Through this blog, we'll develop navigation points: ideas and questions that help guide decisions. You may choose to navigate away from the points or toward the points. Either way, they will offer a system of guidance for your actions.
Last week I had the privelege of "hanging out" with a mom and her two young sons. We were brainstorming about many things. What kind of program does her 4 year old need? What should she do to be sure his brain develops the best way it can? What can she do now to help him have the best possible life as he grows up?
She got me thinking about a number of things.
What makes a child smart? The question is much more complex than the 5 word sentence would seem at first glance. I thought about the many children I have worked with. Parents often tell me how smart their children are. Last week at a group home, the care giver told me how smart the residents were. Smart isn't just about IQ or skills or information or social connections or how you dress. Smart is one of the things most parents want their children to be.
Can you teach a child to be smart?
There is plenty of advertising out there that suggests you can. Teach your baby to read. Google that phrase and you'll discover many products that claim your baby can learn to read. Some suggest that your baby "should" learn to read. ChildCentral.com says, "research has clearly shown that children who start learning to read as a baby before beginning formal education tend to gain better self-esteem and higher confidence levels compared to others who begin their formal education in a more conventional manner."
I hope this quotation generates more questions for you. My first question is, "What's the research?" I'm still looking for the answer to that. My experience says that any advantage to reading ealier than other children is probably no longer apparent by the end of 3rd grade or so.
The questions tend to come fast as I think about that short quotation. How can a baby who has no language "read?" And if a baby can read, how can he or she communicate what was read without talking?
We could go on to talk about what it means to read. Is recognizing printed words the same as reading? I could also look at the grammar of those who endorse teaching babies to read and wonder why nobody corrected the phrase "children who start to read as a baby."
Finally, you might ask me why I'm blogging about babies learning to read when this website is about special needs. Many parents of young children with special needs are more concerned about teaching their children letters and numbers than they are about helping their children learn to play. I think they make that choice because they think it will lead their children to better lives. I would argue that learning to play is about learning to think. Learning numbers and letters is about memorizing. If you want your child to develop as a person who will be successful and have a satisfying life, I would argue that learning is more important than memorizing. I suspect there's research somewhere that supports my opinion. That's a topic for a future blog.
I'd like to hear what you think makes a child smart and how important you think being smart is. If you can define that, you will be in a great position to guide your child's development. Let me hear from you.