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Child’s education begins long before school

A few weeks ago, we wrote a column stressing the importance of family participation in children’s schooling. But since that column only discussed school-age children, it seemed as if we should also talk about pre-school kids.

Their growth and development, their learning, is so crucial that it’s hard to believe it isn’t discussed more frequently. We are certainly not experts when it comes to early childhood education, but all the information we have gathered makes us extremely aware of how critical it is to a child’s future and how uninformed we are.

Science tells us that children’s brains learn more during their first five years than at any other time in their lives. By the time kids are 5 years old, 90 percent of their brains’ capacity has already been reached – and that’s before they start kindergarten. That makes the responsibility for shaping a child’s brain capacity mainly up to the parents.

That’s one way to put even more pressure on parents, as if they didn’t have enough already – shall we apologize to our son now for all the things we should have done, but didn’t? In reality, it’s not about adding to the pressure, it’s about understanding what growth your child is experiencing and how you can help.

Because young children are learning so much and learning it so quickly, it’s important to challenge them and care for them through this period. Nobody is recommending that the kids conquer physics before kindergarten, but the recommendations include mental stimulation, attention, encouragement, love, limits and good health care. But, probably, the one consistent recommendation we found in everything we read was communication. Talk to your kids, and listen to them.

A child’s curiosity – and everyone, at one time or another, has been driven crazy by a young child’s curiosity – — is an example of his/her brain developing quickly. Answer the question as best you can and encourage the child to keep thinking. Including children in your activities and providing them with puzzles, books, and activities to stimulate them are great. All those activities work better, however, with parent participation.

Recommendations also included making certain children learn to share, setting limits and teaching them to follow directions. Children have to be taught to live within society’s boundaries as well as expanding their brain power. And most of that guidance is up to the parents and primary caregivers.

We, as a society, also need to consider how we foster this type of environment for pre-school children raised in poverty or with young parents who don’t have all the advantages. These young children – and their parents – need to be taught how to maximize their child’s future by giving the best start in life that is possible.

On every level, the first five years of life is very important, and parents need to be supported as they strive to give their children the best start in life. We don’t have the answers on the best way to support parents – and it will vary based on the needs of the parents – but this has to be one of the most important things for us as a society to do.

How many of the problems facing us today could be solved if everyone had a good start in life with a brain that is strong enough to take on life’s challenges and to think at maximum capacity? It’s worth considering.

This is definitely a subject we’ll keep discussing and writing about.

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