Saturday, December 8, 2012

At What Age Should I Begin to Teach My children?

Any age adult can teach a child.
Oh. You mean what age should your child be. That may be different.

There was a movement in the 60’s or 70’s to teach infants to read. This used a lot of rote memorization (not a bad tool when used in the proper place).

The babies would learn to read anything put before them, or rather; they would repeat a word on cue from the card with the pretty little squiggles. If someone missed a day working with them they would forget everything they had “learned” and have to start over.

I don’t recommend you waste your time with this kind of thing. It is only good for impressing other people. It will not help your child at all and, in fact, may cause them to burn out on academics before they are even in kindergarten. They need to spend this time learning that mamma loves them, to crawl, explore, talk, their colors, shapes, animals, how to blow their nose, etc. There is way too much to learn to waste this time on nasty old academics.

On the other hand, many homeschoolers delay education until their children are nine or ten. This is different. They actually make the same argument I just did; there is too much for a child to learn to waste time on school work, and besides, by thirteen you can’t tell the difference between a child that learned to read at five and one that didn’t learn until ten, and early reading hurts their eyes.

Taking these backwards, the books that promoted the “hurting eyes” idea, though filled with other good things, were simply misinterpreting the evidence. In Will Early Education Ruin My Child, Richard Fugate refutes these claims. There is no real evidence to support their position on the eyes.

It is true that reading levels are no different by the teens between those that read early and those that read late. This is a great comfort to the parents of children that really weren't ready until they were ten or so.

However, a child that has mastered reading by six has four more years of learning other things by themselves, from books that the non-reader misses out on.

Yes, it often takes six months to a year for a five year old to learn to read while a ten year old can pick it up in just a few weeks, but this is an area I believe it is worth the effort.

Before five I don’t really see the benefit in most children because they can’t really follow a story line yet.

Once they can follow the story line (which can happen anywhere between 3 and 10 I have discovered) though, the earlier the better.

(Mary Pride in her Big Books of Home Learning says this is the key to reading readiness; being able to follow a story line. It is her claim that anyone that can follow a story when being read to is ready to read. This has been true for my children. Before this stage, teaching reading is a waste of time. After, its wasted book learning time).

As far as there being better things to do than other academic subjects, that depends on the family.

If you live on a farm where your children would be learning biology, chemistry, physics, and geometry by following a parent around helping with the farm work all day, or if they would be discussing History and philosophy with you and your neighbors or customers in your business till “the cows come home” than you may be right. There are better things for them to do and “school” can wait.

If, however, waiting means more Barney’s and Sesame Streets, more wondering around aimlessly, more time at the park getting addicted to their peers or playing computer games, then no, waiting is not good. School work, then, becomes a tool to teach the work ethic and an avenue to introduce the World Of Wonder to your child.

It boils down to the fact that your child should be learning from birth and it is your responsibility to make sure they have the opportunities. Keep them interested and learning no matter what is going on and they will be fine, no matter what “school” looks like. Let them quit learning and you are in trouble.

I decided to begin my older children in academics at the age of five. This seemed like the time they have learned about all they could in our home alone and were in need of more guidance. I am a very bookish person so teaching by reading to them is very natural to me and, whether because of genetics or environment, to them also.

Five is the time in ancient Israel that God had them raise the head tax from the infant tax to the scholar tax (Taxes went up again at twenty to the manhood level and back down at sixty to the retirement level. Women were not taxed as they were not potential soldiers. Women were too valuable to waste on the battle field).

Five to twenty seems to be the natural “school” years.

Actually, my last five (Update: Make that seven) children have started school at birth. They sit on my lap when I teach the older ones. They even insist they have to have flash cards and penmanship papers (to chew on!) starting at about six months. I enjoy humoring them. By three they can usually recognize a few letters and count to three or five. I don’t push them and if they don’t want school today that is ok. I let them go play. They are the ones that make me “do school.” Animal, transportation, color and shape flash cards make up the majority of their school time.

At five they no longer have a choice and have to do school when everyone else does.

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