Early Childhood Learning- How to Raise a Smart Kid and Have Fun at the Same Time
If you've read my previous work, then you know that I'm a proponent of home schooling. What we'll be discussing today is how to take advantage of early childhood learning techniques to help them get started, before they're old enough for preschool. I believe that early childhood learning is a key to helping our children develop a love for learning. Without that, all the programs, systems, and lesson plans in the world won't make a bit of difference once they're of an age to go to school. Because of this, I am presenting information that will be invaluable in educating your child early. It will be effective whether you plan to send them to school or continue their education at home once they are old enough to begin school.
The things I'll be discussing start from the moment they're born (or even earlier), were tested in my family, and have worked wonders for my son. Just to give you an idea of what's possible when you use these steps, he's currently five years old with the vocabulary of a 14 year old. He also knows a little bit of Spanish and Chinese. Not to mention that he understands fractions and understands the concept of negative numbers (he says they're "fun"). He is reading at a second grade level as well.
Early Childhood Education- Starting in the Womb
The first step in early childhood development is reading and singing to your child before they are born. It may seem crazy but this is a huge step in their early development. I started reading to my wife's tummy around the 20th week, because research shows that hearing develops around then. She also sang "Puff the Magic Dragon" to him on a regular basis. I don't think the song or what you read matters. I read him "This Day in Green Bay Packers History" every day. To this day, if he's upset my wife can sing the first few bars of "Puff" and he'll be calm within seconds. He knew my voice from the moment he was born, and I'm convinced that these practices were a key to getting his early education off to the right start.
Teaching Communication as part of Early Childhood Development
Once the kiddo comes kicking and screaming into this world the first step in early childhood education is to teach them to communicate. You don't have to wait until they learn to talk to be able to communicate. Many experts recommend teaching your child sign language at a young age. We taught our son at 6 months, but some experts say you can start at birth. I'm not talking about making them learn an entire vocabulary. The idea is to focus on few basic words they need to let you know what they need. Words like "eat", "more", "please", "milk" and a few others form the basis for teaching your child to communicate before they are ready to talk.
Theoretically, once the child learns to communicate on this level and see the benefits, it motivates them to learn to communicate on a deeper level. According to the experts, this causes children to start talking at a younger age. There are a lot of resources available to help you get started with what signs to teach, and how to teach them. This can be a great step on the early childhood education journey. A few of these resources can be found in the sidebar.
Check Out My Other Writings on Education
- To Homeschool or Not to Homeschool- That is the Question...
This is the first in a series that I’m working on. This installment discusses the benefits of homeschooling, along with reasons that it might not be the best option for every family.
- How To Home School
This is the second part of my series on home schooling. If you have decided that you're interested in home schooling, but don't know how to start then this is for you.
How you Communicate with your Child
One of the most overlooked ways to impact your child's early learning experience is how you speak to them. From the time my son was born, we did not use baby talk. There was no such thing as a "ba-ba", for bottle, in my house. We talked to him just like we would speak with an adult. Of course we kept it at his level, but we still talked to him in an adult manner. As a result, he was speaking in complete sentences at 18 months. I strongly believe that this is also why his communication skills are as advanced as they are today. This also allows the child to start using their mind in different ways,which opens it up to more advanced learning down the road. It also has the added advantage of making it easier for your child to communicate with you, which leads to less time trying to decipher crying patterns.
At the same time we were teaching him sign language, we were also starting to teach him the parts of the body. For example, while we were feeding him, we'd point to his nose, and say "nose", then we'd follow it up with the the Spanish version of the same word. Through this method, he was able to say most of his numbers, colors and parts of his body in English and Spanish by the time he was two. When he would say one of them right, we would praise him enthusiastically. This led to him really enjoying showing us what he'd learned, which has led to a love of learning in general. The keys to this type of teaching are reinforcement and praise. If you are consistently reinforcing what he learns, and getting excited when he shows understanding, then his love of learning will grow naturally.
Television, if used correctly, can be a great way to reinforce what you're teaching. For example, Dora the Explorer (as annoying as she is) does a great job of reinforcing some of the Spanish words you might be teaching.
How to help them start reading before Pre-School
The next step in early childhood education is teaching your child how to recognize the look and sound of their letters as the first step towards teaching them to read. When you read to your kid, you can simply point out various letters and show them how the letters and sounds go together. You can reinforce this by simply pointing out signs while you're driving, or showing them sounds on a menu at a restaurant. A great ally in this process is Leap Frog's "Letter Factory". This movie takes the kids on an entertaining adventure that will help them learn their letters in no time. My son would ask to watch this anytime he was allowed to watch tv. After watching a few times, and with the help of our reinforcement, he could recognize the name and sound of all his letters with no prompting from anyone else.
The next step in the early childhood education process is for your child to learn how to put the sounds together to make words. Reading to them, and sounding out words with them is a great way to accomplish this. Another great resource is the "Talking Words Factory", also by Leap Frog. If you're interested, you will be able to find a link to both items at Amazon.com on the right side of this page. These two videos do a great job of reinforcing what you're already teaching in a way that's entertaining and easy for them to remember. I recommend Leap Frog products for just about anything that you want to teach your child. I have written short reviews of each of the products listed here. We also used a free online reading program called starfall.com. This was a great way to homeschool our preschooler online. Between programs like these, and consistent reinforcement from the parents, your child will be reading ahead of her expected level in no time.
Early Childhood Education- How to Approach Math
Obviously with math, you won't be teaching the quadratic formula yet. However, it's surprisingly easy to start introducing math concepts to your child. This phase of early childhood education started for us when our son started eating solid food. For example, if he was eating Cheerios. we would count out the number of Cheerios he was going to eat. As we fed him each one, we'd say "Look at that! You had six Cheerios, now there's only five!". Those simple lessons were a great way to get him started. From there, Leap Frog's "Math Circus" did a great job of introducing and reinforcing math concepts with him. Another great resource for helping him understand not just math concepts, but how to apply them, is a television show called "Cyberchase". It's on PBS, so you should be able to find it with no problem in your area. Cyberchase is a show about using logic and math to solve problems. It's doesn't just teach "2+2=4", it teaches how to solve more complex problems by using basic math concepts. Christopher Lloyd stars as the main villain, so you know it's at least somewhat entertaining for adults as well.
With these tools you can start on an adventure in early childhood education that will benefit you just as much as it benefits the child. These resources can help you instill in your child a love of learning that will hopefully last the rest of their life.
Check out my Other Homeschool Resources
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