a learning discovery

I learned to read before I turned 3 and the best gift I had ever received as a child was an encyclopedia. But I never learned to catch or kick or shoot a ball. As a child I may have been cognitively superior, physically inferior to my peers; but looking at myself now, I am a mother just as every other mother is to her child.

I like to describe myself as a conscious parent. I am extremely careful about the things I say in front of my children and wary of the things they hear from other people, taking extra time to explain impolite words such as “bakla” or “pangit” or “yuck” that they probably hear from their peers. I am particular with the manner of teaching them new things, like naming vegetables or pronouncing words correctly, either by coming up with creative ways for introducing new stuff or taking advantage of opportunities when new concepts suddenly crop up.

But now I feel that this “over-consciousness” may have been pushing back my children’s learning abilities, at least to some extent. I have been an academic achiever as a child and I am most careful about raising expectations that they need to be an achiever like I was. In effect, I may have been delaying the progress of our reading, writing and counting sessions at home because I want to avoid putting “too much pressure” on my children.

We did not enroll Ari in nursery and waited for kindergarten year because we felt then that he might not have been ready. We did the same thing with Uri this year. But you know what? Ari did great in school, contrary to our worries, and maybe Uri could have done better as well.

Now I begin to realize that this “no pressure” attitude is not only unhelpful, but is in fact a refusal to recognize that my children are capable of learning at the same pace as their peers, if not faster. So now I wonder, just how much pressure is “good pressure” and how much is “too much pressure”?

— xxx —

My two children are only a year apart but have very different personalities, intelligences and learning styles. We live in a small apartment and study sessions will tend to overlap. While one is practicing writing and the other is reciting numbers, the other will butt in and the other will grab his brother’s pencil. Even when they should not be, study sessions are sometimes distracting and divisive. So while I know the importance of tailoring teaching methods to a child’s learning style, it gets a bit crazy when I try to do so in our tiny household.

Just this afternoon, I was practicing number recognition with Uri when Ari came home from school. I devised a game where I ask Uri to count blocks in a bowl and choose the card with the same number as the blocks that he counted. I tried the same game with Ari, they both got their numbers right, but to me it seemed like there were two different counting games that have been played.

These kinds of situations prop me to go back to my parenting books and articles as I try to find a way out of this parenting puzzle. Luckily, I chanced upon reading about sensing and intuiting preferences in learning.

Learners who strongly prefer Sensing are those who feel very much at home in the concrete world, learning primarily through their senses, often in a step-by-step manner. They will generally take in information in single pieces, even if very rapidly, but won’t instantly spot links or patterns. Children who have a preference for Sensing tend to like facts and play based on everyday life, and are interested at an early age in what things are for.

By contrast, those who strongly prefer Intuiting often learn by what is not actually seen: grasping the big picture, seeing patterns, and then getting to grips with concepts before grasping fine detail. Children who prefer Intuition are often drawn to fantasy and imaginary worlds, and love hearing stories over and over again. Their favourite kind of game will tend to involve their imaginations, and they may be highly creative, wanting to write stories at a young age.

Most people and particularly children learn in many ways, although a distinct preference for either Sensing or Intuition is usually clear by the time the child is three or four, if not before. And I thank whoever wrote this article because I was finally able to make sense of my children’s learning differences vis a vis my teaching methods.

Nevertheless, I still affirm that children should be encouraged to learn when they are ready and interested, regardless of their learning style. And while it may be helpful to focus on a child’s learning preferences, it may also be wise to encourage both preferences through imaginative and practical play, when situations allow. Ultimately, the best learning method will be child-led, by respecting and responding to a child’s own need to learn at his own pace.

And I could not be much prouder that my children are itching to learn how to read and tell the time before I could even figure out how to teach them to do so.

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