most interesting facts and added positively to all the class discussions. They were interested and eager learners. I finally convinced the head of the pre-primary section at school to let me go ahead and try it in my pre-nursery class.
It was a great experience. Parents would come to me at home time and tell me excitedly that their kid knew what an isosceles triangle was or had told them all about African elephants. They wanted to know what we were doing in the class. Unfortunately that is where I could have empowered those parents, instead I just told them we were trying something new. It never occurred to me to suggest that we do a workshop on the technique for parents. I really wish I could go back in time and act more wisely.
Most parents today don’t have the leisure of going through large amounts of reading material to find out all the things they can do to give their child the early advantage. But schools can help by offering free workshops focused on simple techniques that parents could implement at home with their children. If these type of workshops were provided to parents every year they could make an enormous positive change in the futures of so many children. Not just academically but behaviorally as well. Imagine an entire generation of less stressed, positive youth all geared up to run the world in a more constructive manner.
There are many other techniques and systems out there besides Glen Doman’s awesome fact cards system. This is just my experience with this. But what I have learned is how much the right thing at the right time can affect a child’s positive attitude towards not just learning but life in general. Engaged parents teaching kids their first lessons is very important to build confidence and a positive attitude in children.
Khaula Mazhar, children’s book author, has a ten year teaching experience from Pakistan where she also wrote for Dawn Newspaper. After moving back home to Canada she continues to pursue her writing when she can. She blogs at Blog Her, MuslimMoms.ca and writes articles for Examiner.com.