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. Before they are school age, the topics are incredibly simple. But they love it! Education hour has become a real positive experience in our house. Likely, it’s because they get our undivided attention and sometimes a treat at the end.
Regardless of why they love it, there are many benefits for parents. Kids can start using their knowledge and it helps us parents understand them. For example, teaching them the body parts before they turn two helps them communicate where they are hurt, especially when they are sick and it’s mostly inside pain. Learning colors early helps them ask for objects that they haven’t learned the name for yet. Before their vocabulary really starts growing, they can use other things they’ve learned to communicate with us without resorting to whining or meaningless grunts.
Two is the first year we start education hour with our kids. There’s no rush to these things, and two is a soft start date. I think my eldest was dedicated early in his twos, while my second was interested late in his twos. So, gauge when your kid seems ready to you.
Topics we cover:
*It doesn’t have to be a lot of material or super lengthy. A short session (5 min) can be a whole lot of fun for both of you!
I expect that first year (when they’re two or whenever you choose to start) that they’ll be able to focus for at least five minutes. I go with one small five-minute activity.
Distractions are inevitable, but as long as they are able to bring it back to what we are doing, I don’t let it bother me. However, at this age, they often don’t bring it back, especially early on when they’re learning what behavior they can get away with. I don’t shy away from taking away the privilege of education hour if they can’t focus. But there is a LOT of grace at this age.
I usually don’t reward good behavior; good behavior should be the standard, not the exception. However, for young kids doing a focused activity, it can be tough. So, if they need a little motivation, I use:
Verbal encouragement (avoid negativity; there’s no need at this age)
Take a break or just end the session
Treat (rarely; not every time. Positive reinforcement is effective but can be overdone if you’re not careful).
Education hour is a great activity to do when you come home from work, or maybe right away in the morning after breakfast. Overall, it’s about the kids and giving them that loving attention. If they can’t focus on what you’re trying and they want to play, move the education hour to the playroom. Turn teaching colors into a scavenger hunt among the toys or a counting game into learning numbers. When you’re out walking, stop at the stop sign and have them say the letters they recognize and check that day’s education hour off as complete.
My wife and I are super nerds who love our laminator waaay too much. But, if that’s not your style, then do you. Just do something. Kids don’t’ know anything about life and they need someone to show them what it’s about. Congratulations, that someone is you (not the boob tube)!
If you’re not having fun, you’re doing it wrong. Remember to enjoy yourself. Good luck, dad!