Children Have Capable Minds – Don’t Underestimate Them

Recently I asked Lily what she’d been learning in science class, and she told me that they had been learning about mammals. I asked if she knew of anything that made mammals different from other types of animals and like the little sponge she is, she named off a list of characteristics. When we got to the idea that mammals are warm-blooded, she knew that, but did not know what “warm-blooded” meant.

I’m sure a lot goes into being a teacher, and I don’t pretend I’m qualified to do that job, but it seems obvious if you’re going to teach a concept to a small child, you have to teach more than just what it’s called. There were a ton of things I learned growing up in school but never knew what they meant until much later, and I think having that knowledge earlier might have been beneficial. I think sometimes adults feel that concepts are over a child’s head, so they don’t bother. It’s amazing, though, what kids are capable of understanding.

I think it is better to over-explain things to a child rather than under-explain them. Even if she doesn’t understand the explanation at that very moment, hearing that same information six months, a year, or five years down the line might jog a memory, which might lead to easier comprehension. When I was young, any time I was reminded of something that I had already been taught, it made me somehow feel smarter than when I would learn something completely new.

Being made to feel smart is an enormous motivator for a child, while being made to feel stupid is the most caustic form of demoralization. Dejected children become frustrated teenagers, who ultimately become disenfranchised, pessimistic, hopeless adults. This brutal cycle can unfortunately lead to criminal activity, unemployment, depression, or other negative outcomes.

Foster a sense of wonder for learning in your children and they will be more likely to succeed. Discourage them, and they will be more likely to fail. There will inevitably be times when a child doesn’t grasp a concept—it’s imperative, though, that her lack of understanding cannot be attributed to a parent never trying to help her learn.

-J

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~ by hamiltonjacobs on February 6, 2015.

One Response to “Children Have Capable Minds – Don’t Underestimate Them”

  1. Lily will probably be learning more about mammals when she goes back to that class. Maybe not. But prior knowledge builds a stronger foundation. When we are taught something new, we can grasp a concept much easier when we have some form of prior knowledge. I’ve always loved acronyms such as HOMES and the vowel rules that really don’t always work, for example, I before e, except after c, or two vowels work together and they say the same, the second one says the first ones name. Great article! Maybe you should think about becoming a teacher. I know you could pass the Praxis tests. But remember, you will always have class clowns and troubled kids. 😉

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