Unwrapping Educational Success

How do you set your young child up for educational success?

Given that we are solely responsible for our children’s education we understand that setting up your child up for educational success is a common source of worry for homeschooling parents. We all find ourselves, at times, unsure of the material we’re planning to teach our children. Here is a little secret you may not know, you are not alone. Even teachers take some time for refreshing of subject content prior to a lesson.

Sometimes, as parents and homeschoolers, we tend to overthink things and miss the forest for the trees. The good news is that there are seven core skills that are central to school success for any child, whether home-schooled or otherwise. By building these skills in your child, you’ll ensure that they have a solid foundation for school and for life.

1. Language

Language builds the foundation for so much of your child’s education, from reading and writing to math and science. Your child can’t master complex mathematical or scientific material if they can’t understand the words that are used to explain those concepts to them!

There are two types of language that are crucial to your child’s educational success:

Receptive language: This describes your child’s ability to understand the language that they read or hear. For younger children, having them point to an object — “point to the elephant” — can be an effective way to test this skill.

Expressive language: This describes your child’s ability to use words either verbally or in writing. Importantly, this skill deals with using language in an organized, easy-to-understand way; it does not deal with pronouncing words correctly.

The easiest and most basic way to build language skills in your child is to talk to them constantly. Children who are surrounded by language from birth have a much easier time learning to read and write.

2. Knowledge & Comprehension

Here, we’re talking about your child’s ability to understand information, commonly-understood codes of behaviour, and common sense shared by other children in his age group.

This might be tested by asking your child, “What should you do if you bump into someone?” or “Why would you take your car to a mechanic?”  Although this skill seems like it would develop on its own, in reality you need to actively foster and promote this skill in your child.

The easiest way to do this is to demonstrate the behaviour you want to instil, and then explain it to your child. So the next time you and your child see someone drop their wallet, return it to them and then tell your child why you did it. Your child is constantly observing your actions and emulating them.

3. Memory

Nearly every second of the day requires us to use memory in one way or another. Memory may refer to verbal memory or visual memory. Verbal memory stores information that your child processes by reading or listening; visual memory deals with information your child processes by seeing.

Memory is built through practice. Ask your child questions about the world around him – most of the time, these questions will require him to draw on his memory. The more your child is required to dig into his knowledge bank to answer a question, the stronger his memory will be.

4. Mathematics

Maths is an important school subject, and countless careers require sharp mathematical skills. Beyond that, maths builds the foundation for a number of seemingly unrelated skills, including problem-solving and critical thinking.

Don’t limit maths practice to the formal lesson. You can make maths practice fun by incorporating it into your everyday life. The next time you go to the grocery store, ask your child, “We’re going to buy 3 apples and 2 oranges. How many pieces of fruit is that?” Cooking, cleaning, and gardening all present opportunities to pose fun, real-world math questions to your child.

5. Visual-spatial reasoning

This describes your child’s ability to solve problems using images, shapes, tables, and diagrams. Visual-spatial reasoning requires your child to understand visual-spatial information that he sees, and eventually to create output, like a drawing or puzzle.

If you think about it, this skill is a prerequisite for writing, reading, and math, among other things. After all, letters and numbers are essentially a variety of shapes and lines. Before your child can write or recognise the letter O, he’ll need to know how to draw and recognise a circle. The same goes for the letter A, which is essentially a triangle with two elongated sides.

For young children, simple puzzles and manipulatives provide the foundation for visual-spatial reasoning skills. As your child gets older, having him learn to write and do complex puzzles will go a long way toward improving this skill.

6. Cognitive Skills

This involves brain functions that allow your child to “know” something. Thinking, analysing, and reasoning all require important cognitive skills.

For young children, focus on building their memory. This will help them develop a basis for their cognitive skills when they’re older. For older children, ask them questions that require them to use their cognitive skills. The next time you’re at the beach, have younger children them sort shells by colour – or have them separate fruits and vegetables when you’re unpacking your groceries.

7. Fine Motor Skills

Fine motor skills refer to your child being able to control his hands and digits. These skills are critical for a variety of actions, from tying your shoes to playing a musical instrument.

Giving your child plenty of manipulatives to play with will help him develop his fine motor skills. As he gets older, have him practice holding a pencil, putting on his shoes, and opening and closing doors.

Just keeping these seven skills in mind as you educate and interact with your child will have a huge impact on their educational progress.