In my work with young children, I often get asked by caring parents about what goal/s I’m working on with their children. For the most part, goals are varied and they depend a great deal on 1) the functioning level of the child, 2) the needs of the family. When working with very young children (0-3 years old), the family is the principal stakeholder.
But no matter the individual goals and objectives for each child, the main goal of education is to help children become independent so that they can learn for themselves. College students, for example, will have forgotten over seventy five percent of what they learned in college a few years after graduation (my observation), but they would have learned HOW TO LEARN. They would have become smart consumers and will know how to keep themselves abreast of the latest developments in their field. We don’t want physicians that only remember what they learned in medical school! We want them to keep themselves up on the latest medical news!
Similarly, children (even young children) need to learn how to learn. How do they do this? With some individual variables, we can say that most children learn by 1) being shown how to do tasks (commands or play), 2) being given the opportunity to repeat those tasks, even if they make mistakes, 3) and providing them with free play time. This last point is important, as it will be used to reveal how much a child can do by him/herself.
Children need modeling, and strategies and techniques in order to learn from those around them, but they also need space to be able to practice on their own. Two -year old children have a difficult time sitting for any period of time as it is, and it is not natural to have them sit and pay attention for a long period of time. This would set an unrealistic expectation for the parent and it would only hurt the chances that the child will be able to learn how to learn. We need to build in time for children to express themselves.
Next time you wonder what’s the best legacy you can leave for your child, think of yourself as the nest, and of your children as birds who are slowly spreading their wings so that they can fly. What can you do for them to become more independent? What does your child like? What is your child good at? Does he like to do what he/she is good at or does he/she struggle? Make sure that when you teach your child about “learning,” you make it look more like play.
Of course, there will be times when you will feel like you need help, and you should ask for help! If you have a young child, and need help determining whether your child would qualify for the early intervention program, click here. If your child is 3 to 21 years old, and you need help determining whether you should request help, and want to know more about help in school systems, contact your child’s school psychologist, or drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org. I will get back to you.
All The Best!