There has been a recent move to shift the age children can start school back. They’ve trialled delaying the critical birth date for starting from the end of August and moved it back to April. The hope is that this will give children a better outcome in their year one tests.
At present, there doesn’t seem to be much of a difference in the results. So whether the trial becomes a new strategy remains to be seen.
However, it raises another question – when does learning actually start?
From the moment a child is born they are on a learning adventure. They start with a blank page and have to learn everything from communicating their needs to socialising. They learn that words work better than crying and that walking is a more effective way to get about than crawling. Then their horizons widen.
The parent’s role as a teacher
Of course, school is where they learn to read, to write and to do number work, but some of that starts at home.
Children who are read to, learn to enjoy stories and are more eager to learn to read for themselves.
Children who are encouraged to recognise numbers and how they relate to each other will find number work easier.
As a parent, it may be hard to fit in that learning time with a small energetic human, a home to run and a job to hold down, but it pays dividends. When you see your child blossom, being the one who opens the door to enlightenment for them can be very rewarding.
Paper or digital?
Digital devices give you a wealth of learning aids. If you’re not sure where to start, you’ll almost certainly find help online.
While teaching your child to appreciate holding a real book in their hands is great, it doesn’t have to be either/or.
Children are given phones and tablets earlier and earlier. If your child wants a digital device (usually ‘because my friend has one’) you can use their proficiency in reading and writing as a ‘carrot’ to help them get what they want.
Using digital devices to help the learning process makes it easier for parents than the generations before when everything had to be done manually. If you want a story about unicorns or space explorers you can search online. If you want some ideas on the best way to teach your toddler numbers, you can search online.
But don’t make everything digital. There’s nothing like stimulating the creative side of your child’s brain – and that happens better with paper and pencil or crayon.
Learning by listening
When your child learned to talk they discovered language by listening. They copied the words they heard until you recognised what they wanted. That makes a great case for involving your child in conversation.
Just because your two-year-old hasn’t acquired a global view of life, doesn’t mean you can’t involve them in conversations about what is happening in their home. As your children get older, keep up the habit of involving them in family discussions and you’ll find that you’re developing their social skills as well as their communication abilities.
So, to answer the question we started out with, learning starts from birth and part of your role as a parent is to be a teacher. You’ll be rewarded many-fold by the pleasure of seeing your child develop into a well-rounded human being.