Hercules just turned 3 – the magical number in right brain education when children pass that first stage of development – so I thought I should do a progress update…
He’s been attending play school for three weeks now. He goes 3 days a week for 4 hours. After an initial warm welcome, Hercules went through a period of separation anxiety which took me by surprise. I was very worried because Hercules is my happy-go-lucky boy. He rarely complains unless it’s really bad. Perhaps it is because he downplays everything that I tend to be more sensitive when he expresses apprehension, worry, or discomfort.
I was ready to withdraw him from school after his two months was up when he found his mojo again. What brought it back? The new sandpit they brought into the school. The morning it all changed, I took him out of the car and he said he wanted to walk. I asked him if he was ready for school and he said, “Yes. I want to see children.” Great, I thought, he is making friends.
Since Aristotle’s school starts early, we are usually one of the first to arrive at Hercules’ playschool. When we arrived that day, he knocked at the front door and loudly called out, “Hello! Anybody here?” Quite a turn-around from his previous state where he would be insisting that he wanted me to carry him and whimpering. When we got in, he took off his own shoes and put them away before making a bee-line for the outdoor play area, asking no one in particular, “Can I play sand castle?”
Ever since the day he was introduced to the sandpit, dropping Hercules off at school has been very easy and very smooth. Perhaps he is okay with school after all…
Now that Hercules is attending school, we have reduced the intensity of our home program. On the days he does not have school, we usually do:
- Little Reader
- Little Math
- Little Musician
- TweedleWink DVD lessons (more about TweedleWink)
- Right Brain Flash Cards
- Reading (currently his favourite books are Elephant and Piggie, Dr Seuss, and How to Train Your Dragon)
- Listen to the Suzuki CD
The following are activities that we do depending on Hercules’ attention and interest for that particular day:
- Little Chinese
- Jigsaw Puzzles – Smart Toys, Thomas the Tank Engine, The Learning Journey
- Logico Maximo
- Art – usually painting, but we also do cutting, colouring
- Brain Quest
- Linking Memory
- Lego, blocks, construction models
- Montessori Activities
- Listen to music
- Tuning Forks
We allow the boys screen time and these are the programs that Hercules likes to play from time to time:
- iPad – Bobo and Light
- iPad – apps from 22Learn
- iPad – Montessori apps (see also: Montessori Apps for iPhone and iPad)
- iPad/iPhone – ABC Mouse
- iPad/iPhone – TeachMe
- iPad – Dinosaur Chess
- iPad/iPhone – Tangram/Puzzle apps
- iPad/iPhone – Dragon Box
- iPad – Preschool EduPlay
Programs that Hercules watches on TV:
- Bill Nye the Science Guy
- The Magic School Bus
- Dora the Explorer
- Here Comes Science
- Here Comes the 123s
- Here Comes the ABCs
- Signing Time
We’ve also been working on our Green Education.
Hercules also gets plenty of time for free play. Although some of these overlap with the activities listed above, the difference with these is that they are self-initiated and he does them on his own. Currently his favourite activities are:
- Water play
- Trains – lately, he’s enjoying playing with Aristotle’s old Thomas and Friends Wooden Railway
- Play Doh
Sports and Exercise
- Riding his trike
- Playing at the playground (jungle gym and park)
- “Gym” at home
It should be noted that in all early learning activities, there should be no expectation or pressure upon your child for “output”. Anything that is child-initiated, or gently encouraged is fine. There is often a lot of confusion between the methods of early learning and later learning. The focus of early learning should always be on bonding and having fun. There was an argument I received some time back that not all learning can be “fun and light”, that pressure will have to be applied eventually so children need to “get used to it”. Perhaps. But that is the environment of the left brain which can come later. In early childhood, our focus is right brain learning – “hug, play, learn” as the Right Brain Kids‘ motto says it. With this in mind, I have always made it a point never to push Hercules for output. I don’t test him to see what he’s picking up or what he’s learned. Instead, I wait for him to show me when he’s ready and I applaud heartily when he does.
We have been on the BrillKids Little Reader program since before Hercules was even 1 year old. Unlike Aristotle, Hercules was “slower” to demonstrate his reading capabilities. I had feared initially that he wouldn’t be a “reader” because he was never quite able to sit down for any length of time to listen to stories the way Aristotle could. Nevertheless, I persisted with Little Reader, following his lead. If he wasn’t interested, I would stop. I found that as he grew older, his interest to read also grew. Perhaps it was the good influence of his older brother who loves to read, perhaps it was Daddy who loves reading to him, or perhaps he just grew into it on his own – whatever it was, he now enjoys reading and listening to stories.
By the age of 2, he was capable of recognising all letters from the alphabet and he could read simple words like fruits, colours, and common animals. It has only been in the last month or two that we have really seen an explosion in his reading – taking books out to read by himself (he reads them out aloud so I know he’s “reading” and not just looking at the pictures) where previously he would always ask us to read to him; pointing out random words on billboards and signs as we move around town; and playing the Little Reader word game where he points out the written words that match the spoken words.
Unlike Aristotle who has never been fond of numbers, Hercules has had an affinity to numbers since he was very little. Where words were Aristotle’s first love, numbers were Hercules’. Unfortunately, I have not tracked his progress. I do not know exactly what he has learned, but he has randomly demonstrated the following awareness:
- counting knowledge of numbers up to 100
- skip counting patterns
- simple addition equations
We followed the Doman Math program and subsequently used the Little Math program. Although he demonstrated promising results initially on the ability to subitise and perform random math equations when he was very young, I have seen no continuation on the development of this ability. Regardless, I have continued his Math lessons because he still enjoys them and because I wonder if he may yet surprise me when he is older and is capable of more conscious output.
