Being that we have been happily, romantically married 20 years, we set up this site touting ourselves as gurus of the marriage and family realm. OK, maybe not gurus. Better said, we are paladins, fanatically hacking and slashing away at society’s sick and broken concepts of relationship all the while leaving behind a wake of broken and bloodied carnage. We have devoted Friday’s to answering reader’s questions. This is your opportunity to benefit from the plunder of our assault. So, ask away. No subject is taboo.
Osmara asked: What are your thoughts about early education? We have a 3 1/2 year old son who loves music, dancing, singing and tries playing the guitar, but he’s not into academics (learning letter recognition, etc). Part of me know he will have many many academic years ahead so don’t push him now too much but the other part of me want’s him to do well and know his stuff. What do you suggest as parents?
Lee’s response: Paul and I are big proponents of early education. We tend to believe that children are sponges and to strike while the iron is hot. I remember that this was one of the first arguments I had with my mother-in-law oh so many years ago. She believed a kid should enjoy their early child hood and I believed we should work the little buggers like some sweatshop in Bangladesh. So who was right?
At the end of the day, we both were. Our eldest, Jeannie, started school at 18 months. It wasn’t a day-care it was a school. Jeannie has special needs and the school was run by Occupational and Physical therapists. It was a great experience for her and 14 ½ years later, she is still in school. In her case, it was necessary to provide stimulation and intervention so that she could develop to her maximum potential. Jeannie, so you have a better understanding, is multiply handicapped. She has severe vision problems, hard of hearing, little to no use of her left side and has Asperger’s Syndrome. I strongly believe that all of the early intervention and education helped her be the well adjusted kid she is today. Most people can’t tell she has the laundry list of stuff she does. So, yahoo early education!
Now, we have Bobby, who just turned 5. Bobby has no special needs, unless you consider waxing a special need (He’s a hairy little monkey). Bobby will begin public school in the fall but already knows 2nd grade math concepts, reads and writes. He has gone to a couple of schools for a few months here and there. What we have found is that his behavior at home deteriorates when he goes to school. A lot has to do with the fact that he has encountered mediocre teachers (not his PreK3 teacher who was the best!). As former educators, we understand classroom discipline and how a teacher must set up a classroom like a healthy relationship. The appropriate behaviors and aberrant behavior must be outlined with their consequences. If a teacher does not have this kind of set up, run. Kids need parameters to feel safe. Kids follow rules instinctively to receive positive reinforcements. When these limits are not set, a child will push boundaries to mentally delineate where the boundaries are thus misbehaving.
So, what to do? I feel that if you are teaching him the basics at home (i.e. his colors, shapes, counting, alphabet, etc.) and he has time to socialize with other kids then keep him home. If not, send him to school but be prepared for the fall out. If you luck out with a good teacher with great classroom management, you have nothing to worry about. I will never be a proponent of home schooling but with a young one, there is a lot to be said about maturation, behavior and preparation of a child who doesn’t spend his early childhood eating paste in a classroom.
Paul’s response: Feed him lead and don’t teach him to speak. That’s the mistake we made with Jeannie. By 18 months she was speaking in full sentences and hasn’t stopped for a breath since. The boys seem to be following in her footsteps. If you insist on raising him as something more than a grunting Neanderthal, then do it all the way. To me, the best education that you can give is to demonstrate smart. Show him what it looks like to learn, to read, and to communicate. Above all, talk. Do not just talk to him but around him as an inclusive part of the family. There is nothing more gratifying than having your 3 ½ year old ask what ‘sophisticated’ means. From there, you can answer him in a way that guarantees you will hear him use the word again and appropriately. Of course, this also works well for the word ‘dip-shit’.
Thank you for reading and keep submitting questions.