The early years are the most important
[J.] Marsh's no-nonsense approach to the topic of very early childhood learning makes me wonder why the whole subject hasn't received more discussion. Or perhaps it has and I missed it ...
Yeah, I think you missed it. I guess you haven't been to a baby store and seen all the "infant stim" merchandise being sold. The Mozart for Babies CDs and DVDs. (Google "infant stim" and "infant stimulation". I see that you can even download graphics for the computer to stimulate your infant.)
I think the idea that the first 3 years are important is a good one. Not necessarily because there's something specifically vital to a child's mental growth happening (maybe there is, maybe there isn't) but because, as you point out, learning doesn't start at school age.
But I think parents are taking the early infant learning with a grain of salt because babies aren't embracing the idea that their early learning can be bought at a store ;-) And this society is very ... I'm not sure of the word, but perhaps process? oriented. People don't find an activity satisfying unless there's a clearly defined process with a clearly defined result at the end. What they want is "If you do this for this amount of time you will get this result." (And that's exactly what Marsh is saying. Phonics for 30 minutes a day will get you genius level intelligence.) Parents want magic spells. They don't want to spend time figuring out what their particular baby needs. They don't trust that what the baby enjoys is what is best for the baby. They want experts to tell them the right process so they can just do it. They don't want to be told to sing and read and play and cuddle and laugh as much as the baby wants. They want to know what to do and how long to do it and what results they can expect. The goal of whole healthy happy child isn't enough. That's something they trust will just happen from life. It's academics that concern them. They want something measurable and specific. They want numbers. They want something translatable into security for their child.
As much as I'm drawn to the idea of processes to increase IQ, I think it pushes what babies really need into the background. What they need is affection and attention and connections with the people in their lives. Anything else is extra. But the emphasis on early learning and IQ moves the spot light onto academics. And that's buffing the car to a high gloss shine and neglecting the engine.
Well I was curious how those of you with really young children (0-5) incorporate unschooling in your lives? My son is pretty much 1 and I struggle with wanting to create a bit of a preschool setting at home ... my issue I know ... but I wonder what type of rich environment others provide or things they have found helpful.
I think the early years are the hardest because kids seem to be so ready to take on the world of knowledge that we want to start giving it to them.
But what they really need is us. Time with us and to know we're there for them and paying attention. They need places to move around. Places they can touch things. They may need other kids for short periods. Paints and big sheets of paper. (I taped paper to the walls in the bath tub and let her paint in there.)
When they're ready, books from the library, books on tape.
There isn't anything an unschooling parent of a young child should be doing any differently than a good parent of a young child. (Unless someone's idea of being a good parent is preparing them for school! ;-)
Just wondering what the group thinks of the idea of there being this window in which kids can really learn reading very early with out much "teaching" (just showing them the words and saying what it is).
What would be the advantage to the child? How would a 3 yo be able to do 3yo things better if he or she could read?
Why not teach them to read really early and then you can totally step back and let them have at the world of the written word.
What is a very young child missing by not reading?
This society emphasizes the connection between learning and reading way too much. If you eliminate school, then there's little reason for young children to read. (Unless they want to, of course.)
What we need more than early readers, is an appreciation of how children learn in other ways and how, especially, young children learn. Fantasy play, hands on, full body movements are all things that little kids are generally really good at that adults are generally less good at. But we tend to judge the quality of children's learning by how well they are doing what adults do well. If we used the same logic and judged adults by how well they were using children's learning tools, all the adults would be sent off for remedial work in play ;-)
But, and this is a big but, if learning to read were as easy as "just teach" then schools wouldn't have the problems they do teaching reading. There's more involved in learning to read than just teaching them.
I have a dd who will be 4 next month. So far, she's not very interested in learning numbers or even counting to 10. We usually only make it to 4 before we "get creative" and go awry. :) I like to think that she'll get it when she's ready. But is there anything I should be doing to help her or should I continue to let her be? Right now, she's very interested in animals. So we go to the zoo, do nature walks, etc. Sometimes I'll ask her to count the zebras, acorns, etc. But that's all I do with her right now. Anyone have any suggestions?
What if your husband thought it was valuable for you to learn to rebuild a carburetor? What if you weren't interested?
What if every time you mentioned something about car engines, your husband made a point of working the importance of carburetors in there?
So the answers is, let her be :-) Your daughter will find knowing numbers to be a lot more useful in her life than carburetors so she'll have a really hard time not learning about numbers.
If you treat numbers and counting things as cool things, the same as you might point out something about zebras or the texture of mud, then she'll think they're cool too :-) Listen to her . If she gets delight out of counting how many bears there are, then count bears. If she acts as though she's aware you're trying to get her to do something you think is important, then back off.