by Carol Chandler-Wood
Is your child’s birthday approaching and you do not know what present to give him or her? It is often difficult to decide what to buy your children as a gift to represent your love and affection for them and one which has long term benefits. What gift can you give your children like this? One answer is to be their primary teacher because education begins with you!
As parents we are the first teachers our children ever know. It is up to us to instill in them a desire to and love of learning. Some children are born curious and will ask a zillion questions, whereas others will accept everything around them just as is. My daughter asked me two questions I will never forget! “Mom, how did the little man get in the box?” (When inquiring how the car radio worked). The other question was, “How does my hair stay on? Is it glued onto my head?” Those were two opportunities I had to teach her something at a very early age about herself and the world around her. Anatomy and technology lessons were placed before me, so I gave her the simplest version of an answer possible, one which she could understand. I also remember finding her once with a screw driver in her hand and her rocking chair which she had completely disassembled and she was in the process of putting it back together. Instead of correcting her for making a mess and what looked to be her destroying her chair, I applauded her efforts in disassembly and assembly. I assumed she had seen her dad using the screw driver before and wanted to try it herself!
You may be thinking that you do not have the expertise to teach your children. Of course you do! When they ask something you do not know the answer to, look it up together! It is ok to let your children know that you do not know something. A great lesson is to allow them to hear you admit there is something you do not know and then let them see you research for an answer through the library, internet, or through those people you know. When your children observe you taking the time to look for answers, you have taught them that knowledge is worth the effort. Every day there are opportunities to teach your children something interesting and worthwhile. Look around right now as you read this. There is a lesson in anything you can see, smell, or touch! You could teach your children something about art, geometry, chemistry, product production, literature, and reading, just to name a few. If you are at home you can teach them about cooking, gardening, auto mechanics, woodworking, technology, and home construction. Allow your children to follow you around the house and teach them as you work. Take them with you with you purchase or lease a car or house. Yes, it will slow you down a bit and could be potentially distracting, but you are preparing your children for a life apart from you. After all, isn’t our goal as parents to raise independent, self-reliant adults who are knowledgeable, capable and competent and also emotionally healthy and whole?
Teaching your children takes energy, time, and a willingness to share yourself and what you know or do not know with them. Therefore, you must ask yourself if you are willing to give of yourself and be your children’s primary teacher. Your children are worth every minute you give to them. Time goes fast and children grow up quickly! Seize the opportunities when they present themselves.
Other simple ways to teach your children are:
- Answer your children’s questions with questions. Probe them to think and problem solve. This will build critical thinking skills
- Have daily reading time together. Read out loud to them so they can learn about reading rate, rhythm, and enunciation. Have them take turns to read to you. Do not be a drill sergeant; rather let them ask you for help if they stumble over a word. Applaud their willingness and effort. You do not want them to lose their motivation or desire to read because reading is the core of all future learning.
- Take your children on family field trips within your own city and talk to them as you tour about everything they are seeing for the first time. Allow them to ask you questions and also to teach you what they know (even if you already know it).
- Provide music lessons of some sort while young, such as piano, trumpet, violin, or voice. If you can not afford lessons, buy a book that allows for self teaching, such as a Mel Bay Guitar book or enroll your children in your church or local choir if one is available.
- Have your young children attend local library activities for reading, writing, and literature enrichment.
- Encourage your children to draw and paint. Do not be concerned with how their artwork looks because the goal is to have them express themselves through drawing.
Remember, education begins with you and you have the opportunity to instill a love of knowledge in your children if you, too, value learning and information. Knowledge is powerful! With knowledge, opportunities exist!