Educating Children Effectively

Continuing a series of previously published articles on FAMILYPLACE, might be useful to some. FamilyPlace, a project funded by DAGS,  is the predecessor of  Learning Beyond Schooling when our children were very young and reflected our thoughts as young(er parents).

Educating Children Effectively
Chong Wai Leng (2000)

“I tried to teach my child with books. 
He gave me only puzzled looks. 
I tried to teach my child with words. 
They passed him by, often unheard. 
Despairingly, I turned aside, 
‘How shall I teach this child?’ I cried. 
‘Come,’ he said, ‘play with me.”    (Author Unknown)


Children learn best when they are loved and appreciated by their parents and teachers. In my music sessions with them, I found that love and appreciation is their greatest motivating factors. When they feel that their teacher loves and cares about them, they feel a warm acceptance and a greater motivation to learn. Parents who show an interest in their children’s learning or, better still, participate in their learning process, help to accelerate it. It is an unconditional kind of love – that is, it remains constant and unchanged irrespective of whether they perform well or not. As long as they constantly strive for their best, that is cause for praise. It should not be the case of “I would love you more if you get a distinction”. This “if” mentality could severely bruise the child’s self-esteem if he or she could not perform to the adult’s expectations, and the burden of having to please the adults can get too much for a child to bear.

A child with good self-esteem is a positive child who thirsts for knowledge for knowledge’s sake and not for any rewards that may be dangled in front of them. A self-motivated child needs no carrots for motivation as they do not see learning as apart from themselves but rather, it is very much a part of their natural growing process – the more they learn, they more they grow. Parents and teachers play an important role in sowing the seeds of love in their children’s early years.

Respecting the individual

How do we love our children? By acknowledging their individuality and appreciating their differences. Each child has his or her own personality, skills, talents and learning aptitudes. As their parents or teachers, we need to seek them out and find out what is the best way to help them learn. Some children have greater aptitude in the arts while some in the sciences. So, discovering their unique capabilities early would quicken their learning process.
In their book, Learning Unlimited, Dawna Markova & Anne Powell wrote about recognizing and respecting the child’s individual gifts:

Most of us, when we think about children, see them as clay to be molded. We “professionals” describe them with a vast array of limiting labels: gifted, brilliant, articulate, oppositional, hyperactive, attention-deficit disordered. To find a child’s gift requires “respect” – the second look through your heart, “recognition” – knowing again, and the faith to blend heart and reason in search of it. (Dawna markova & Anne Powell, Learning Unlimited (1998, Cornari Press).

Make an effort to find out what drives your child, what are his or her favourite activities, when is his or her best time to learn, and what subjects interest him or her most. My elder daughter (4 years old) who is very articulate in her speech loves books, and those that particularly attracts her at this period of time are about animals, the human body and how things work. My younger one (3 years old) shows great interest in music and dance and is very graceful in her dance movements, but shows less interest in books except with those pop-up ones or those that can be manipulated with her hands. Two contrasting personalities with contrasting abilities, with careful observation and reflection, can be nurtured into a pair of wholesome and happy individuals.

Developing the curriculum

Our education system has a curriculum developed for the general masses of the student community. It does not have room to cater for different types of learning abilities of children, and it is not meant to. So, the responsibility lies with the parents to discover and develop their children’s gifts using a curriculum that suit them best at home. The home is still a very strong factor in the child’s learning process and acts as a learning booster for children provided that the environment is designed for optimal learning advantage. A home with a good library of books and educational resources is an inspiring place for intellectual development. Loving and spiritual parents provide the bed for emotional and spiritual development, and having playgroup friends and even adults that meet regularly every week provides for their social development.

The curriculum that we plan for our children at home should constantly be reviewed together with our children. As direct beneficiaries of the learning program, their opinions should be valued and considered. The wonderful thing is, it can be changed, expanded or modified anytime we wish without any hassles. And it is developed with our children in mind. It is indeed wonderful to be able to re-explore subjects like science, geography and history with a fresh new mind of a child’s and experience being a student again. As a parent, I find it exhilirating and educating to be learning with a child’s mind. It is as much an educating process for me as for my children.

Learning should not be viewed as separate from play or vice versa. To children, they are one and the same, which explains why they could concentrate on completing a puzzle or finishing an art piece for a period of time because it is not a job that has to be completed, but a game to be done. It is when they are forcefully separated with the fun aspect expelled, that boredom sets in and the desire to learn extinguished. This poem sums it well:

“I tried to teach my child with books.
He gave me only puzzled looks.
I tried to teach my child with words.
They passed him by, often unheard.
Despairingly, I turned aside,
‘How shall I teach this child?’ I cried.
‘Come,’ he said, ‘play with me.'”

– Anonymous

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This entry was posted in Homeschooling Kids, Our home schooling experience, Resource & Materials, Thoughts and Ideas, Unschooling Lessons and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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