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The world in which your kids are growing up is vastly different from the one you grew up in.
Researchers continue to seek out the specifics that will help develop a robust 21st-century policy for early education. How do children learn outside the classroom versus inside? Does technology have impact?
How can parents, teachers, peers and others help kids succeed?
And finally—what does it mean to be “successful” anyway?
Most importantly, your child must learn what success means for them.
You are there to do everything in your power to help them along the way.
Here are six common sense and science-backed takeaways that will help your child thrive on the path to adulthood.
Allow Your Child to Fail
Living up to your standards may cost your child the process of learning through trial and error.
It’s crucial they realize that every mistake they make is actually an opportunity to learn and grow.
While you can communicate your acceptance of your child “no matter what,” they must learn through their own mistakes. So, take it easier on your child and yourself. Own up to your mistakes. Be proactive and positive when asking "What can we do now? How can we learn from this?" openly and objectively.
Also—Don’t push your child to reach for the most distant star.
Research shows that earning the highest degree available doesn’t always mean obtaining the highest earning potential. Nearly 30 percent Americans with associate degrees make more than those having a bachelor’s degree—this includes professions such as a draftsman, paralegal, radiation therapist and even certain STEM careers.
Failing and burning out are not the same.
Take Advantage of Summer Library Programs
Learning doesn’t stop because school is out for the summer.
Encourage your child to use the summer to review and explore activities and subjects of interest they don’t have access to in the curriculum.
Make sure local library cards are active and explore the offerings, from visiting authors and artists to 3D printing.
About 95 percent of libraries offer summer reading programs to stop the “summer slide.”
Summer reading programs are also transitioning into summer learning programs to reflect more interest in STEM and other activities, including art.
Elizabeth McChesney, Chicago Public Library's director of system-wide children’s services, founded CPL’s Summer Learning Challenge, which recently taught more about STEM.
The said challenge was for children to build something to help the goats get across the bridge from the book “Three Billy Goats Gruff,” which encouraged them to engage through storytelling and learn more about science and engineering.
Kids can submit work online, but they can also participate in person. Take advantage of summer library programs, but know that libraries also offer activities and educational lectures throughout the year.
Be Aware of Context-Specific Behavior
You think your child does no wrong, but you later find out at the parent-teacher conference that their behavior differs drastically from what you taught them and how they act in front of you. (We’ve all been there.)
That’s due to context-specific behavior.
Psychology researcher Judith Rich Harris says that behavior learned within one setting doesn't necessarily work in another environment, and your child is smart enough to realize that.
However, they may have trouble deciding on the right way to adjust, especially when exposed to competing models and pressures. So, children behave differently within varied social contexts.
Consider many children who go to daycare—
At home, they are poor nappers and won’t settle themselves to sleep no matter how hard the parent may try. The parents are often surprised to find that the child will go to their sleep area and fall asleep easily on their own when away from home. The child has learned that this is what they do at daycare and is able to differentiate the behavior from what is acceptable at home.
Sometimes, learned behaviors at home aren’t appropriate outside the home. Children learn that social context shifts, so they may ignore generalizations, such as “never lie” and “don’t cheat.” If the child witnesses their parents also breaking these rules at home, their social context processing may shift at home, too.
Advocate for Unique Language Learning Needs
Does your child have normal sensory functions—the ability to see and hear—but perhaps they mix up patterns? Do they have trouble understanding and utilizing past tense? Does your child fall behind others their age in language abilities in a way that affects their everyday and school achievement? These are each an aspect of developmental language disorder (DLD), which recently rebranded since not many know of the condition.
Oxford professor of developmental psychology Dorothy Bishop found that ADHD has 19 times more research than DLD, while the latter affects as many people as dyslexia—nearly two kids to every classroom of 30.
Schools and communities offer little to no resources, so DLD often goes ignored—which leaves the child feeling nonexistent. DLD Awareness Day took place the first time on September 22, 2017, which Bishop hopes will lead to more support and funding for research.
Resources for developmental assistance in school is the most pressing need. Parents must advocate for the hiring of speech therapists and experts with specific experience with DLD and other developmental disorders in the classroom, rather than one special needs teacher allotted to a group of students with more needs than one individual can meet.
It’s better to address those needs now than let the student suffer down the road. Seek a diagnosis and start to learn about your child’s developmental language learning needs now.
Following recipes also allows children to follow steps, calculate and think strategically, which are all skills that will prove useful when studying the scientific method.
Science writer Bethany Brookshire, Ph.D., started her experiment with a simple idea—to make her cookie recipe adaptable and tasty to a friend's gluten-free diet. Keeping a recipe book and making adjustments and calculations are similar to keeping a lab book.
Baking uses chemistry—you need bread dough to develop the protein strands that give bread structure, and including buttermilk in your biscuits and pancakes allows the release of carbon dioxide for the “fluffy” factor.
No one wants moon rocks for biscuits.
Dr. Brookshire succeeded in finding the perfect recipe for her friend, using dose-response curves to get the right texture, and she also created the book “Cookie Science” to show families, teachers and kids that science isn’t boring. Her book and process show you can accomplish learning in more than one way—baking cookies together teaches your kid about science and self-sufficiency while having fun.
Adventure Together in Nature
Nature offers many lessons for young ones. And it’s mind-blowing. Chocolate milk doesn’t come from brown cows. Gasp! All dogs aren’t males and all cats aren’t females. What?!
When was the last time your child explored rain puddles or asked about a strange flower, animal or bug they saw? Do they know nature provides the food on their table from a tiny seed? Do you struggle with teaching your children why they should eat healthily?
Dr. Nimali Fernando and Melanie Potock, MA, CCC-SLP authored “Raising a Healthy, Happy Eater: A Stage-by-Stage Guide to Setting Your Child on the Path to Adventurous Eating” which teaches kids about the importance of a healthy diet through the intriguing knowledge of gardening, science, cooking and more.
Kids who participate in gardening projects score higher on science achievement tests than those who don’t, since they learn naturally about photosynthesis and soil composition by their own curiosity and questioning.
Kids of all ages can participate and develop their artistic and scientific ones by keeping a plant journal. They can also learn how to grow their food and appreciate the abundance of nature. Place a trellis against a wall to grow green beans or plant herbs in a raised bed—you don't need much space to garden. Grow spinach and garlic, which support cognitive function, and boost your family’s brain power even more.
Outside the garden, explore nature by geocaching to combine technology and nature on a treasure hunt.
So—what do you think?
People say that children only get one start and that you pay now—or they end up paying later.
What are you going to start doing to help your children be successful? What are you already doing, and why? Tell us your plans for your kids’ success in the comments!
Your family must choose wisely in what you invest in for your child’s education and upbringing. Fortunately, the best investments can combine quality time with learning to achieve the brightest future possible for your little ones.