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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Are We There Yet?

Teaching Kids to be Lifelong Learners

Sometimes, it is easier to measure how much a child has learned through scores, a grade or something equally tangible.

But as many of us have discovered, the numbers or grades don’t tell the whole story. They’re a snapshot of a moment, perhaps, but they’re certainly not a reflection of the whole child – his or her knowledge, talents and awareness of others and the world.

Since I’m relatively new to parenting, I sometimes worry that my 5-year-old isn’t ready for school, that he hasn’t learned how to read and write like other kids, that he might already be behind everyone else even before starting kindergarten.

I’m grateful for my son’s preschool teachers, who continue to teach me that there are other ways of knowing, other indicators that my son is on a healthy path to becoming a lifelong learner besides the traditional methods of paper and pencil exercises and keeping score.

One of the teachers recently loaned me this pamphlet, “A Parent’s Guide to Early Childhood Education,” by Diane Trister Dodge and Joanna Phinney. (It’s available through a website called “Our goal is to help children become independent, self-confident, inquisitive learners. We’re teaching them how to learn, not just in preschool and kindergarten, but all through their lives,” they wrote.

One section also addresses how and when a child should be learning reading, writing and mathematics:

“We could give your children workbooks. We could make them memorize the alphabet. We could drill them. We could test them. But if we do, your children may lose something very important. …

“Children who are rushed into reading and writing too soon miss important steps in learning and may suffer later on because they lack the foundation they need for using language. Children who are taught to read before they are ready may be able to sound out and recognize words, but they may also have little understanding of what they are reading. If they haven’t been given time to play, they won’t have explored objects enough to know what words mean. …

“Because math involves more than memorizing facts, because it involves logical thinking… children need many opportunities to count objects, sort them into piles and add some to a pile and take some away. It is by playing games like these that they will learn to truly understand addition, subtraction, division and multiplication. Without these concrete experiences, children may give correct answers but probably won’t understand what they are doing and why.”

What do you think? When and how did your child start learning how to read, write and do math? How do you teach your children to become lifelong learners?

This blog is intended to provide a forum for parents to share knowledge and resources. It's a place for parents young and old to combine their experiences raising families into a collective whole to help others.