Thursday, January 6, 2011

Teaching Children: Whose Job Is It?

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There seems to be a large portion of parents today who are under the impression that it is not their job to teach their children. It might even be a majority. Because I am relatively young, I don't know if this is a new mentality or one parents have held for hundreds of years. No matter when this mentality came along, it is here now.

And it is wrong.

It is wrong on so many levels. Morally. Academically. Domestically. Religiously. Even athletically. I can't think of a situation when the main person in charge of teaching a child should be anyone other than the parent/guardian. And yet people leave so much in the hands of others. They rely on Primary Sunday School to teach morals and religion. They rely on teachers to teach academics. They rely on coaches to teach the rules of the game. And they rely on...well...I guess no one to teach domestic skills. 

The Read-Aloud Handbook has some excellent arguments for why the parent is the number one teacher in the child's life--whether he/she likes it or not. As Trelease points out, "...a child spends 900 hours a year in school and 7,800 hours outside of school. Which teacher has the bigger influence? Where is more time available for change?" (page xv). 

If you see your child needs help in any area, you are the one who can best make a change. Even if that is not an area you excel at. 

My neighbor was a huge sports star growing up. He still loves to play sports and is quite athletic. Given the "standard" in today's society, I was surprised that he and his wife didn't put their children in organized sports until they were much older. I thought that given his value on sports, he would want his boys started as early as possible so they could build their skills. But do you know what he says? He says the best way for a boy to learn to play baseball is not by putting him in T-ball, but by playing catch with him in the backyard.

The Read Aloud Handbook is of course concerned with education, and specifically reading. It is full of interesting studies and statistics that prove home is where knowledge is taught, and especially a love of reading. "...research shows that the seeds of reading and school success are sown in the home, long before the child ever arrives at school" (page xv). 

Your child's success depends on you. You are the key. And if you feel unequal to the task, the Read Aloud Handbook is full of inspiring stories, including stories of parents with little to no education producing children who grew to be Pulitzer Prize winners and doctors and more...all with nothing more than their involvement. These mothers couldn't even read themselves. It can be done.

I read this book for the first time shortly before Brayden had started Kindergarten. I loved it and thought it all sounded great.

Once Brayden was in Kindergarten and started going to school, I was able to witness first-hand the stark truth to what Trelease had to say. Of course I believed what he had said, but it never hits home fully until you witness it.

I help in Brayden's class several times a week. I am amazed at the difference in abilities among the children. There are literally children in the class that Kaitlyn (age 3) could out-perform. I sat in my ignorance wondering why. As I visited with Brayden's teacher, who has been teaching for a long time, she told me the difference is in parental involvement. She shared that she will call parents daily to tell them what to work on at home with their children and she sees no improvement in the child. She can tell who gets the mental stimulation at home and who doesn't.

I have never felt like what I did with my children at home was huge or earth shattering. In fact, I often feel like it is inadequate and not as much as I could do. I am sure most moms feel the same way. One day, a couple of years ago, I was visiting with one of my best friends who has a degree in Early Childhood Education (holla Lisa!). 

I told her my kids were just naturally smart because I hadn't done much to teach them. She told me I was very wrong. She listed off the things I have done to teach them what they know. Honestly, they are all basic things I think every parent does, but sadly, they don't. 

It really is simple. The Read Aloud Handbook can give you great information on how to accomplish this. But know that by simple I don't mean "10 minutes a day" or something. This is no gimmick. Parenting takes time. That is what it is. But it is not hard. It doesn't require a special degree. And no one can do it better than you can. You are the parent for a reason. So take courage and tap into those hours at home to teach your child!

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12 comments:

Jessie said...

Thanks for this great reminder, Val! I taught kindergarten for 4 years before I became a stay-at-home mom, and I can definitely relate w/the correlation between parent involvement and student 'achievement' (whether academically or behaviorally). Makes me re-evaluate what I should be doing right now w/my 18MO! :)

Carrie said...

I think The Read Aloud Handbook should be given to every parent in the hospital!

Lindsay Neal said...

As a teacher and a parent, I would wholeheartedly agree. It is shocking that so many people do absolutely nothing to help their child at all. I sat in a 1st grade classroom once and watched a girl read a page (to herself) and then turn the book around to show the book's pictures (just like I did during read aloud). She didn't even know what reading a book looked like. I don't feel like I do enough but I am happy to know that my child will at least know what reading a book looks like.

Jessica said...

When I read the title of this post my immediate thought was "PARENTS!" And then I began a small sermon in my head out of frustration for those parents who don't care.

My husband is a 4th grade teacher in an inner-city school and the lack of parental involvement is SICKENING!!! Parents are not teaching their children self-control, respect for authority, etc. There are kids in my husband's class that are reading on FIRST GRADE levels!!! It is so sad. Our 2.75 year-old has more respect for authority than many of these kids do.

This misconception that it is another persons job to teach our children doesn't simple include their ABC's and 123's, it is all over the board. We see it at church all the time. Parents drop their kids off for their weekly "Jesus Time" and expect that to quench their spiritual needs. What a shame.

Stepping down now. ;)

Great post, Val!

Plowmanators said...

Jessie, it is amazing to me that I can easily see it just by helping a few times a month in the Kindergarten classroom.

Plowmanators said...

Carrie, I agree!

Plowmanators said...

lol Jessica. Great rant :)

Plowmanators said...

Lindsay, that is too bad.

Ruth said...

Dear Val,

Both my husband and I are teachers in an inner city school. I decided to stay home when our son was born 17 months ago. I just felt like I could not teach full time and be a full time mom. Right now, I only teach at school 1 day a week.

It has been so rewarding and fulfilling to see my son learn new things everyday. I grew up with parents with little formal education. We migrated from Venezuela/Colombia in the 90's. And today my siblings and me are all college graduates. Why? Because my parents, especially my mom, drilled it into us that the only way to get ahead is through education. I am thankful to God for my parents and all that they instilled in me.

Parental involvement is key in helping your child reach their potential...whether you live in the ghetto or in the suburbs.

Thanks for this reminder!

Plowmanators said...

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Ruth!

ME said...

Thank you for this! It was so encouraging!! Looking forward to reading more :D

Rebecca said...

I LOVE this book by Jim Trelease. I wish every parent and every teacher would read it!

I am a reading specialist at an urban, low-income school. Yes, many times I see a correlation with parent involvement and student achievement, but I think that is an over generalization. I have several students with amazing behavior, good work ethic, and strong morality in place- but they still do not know how to read. Is it because they have parents who couldn't care less? Sometimes yes, and other times, no.
There are many factors related to poor student achievement:
- lack of parental involvement (uncaring parents, parents working multiple jobs, single parents, etc...)
-English Language Learners (It's hard to read, if you don't know English and if you don't get it at home)
- Learning Disability
- parents with little education
- little money for resources, good nutrition, or support services, etc...
- The kids may need glasses or a hearing test, and the family/teachers don't know.
- etc...

While I completely agree that parents need to give their ALL to parenting, I also think that kids need a whole community of people (school, family, church, neighborhood, etc...) to come alongside of them to be successful.

It takes caring parents AND a close-knit community to raise kids. I know I ask my mom, sister, church, and friends for help all the time with my 18 MO.

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