Developing a culture of learning to enrich preschoolers
What do we mean when we say develop of culture of learning in the family?
In the previous article, I discussed the value of collaborative learning. To enhance the benefits of collaborative learning, I would like to highlight the single most important factor, a culture of learning, that influences the nurturing of intelligence of children.
What do we mean when we say develop a culture of learning in the family? We mean that parents consciously develop a set of values, routines, habits and traditions that encourage our children to increase knowledge, competence and performance in an environment of affirmation and dedication. In our daily interactions with the children, we foster curiosity, encourage collaborative learning and self-exploration.
The culture of learning does not happen randomly or overnight. It requires conscious and deliberate planning on the part of the teachers and parents. Generally, when we assume the role of teachers either in the classroom or at home, we convey enthusiasm for what we share with the children. We let them know that we are learning together and that increasing knowledge is important, fun and interesting. We encourage every one of the children to progress at their own pace. We assure them that nothing is too difficult as long as they are willing to learn. We assure them that we are there to help them in every way possible to make learning as easy as breathing. We tell them to take pride in all that they have learned and that they too can share their knowledge with their friends.
In developing an effective culture of learning, we as parents must take the lead. We cannot simply lock the kids up in their room with books, whilst we sit on the couch and watch TV. We have to read with the children. It is a shared experience. We can do the following to develop a culture of learning:
1. Lead by example
In your daily interactions with the children, show them that learning is an integral part of living. In fact there can be no living without learning. Share with your children what you have learned and experienced from books, personal reflections, social media and social interactions.
2. Interact with them
Get to know your children and find out about their reading habits. Ask them to share their favourite stories. Take them on visits to the library, gallery, museums or even concerts. Then supplement such visits with books borrowed from the library and informal chats at home. Organise sharing sessions where children can talk about what they have learned each week from their daily routines and social activities. Ask the children to record the type of learning they enjoy most and to account for their particular interests. It will be amazing to see how and what the children learn each week.
3. Treat the children as individuals
Spend time with each child and let them share with you what they have learned. You can also teach different children different things based on their interests. You daughter may be interested in animals, so read them books on animals. Your son may be interested in aeroplanes, so discuss aviation and read books about dare devil pilots and how fighter planes were critical in winning World War 2.
4. Encourage sibling coaching
Ask the children for suggestions on how they can help each other to learn better. For example, the older sibling who is a better reader may read to the younger ones at bedtime. They can help their younger siblings to pronounce difficult words and even explain the meanings of difficult words. Let them feel the joy and pride of teaching their siblings. Another sibling who is more proficient at mathematics could offer to explain how to solve puzzling mathematical problems. Praise the children for their contributions and encourage them to continue to excel at their favourite subjects.
5. Provide opportunities for discussions
Don’t treat them as if they were ignoramus. Ask them for their views and opinions on problems faced in the country and the world. For example, ask them how refugees should be treated. Ask them what they think would be the most important concerns they would face when they grow up. If they say they don’t know, suggest that they check with Google. They do not have to give well-considered answers. We are merely stimulating their minds and encouraging them to develop views and gain knowledge so that it comes naturally to them to want to access information for the sake of being well informed.
6. Make learning relevant to the children
Take the children to the library and give them a free hand in choosing books that excite them. Don’t insist that they have to read a certain genre of books or avoid reading comics because children should be amused and entertained by books as well. If you insist on reading only heavy-going or exam-oriented books, reading will become a burden to them and they will find all sorts of excuses to play on the computer.
7. Fill the house with books
This does not mean that you have to buy them a book every week. What it means is that you have to take them to libraries and borrow the maximum number of books each week. It does not matter that they do not finish reading all the books that they have borrowed each week. What is important is that they are exposed to a variety of books. You can pique their interest and ask them to share with you one favourite book a week. Let them tell you what the book is all about. Show interest. Get involved. Read with them.
8. Keep a Journal
Start writing diaries with your children. Encourage them to write about anything that takes their fancies. It could be just jotting down one sentence or a paragraph about a personal event or a special celebration. Encourage writing on a daily or weekly basis. The more your children write, the more they will find writing enjoyable. Write with your child on the same experience that you have both shared. Then highlight the differences and see if the children can learn from you. Make writing a diary or a journal a family experience. Such experiences are bound to enhance the intelligence of your children.
9. Treat reading as a valuable family tradition
Instead of spending money on clothes or chocolates, buy them beautifully illustrated books when they are young. Make it a tradition that everyone in the family buys books for one another as a birthday or Christmas present. Tell them that books are lifetime companions and lasting reminders of the love that you have for one another. For birthdays and Christmases, let the children take the initiative to pick the books for siblings and friends. Explain to them that besides dogs, books make the best companions. They can thrill us, excite us, amuse us and teach us many things that we do not know.
The above are nine simple ways to create a favourable environment in which to nurture your children. Building a culture of learning is a legacy that will stand your children, grandchildren and great grandchildren in good stead in the years to come. Your progeny will hold you in high esteem and be eternally grateful for your insight and foresight.
For those of you who like reading the tales of the Bronte sisters, in particular, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, and Jane Eyre by her older sister, Charlotte Bronte, like me, you must be mesmerised by the words of power and passion that issued from the hearts and minds of these amazing writers. These English country girls, living in isolation in the highlands of Yorkshire, were not highly educated. Yet, they produced such great works because they grew up in a culture of learning. Their father Reverend Patrick Bronte, a Cambridge-trained scholar, started discussing affairs of the world with them when they were just 5 years old. The sisters immersed themselves in the well-stocked libraries of the Bronte parsonage in Haworth.
Don’t get me wrong, I am not suggesting you do the same. Times have changed, you might argue. But let me reiterate that the effects of the culture of learning remains as vital today as 200 years ago. Examine the upbringing and environmental influences of children who excel, and others who struggle to make the grade, you will find a stark difference. It does not matter if you send your child to the best and most expensive preschools, the decisive influence is how you as the significant others, make your mark on your precious little ones at home.
I invite you, the readers, to a free talk “Nurturing the Intelligence of Pre-schoolers: Share the Joy of Learning with Hope, Hugo and Hala in Sydney”, organised by the National Library Board at the Ang Mo Kio Library on 4th June 2016 from 3 to 4 pm. I look forward to meeting some of you at the talk to carry on the conversation we have started in this excellent online magazine on “Nurturing Intelligence”.