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Dad Life! Educating a 4-Year-Old

My wife and I firmly believe a child’s education starts at home. It’s great that we have a fantastic public-school system that is available to everyone regardless of race, gender, economic status, etc… But parents are still the front line of a child’s education.

Because of this, we decided to get into the habit of embracing what we call an “Education Hour.” It’s a set aside time that the kids understand is for the purpose of learning.

By the age of four, most kids are ready for some actual sit-down style learning. It’s not daisies and roses, and less sitting than just managing to be at a table for ten minutes. They still have short attention spans; however, we’ve been doing education hours with our son for two years now so he gets the gist of how to behave. Our sessions range from 5 minutes to a whole twenty minutes some mornings when his mind is clearly expanding and he just really likes to do more.

Topics We Cover

Writing letters and numbers

Doing basic math (1-10)

Identifying words he knows on a page

All topics of science (usually involving a demonstration or some kind of outing)

Expected Behavior

They’re four, so by now they should know what bad behavior is and what is poor behavior. I’m not saying they always behave well, but there’s less training at four about what is bad, just reinforcing good behavior and discouraging bad behavior.

Examples of bad behavior we actively intend:

  • Markers and paint are for paper only, not tables, walls, couches, etc…
  • No screaming
  • You have to try, no matter what the outcome is
  • No telling your younger siblings the answers to questions

That’s mostly a made up list. They’re only four, so I still let them get away with a lot until it’s over the top. There’s no reason they can’t fidget and sit-stand-kneel at different times while they think or do. I try to help them focus by removing distractions and giving them something to work towards (“When we’re done with education hour, we get to eat dinner!”). We’re going to do whatever is next anyway, but it gives that thing on the horizon to drive towards.

They should be able to recite their new knowledge to other people. I have the most fun with science topics. One evening, I thought “we should do an education hour” and immediately my son asked if we could do a bonfire that night. Perfect! Education hour is the Fire Triangle. We all went out back and we talked about fuel, oxygen and heat and then he had to go tell his mom and grandpa about the Fire Triangle, and then we ate s’mores. I like those kind of education hours.

Kids gets frustrated and don’t want to participate many days, but as you revisit tough topics (like writing a six versus a nine) he gets more comfortable and soon his sixes look pretty good, and I’m embarrassed to demonstrate mine anymore.

If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong. Good luck dad!

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