Just Enjoy Your Kids!
“Just enjoy your kids!” is probably one of the most annoying things that was ever said to me when I was a parent of preschoolers. Almost inevitably it was part of conversations that I had with other parents, teachers, and other supposed experts on child-rearing. It’s a nice sentiment to be sure, but it infers that we are anxious, worrisome mothers who simply need to calm down and change another diaper, and everything will be just fine.
It’s very frustrating, because if you’re at all an alert parent, you can see before you in your preschooler a living knowledge sponge. Here is a little person who wants to know everything. Everything. Right now! Here is a little person who finds the world the most exciting and wonderful thing ever. She wants to explore it all. He wants to find out how it all works. You want to exploit that, because all too soon they’ll be weary, jaded teens who don’t want to learn a darned thing.
Engagement: Secret Learning Weapon!
Okay, I admit it. I am going to tell you to calm down a bit about that last part. I promise I’m not going to waste your time telling you to enjoy your kids. Of course you’re already doing that. No competent parent needs to be told to enjoy their kids. However, your kid or kids, however smart, do not need to learn formal Math, the foundations of Western Philosophy, or even the entire sonnets of Shakespeare by heart right now. There will be plenty of time for that later. Yes, they may be able to do those things. This does not mean that they should. And if you don’t want those weary, jaded teens who don’t want to learn a darned thing, you won’t inflict formal learning on your preschoolers.
How to Teach Your Preschooler “Too Much!”
When we attempted to enroll our son into public school kindergarten, one of the accusations hurled at us by the administrators was that I had “taught him too much”. He was ahead of “grade level”, he was too smart, too social, too polite. You can read that story elsewhere on Rebel Homeschool. My point is, there we were with the Kid Who Knew Too Much. And yet he had not been exposed to any formal learning at all. How did that happen?
My son’s about to graduate from a charter school where he finished up the last couple of years of high school work (he wanted an official state-issued diploma). He’s got great SAT scores and currently he’s Valedictorian of his class. Public school experts want your kid in school, in a formal learning environment, earlier and earlier. They’ll tell you this is how you end up with my son’s result.
People who actually pay attention to what preschoolers need know this is junk advice. Just because impoverished kids living in terrible environments do better if taken out of the terrible environment for a few hours a day doesn’t mean that every preschooler is better off in such a regimen, stuffed in a classroom pretending to be big kids. I’d argue that it’s not even ideal for the impoverished kids, but for now it’s the best the system can do. So what about your preschoolers?
Awesome Preschooler to Lifelong Learner Track
- Read. Read to them. Read a lot. Read to them even after they learn to read themselves. Make an adventure and an art out of reading out loud. Do the funny voices. Examine every picture in the picture book. My kids are both older teens now and we still read aloud to each other.
- Make Drama Story Art. Make a “dress up box” of bits that can be used to make a variety of pretend outfits. Hats, masks, scarves, crowns, various pieces of fabric that can be capes, togas, robes, etc. Re-enact their favorite stories. Let them lead the way. Let them change the story. Play along.
- Make an Art Mess. Watercolors, salt dough clay, craft paper projects, crayons, do them all. Some craft stores host classes, if you’re feeling timid or don’t want cotton balls glued to your sofa at home. Skip the coloring books for now. Let your kid color not only outside the lines, but without lines at all.
- Get Imagination Toys. Blocks, trains, sets of dishes and fake food, building toys, puppets, any kind of toy that can be used for multiple purposes.
- Get Out of the House. Go outside as much as possible. Ride the bus, even if you have a car. Go to museums, and not just the Children’s Museum, though you might find yourself living part-time there. Go to outdoor festivals. Go fly a kite, throw a ball, run in circles, explore the world.
- Talk to Your Kid. No dumb down speak, no baby talk. Tell them family stories. Talk to him like he’s a little person you love to talk to. Talk to her like she’s amazing and smart. Use your big words. Explain what the big words mean, but only if asked. Model the polite behavior you’d like to see in your kids. Tell them they’re wonderful, amazing, people. Tell them how much you love who they are and how much you enjoy being with them. And oh, yeah. Enjoy your kids!????