Act #266: Foster a true love (not obligation) for learning.
I have a six year old who has been reading since he was five, and these days he really, really reads - like at a third grade level. He also does math problems.....for fun, usually when we are riding in the car. We don't really make a big deal about any of this, but we always chime in and participate when he reads or starts with the math quizzes in the car. We don't care, and it doesn't matter to us one bit, if we end up having a child who goes to Harvard or to the local community college. We already have his college fund planned for regardless, and he already knows that. What we care about is fostering in him, a lifelong love for learning that is not burdensome or obligatory. Here's how we've done this through the years. Here's how we hope to continue doing so.
1. We don't read to him every night before he goes to bed.
Do you know the guilt I used to feel when every single parent around me kept talking about reading nightly to their newborn infant? Listen people, when you've just popped out a kid, AND you wake up every 3 hours to stick a boob in his mouth, there is absolutely no chance that anyone's reading anything. As the years went by, we did manage to crawl in bed with him 2-3 times a week and read to him, but nothing forced or overly scheduled. These days he asks us to read with him at night - it's not a chore to him, but rather something he's learned to love.
2. He has no idea what a flashcard is.
We were actually buying groceries yesterday and I saw some nifty Sponge Bob math flashcards, and given his love for math problems, I asked my son if he wanted some flashcards. This is when he asked me what flash cards were. And I couldn't have been prouder, as a parent - that I managed to raise a first-grader who has never been exposed to flash cards.
3. He doesn't get rewards for schoolwork.
This kid came home with advanced "report cards" every semester in kindergarten. We literally looked at them, gave him a high-five and went on about our business. I know, it's appalling that we didn't praise our only child more for successfully writing shaky, backwards letter "P's". But folks, this was kindergarten. Who are we kidding - this kid isn't more "advanced" than any other kid in his class. It's just kindergarten, people. We decided not to reward good schoolwork with material objects because we didn't want him to work hard simply because he wanted a new toy. Sue us, but we want our kid to have fun at school.
4. We leave the room when he does homework.
Yes, a first-grader does indeed have daily homework, and yes, much to my dismay, this week there was a section titled, "algebra". We set up a desk just for my son in the living room. He has his homework folder there and a computer (because the school requires him to log in to complete a web-based math and reading program). We tell him when it's homework time and then we walk away. He's to come to us and ask for help if he gets stuck, but he's pretty much on his own until we come and sit down with him to check his work at the end. We don't hover, we don't anticipate what he might have trouble with. We let him problem solve on his own, and we're there to offer help if needed.