During these past five years as a Dad I have seen my daughter grow from a baby to a five year-old that likes to sing and spin around, jumps like a popcorn on a hot skillet, and enjoys asking me questions about anything. It has been an amazing period in my life.
Lately, I noticed that she is more aware of her environment, she has become a sponge for knowledge, she likes to learn new words and numbers, she is capable of vocalizing each of her favorite songs after listening to it on the radio, mostly from animated movies she watched before. She has developed further in just the past six months, her vocabulary has increased, sometimes I even have a hard time explaining unexpected questions from her, I am enjoying this change and I am having fun in the process.
Now, mind you that I have a full time job and a two-hour commute (back and forth). She goes to pre-K school, every day, for four hours. I keep an eye on the assignments she brings from school, I ask her teachers about her progress, and in general all the things that one needs to pay attention due to her age.
I have to give most of the credit to my wife, she makes sure she does her homework so that by the time I get home I just have to review it, since she will be busy fixing dinner for all by then. I asked her to let me do this so that at least I see the kind of assignments she has received and to check on her progress. It may be that I am biased towards an interest in her education since that is my line of work. I am an instructional designer for a major state university in Florida. I am in charge of developing elearning educational materials for the university. But I am in the adult education area, not in child education so I am not a teacher, although I have taught at the university level.
Because of the professional area I am involved in, I have had the opportunity to see closely the kind of challenges teachers face every day at school, and I appreciate their effort in educating our children. But even if I believe they are doing a superb job, we shouldn’t expect teachers to teach our kids all the tools and skills they need to face the world. I still believe we need to be involved in the education of our children, especially when they are at home.
Schools are meant to prepare students to face educational challenges down the road, for example a student from elementary school should graduate prepared to face middle school, we should not be expecting more than that. If we want them to learn grit, we should put them in environments where they can develop this personality trait, and we should be on the sidelines cheering them up and guiding them, we should get out of the way, I do not believe we should be protecting them from all the dangers of the world, but we need to pay attention.
After our daughter was born we took on reading children books to her every night, before she went to bed. Now, she even brings her favorite books before going to bed, and we will read to her. My hope is that she will develop a love for books, just as her parents did a long time ago. I like to play with her in the game room, she loves the pony characters, when we are playing I always manage to bring scenarios where the ponies display acts of kindness and good manners, I think she learns about this in a more practical way than by just watching TV, a movie, or from one of my long lectures.
Fortunately, she has not warmed up to TV, but she has to the IPad, we try to control her screen time and we have placed things around the house that she can play with. For example, one time we were at Ikea and we bought one of those blackboard/whiteboard from the children’s section (less than twenty bucks), and she spends a lot of time drawing and writing, my wife and I try to spend time with her in front of the board, showing her new words and numbers, things that are out of the curriculum. She now knows how to add, even though she will not take on mathematics until first grade.
That is what I mean by being actively involved, you have to search for things to do with your kids that produce teachable moments, for example: going to the library and spending time browsing for books, you can teach them to do research, to find things out on their own. You could find games or didactic materials in stores or on the web that could engage your kids with manual work: drawing, painting, solving puzzles, and so on.
Our next step in the education of our little one is to teach her chess. She has developed a liking for piano, who knows, we may be playing chess in a dad-daughter match, or going to piano recitals pretty soon. Kids should never stop learning.