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Light Your Child’s Learning Fire with Her Interests

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Light Your Child’s Learning Fire with Her Interests

Every child has a learning fire burning, or perhaps smoldering, inside. You can use the following example to light your own child’s learning fire easily – in the comfort of your home!

In the spring of 2002, Early Childhood Research and Practice published a paper titled, “Moving Up the Grades: Relationship Between Preschool Model and Later School Success,” by Rebecca A. Marcon of the University of North Florida. It summarizes research on 160 urban, primarily minority, low-income children who began preschool at age four to compare the effect of three different preschool models on academic success as the children “moved up the grades.” The educational approaches compared were child-initiated, including lots of free exploration of interests, academically directed, focusing on early curriculum material, and a “combination” approach. Marcon writes, “By the end of their sixth year in school, children whose preschool experiences had been academically directed earned significantly lower grades compared to children who had attended child-initiated preschool classes. Children’s later school success appears to have been enhanced by more active, child-initiated early learning experiences.”

While this study focuses on one specific group of young children, the results support the experiences of learning coach families across all social, economic, political, and religious spectra and with all aged children. Think about it for a minute. Did you do better in school in those subjects you liked, or disliked? Children – young and old – learn best when they’re interested. While the teachers in school must follow the same old program, you as coach can take the easier, faster route of discovering, then using that which best motivates your child to learn – his interests. Through these you will guide, inspire, encourage, and integrate learning into everyday life.

DinosaurCartoon Learning FireDinosaurs Light an Arithmetic Learning Fire

In the Delaware Valley of Pennsylvania, Elizabeth, a registered nurse, knew her younger son, Matthew, would quickly get lost as his class marched forward through their math textbook if he didn’t grasp the multiplication concept soon. “Matthew loves anything dinosaur,” Elizabeth explains, “so we took the largest piece of heavy cardboard I could find and created a stand-up ‘dinosaur habitat’ on it. It has everything – trees, caves, even a tar pit. But all around it also has “real” nests for dinosaur eggs made from construction paper.”

As mother and son enjoyed playing with the habitat one day, Elizabeth threw two eggs in each of the ten nests, then asked Matthew how many new baby dinosaurs were on the way. She sat patiently as Matthew counted each and every one. “I know a short-cut that will have you knowing how many dinosaur babies there will be even quicker,” Elizabeth told Matthew. “We have ten nests, right? So we’ll count by two’s ten times.”

After a couple of run throughs, Matthew said, “So every time you have two, ten times, it’s twenty?”

“The light bulb turned on!” Elizabeth remembers. “The next night after dinner he couldn’t wait to get back to the habitat while I put a different number of eggs in different numbers of nests, four eggs each in six baskets, seven eggs each in nine baskets, and so on. Matthew is ‘hooked’ on multiplication, and his math test scores reflect it.”

Capitalizing on children’s interests is one major way in which coaching differs from the traditional idea of teaching and gets the learning fire burning.  There are five additional important differences, more info following soon.

See also “You Can Help Your Child Learn: The Learning Coach Approach.”

From The Learning Coach Approach: Inspire, Encourage, and Guide Your Child Toward Greater Success in School and in Life by Linda Dobson (Running Press), “Light Your Child’s Learning Fire”

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One Response to “Light Your Child’s Learning Fire with Her Interests”

  1. Wendy says:

    What a great idea. I love this! The dinosaur nests will be great fun here

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