Hercules has demonstrated an interest in specific subjects such as science and music. He is interested in topics like dinosaurs, the Periodic Table, and the properties of light (from Bobo and Light). His interest in the acquisition of knowledge appears to be even greater than his brother’s. He is capable of reciting the information he has seen and heard, however, I doubt that there is true understanding of the significance of it. Nevertheless, I still encourage his interest in these subjects and his continuation to pursue it. Despite the complexity of the subject matter, Hercules is choosing to view it so who am I to argue against that?
Unlike his older brother who has always been more of an intellectual while lagging behind in his physical development, Hercules has demonstrated an innate awareness of his body’s capabilities. He was solidly jumping with two feet off the ground well before he was two years old. When we took him to the park and put him on a swing, he instinctively knew to sway his body to keep his momentum going. He is fearless in the swimming pool and he naturally understood the balance required to float with arm bands.
I dabbled with the Doman Physical Development program with Hercules but did not follow the program in its entirety. I quit the program early because Hercules was a big baby and very heavy so I mistakenly assumed it would be hard for him to achieve the milestones laid out within the program. Hercules has always been a very physical child so he learns all things physical fairly quickly, such as how to perform a somersault which he figured out on his own. I don’t know when he worked it out because by the time I’d noticed it and pointed it out to hubby, hubby replied that he had seen Hercules performing somersaults many times before that.
He cannot brachiate (no opportunity to learn or practice the skill) but I do wonder that if he had enough time at the park whether he would figure it out own his own. He likes to hang – but only where he can put his feet down when he wants to. He hangs off the handle bars in an elevator and in the car telling me that he is a monkey.
Since before he was born, hubby and I have joked about Hercules being the physical child and Aristotle the intellectual. What began in humour is turning out to be a reality.
Right Brain Development
About as much as I have been able to determine, his memory is developing pretty well. He can recall whole books perfectly and recite them to us while we’re in the car. He also remembers things he’s seen – for instance, when he was very little, he loved to listen to They Might Be Giants – Here Comes Science and he would ask for specific songs by describing features from the music video. He would refer to Electric Car as the one where the animals were “stuck” because they all appeared to be “stuck” inside the car.
He’s starting to participate willingly in space memory and linking memory activities. He can correctly complete the space memory activities in class. With linking memory, he can only recall the names of the cards if they are images with familiar names. For home practice, I usually ask him to point out the card position rather than to tell me what was on the card. When we do it this way, he correctly remembers the positions for the cards. He can recall most of the Peg Memory number/image sequences – it is one of his favourite parts of the Heguru lesson. He can also do the tangrams in class depending on his mood and temperament. Some days he’s not interested and he won’t even allow me to help him when I offer. He also appears capable of recalling the Mandala pattern colours (he can correctly point out to me where each colour is) but he still shows no interest to do the activity on his own.
Hercules moves around a lot in Heguru, but despite his “inattentiveness”, he still appears to be absorbing the materials presented. Wennie Sun from TweedleWink has always said that young children do not need to “pay attention” to the material in order to learn. Something I witnessed one evening at home confirmed this…
Hubby and I were in the kitchen cleaning up after dinner. Aristotle was in his room reading and Hercules was on the computer listening (and attempting to sing) to one of his “favourite” songs.
Hubby: Where’s Aristotle?
Me: In the bedroom reading book 7 of How to Train Your Dragon.
A little later, Hercules’ song finishes and I tell him it’s time to wash up and go to bed.
Hercules: Where is koh koh (koh koh means older brother in Chinese)?
Me: In the room.
Hercules: Reading 7!
I was startled. Even though he was a distance away, seemingly absorbed in an activity, he had overheard my conversation with hubby. And even though he didn’t realise that he already had the information he was asking for, once I mentioned a part of it, the rest clicked in.
We have been in a number of different classes in Heguru (I had to change the boys’ timetable a few times) and I have noticed that some parents get worried that if their child isn’t sitting down, watching and listening attentively to the sensei, they can’t learn anything. While it may be true that adults can’t learn if we don’t sit down and pay attention, the same does not hold true for children. This is because their brains work differently.
I read an article some time back that an adult’s brain is like a torch with a single focus, while a child’s brain is like a lantern spreading light in every direction. The reason for this is because children don’t know what information is important to know and what isn’t. So in order to make sure they don’t miss out on the important bits, their brains allow them to absorb everything. It’s part of their survival mechanism to help ensure they learn the necessary knowledge they require in order to survive. The laser focus doesn’t kick in until they’re older. So even though our children don’t appear to be paying attention in class, we can rest assured that they are still learning.
The other thing that a lot of parents get worried about is the lack of output. When they grill their children on what they’ve supposedly learned, the children seem unable to answer. Sometimes it isn’t because the information isn’t in there but because they don’t know how to access the information and share it. Sometimes it requires greater maturity and further understanding before the information becomes readily available and that may not be until much later.
I discovered this the hard way when Aristotle was little. I started teaching him how to sign when he was about 5 months old. After a while, when I didn’t see any “results”, I thought I was wasting my time so I stopped. Months after we’d stopped signing, he showed me his first sign and I realised, too late, that he had been learning and just wasn’t able to show me. A lot of what our children are learning is like that. It may be months later before you realise that they were listening and internalising everything we were teaching them.
When Hercules was very young, there seemed to be this unspoken thought that he was the “slow” child. In comparison to Aristotle who has always been very articulate, it does seem as though Hercules is “slow”. However, when I look at what he has learned and what he is capable of, I know he isn’t. Every child’s development is different. What appears to be on the surface may not be what it is if you dig deeper – as we have seen with Hercules.
So this is my advice to other early learning parents:
Do not worry about your child’s output. As long as you are observing the cardinal rules of early learning – bonding, having fun and being happy with your child – you can be assured that your child will learn the subject.