When it comes to early childhood education, there is one point I struggle with when I read comments like:
“Asking children to handle material that their brain is not equipped for can cause frustration.”
“If a child is forced to sit down and read flash cards but he is not capable of understanding the word yet, his brain is stressed and the body releases cortisol, the stress hormone.”
Especially when I have seen how Hercules responds to such materials. What would be considered “material that their brain is not equipped for”? Hercules watches the following video and he really enjoys it:
He especially loves the song that comes with it – it’s one of his favourite songs.
He enjoys that CD so much that he calls for “Science real, science real, science real” whenever we get into the car because that’s the name of the first song on the CD. And sometimes, he breaks into song and starts singing “come come come e’ments!” which translates to “c’mon, c’mon, come meet the elements”. He lacks the full lyrics and the tune but the reason I can recognise it is because he sings the same thing in the car when he listens to the CD.
We’re encouraged to sing to our children nursery rhymes that are sometimes meaningless so what’s the difference if we sing educational songs? As one mother once said on a forum (about Peter Weatherall’s Simple Science) – there is no more wondering about twinkle little star, now our children can learn what it is.
Since he was little, he’s loved Little Math. I’ll get onto the computer and he’ll run up to me and say, “Numbers, numbers, numbers!” Now he actually says, “Math.” He also loves his TweedleWink DVDs and right brain classes. He likes to curl up in my lap and nurse while he watches a TweedleWink lesson. When he was little, he really enjoyed the flash cards I made for him. Lately, however, he hasn’t really wanted to look at any of my flash cards except Little Reader and the Periodic Table Elements series I made for him (hence the sudden drop in new flash cards being released).
And for a child who used to chew on his books, bend back the spines, and stomp on them, he has now developed an appreciation for reading. Okay, so he still steps on the books occasionally, but he now actively brings books to me and asks me to read them for him. I can distract him from the TV by suggesting to read one of his favourite books. He enjoys listening to the stories so much that he often wants me to read his favourite stories over and over and over until I feel like a broken record. Sometimes I’m the one that cringes when he brings me a book to read.
Even though he can now string four words together, he has developed a new love for Signing Time and asks to listen to it in the car (after we’ve heard Here Comes Science on loop until everyone’s sick of it) and to watch the DVDs. We’ve done a lot of early childhood programs with him, but he’s also had a lot of free play time to pour out boxes of toys so he can sit in the box, build towers out of Lego Duplo, make piles of toys so he can throw his Angry Birds soft toys at them and re-enact a live version of the digital game, and play hide and seek and chase with his brother.
The problem that happens when a parent says they do “flash cards” or teach their young child Math (or any other subject) is that it creates this awful image of a teary-eyed child sitting at a desk being force-fed information hour upon hour while they gaze longingly out the window at the sunshine and trees. I’ve even heard a mother admit, almost apologetically, “Yes, I torture my child,” as she confessed to implementing early childhood programs at home with her child.
The reality of such home programs is that they actually take up very little time in a child’s day. It takes us the whole of 5 minutes (if that) to get through the lessons on Little Reader and Little Math. A TweedleWink lesson on DVD runs for 8 minutes. That’s 13 minutes of his whole day – it hardly eats into his play time. It isn’t black or white where a child either spends all his time studying or all his time playing. I don’t understand why the arguments for and against early childhood learning seem to paint it so.
Aristotle loves bookshops. I recently bought him some books from the MPH moving sale thinking they would last him a while and he read all of them except one in two days. I wonder if he might have finished them all in the first day if I had let him attack the bag of books. Sometimes we go to a bookshop and he sits and reads book after book and complains when we have to leave. He doesn’t even mind that Daddy takes Hercules to the jungle gym while he reads his books at the book shop.
Hercules loves numbers, science, and reading. He has a healthy curiosity (some might even say he’s too curious for his own good) and he loves to play.