A letter to Parents on Teaching and Learning;
Teaching is defined by Webster as “giving instruction or lessons to a pupil of class.” Learning is “the acquiring of knowledge or skill.” The two are not necessarily related. Teaching frequently takes place without learning, more often than most educators would like to admit. And, most assuredly, learning can take place without teaching. In fact, the best learning takes place when children experience and learn for themselves.
The kind of learning that will prepare your child for success in school should not be characterized by formal lessons, flash cards, or even step-by-step activities that fill the daily calendar in a rigid fashion. There are many curricula that promise instant results in basic skill areas. If I were teaching children of seven or eight, these may be quite appropriate. But for the preschooler, the curriculum should revolve around creative play and learning activities that capture the spontaneity of the moment, along with just plain exploration and fun.
Perhaps this low-key approach makes some of you parent’s a little nervous, after all you’ve read about the potential of the young child for learning. Just remember: the learning has to be the right kind! The kind of learning we’re talking about takes time…five or six years of time. Time of a teacher (or parent) and child working side by side on complicated puzzles. Time reading your child favorite stories over and over again. Thousands of mundane conversations while working on a creative project or preparing a snack together. Millions of questions about why the sky is blue and where do our pets go when they die. Minutes stolen here and there to help a child solve a problem. These activities are the raw materials of school success.
If you’re feeling pressured, and thereby pressuring your child to meet some artificial standard of academic success before he reached the age of five or six, then you’re definitely overdoing it. Remember follow your child’s lead. My point is this there is a big difference between establishing an environment for learning and “teaching your child” what you think they need to know based on some artificial timetable or list of developmental milestone. Children are funny about learning. They enjoy it, even hunger for it but their efforts shouldn’t be thwarted by pressure, competition, fear, or extrinsic rewards.
Children have an inborn need to explore, discover, and create. They will examine, manipulate, and investigate in a tireless fashion until they can make sense of their world – but only when they feel like it, just try to impose your sense of priorities on a child, and learning will vanish like the sun behind a cloud. Have fun with your child and let learning happen naturally as they are ready and willing to learn new things about themselves and the world around them. Perhaps along the way you will grow and learn a few new things about the world and about yourself as well.
Love, Ms. Kya