Saturday, January 2, 2010

Learning...the fun way.

Your little ones are naturally curious about the world that surrounds them. They are eager to learn, to think, to apply their sense of logic to everyday lessons in life. Watch how their faces light up when they learn to solve problems, how their reactions change spontaneously from those of serious concentration to glints of satisfaction when they find a creative solution. Kids learn by repetition and are delighted by the surprises they encounter during the course of learning. Whatever tricks they discover, they enjoy returning to it over and over again.

Kids learn while having fun!

Children learn best when they're enjoying themselves. And learning starts at home when they are little, with familiar everyday objects. With each new discovery, your child is advancing to a new level of fun as well as learning. When you introduce toys that offer multiple activities with increasing challenges to your child, he starts to develop and build new skills. Do not be discouraged if these early attempts at mastering a new skill appear shaky at first. They do require plenty of practice from your child, and patience, from you.

Play is important child’s work.

Play, by the way, is not an indulgence. It is an activity that allows much to happen that can have an influence on the child’s developing mind. As children play, they are expressing themselves and also learning to cope with frustrations. Thus, during play, we see exchanges of all sorts of kiddy behaviour. Habits, skills and attitudes can be formed during the course of this interaction that may last a lifetime. Children do not have to be taught how to play. They can imagine and create the simplest of toys with, for example, a matchstick box for a car and arms spread in flight for an airplane. Even though play is important to all of us, it is especially meaningful to children. They are actually hard at work when they play.

Let toys be a source of learning

Exploration is the stimulus for learning. Children who are encouraged at an early age become active explorers and learners throughout their growing years. When your child finds it a struggle to achieve a desired effect with a toy, he realises that there is perhaps a problem to be solved and that he has to practice and acquire the skills necessary to resolve the problem. Such skill development occurs when young children play with their toys. Moments like these encourage imagination that helps fire a child’s creativity.

Your child learns best about things by handling them. The more things are handled, the more your child learns. When your child wonders: ‘What kind of sound will this make when I drop it into the bucket?’ or ‘ How do these funny shapes fit together?’ or ‘My block tower fits better if I put the big blocks on the bottom, doesn’t it?’ – it is a child’s way of working out the answers through play. Playing and interacting with other children is also important for the development of social and communication skills. These are all important for your child’s development all-round.

Play and learn with music

Music is a wonderful tool that parents can use to help stimulate a child’s brain. Do you know that playing classical music to your child can help nurture his lifetime skills, such as mathematical ability and spatial sense? In fact, music also helps refine your child’s listening ability and develop his sense of the nuances in human language. When we introduce children to music, not only are we helping to develop their minds but we are also planting the seeds of a lifelong love.

So how can you make use of this wonderful tool called music? For a start, you can sing to your child and sway to the rhythm with him in your arms. Sing, whenever you like, don’t feel self-conscious; your child won’t know, or care, even if you go off-key. Another way is to always fill your home with music and song. If you play a musical instrument, let your child watch you play; let him handle and explore it too. Alternatively, you can also select toys made especially for children. Experts agree that one’s appreciation for music is best cultivated at an early age.

Learn from everyday activities

Even simple things like going to the neighbourhood store—while it may seem mundane to you—is interesting to your child, especially if you talk about what you are doing and involve your child in the activity. Encourage him to identify the familiar and look for the unexpected, and you would have started him on a daily habit of exploration he will never tire of.

Teach him to communicate on the phone. Get two play phones. Hand him one, you take the other. Start talking by mimicking someone he knows. Talk about the things you did together. Remember to pause so he has a chance to respond. Exaggerate your tone and expressions. Make it fun for the both of you.

Keep on playing

For children, learning revolves around play. It is through play that they discover most about the world around them. The moment you start providing experiences that stimulate your baby’s senses and spark his curiosity, you are stirring an interest in learning that lasts a lifetime. Organise plenty of fun and interesting activities you can do together.


Monday, October 19, 2009

Research shows benefits of Montessori education

A method of schooling that focuses on personal development rather than exams produces more mature, creative and socially adept children, scientists have found.

Psychologists in the US found that across a range of abilities, children at Montessori schools out-performed those given a traditional education.

Five-year-old Montessori pupils were better prepared for reading and maths, and 12-year-olds wrote "significantly more creative" essays using more sophisticated sentence structures.

Some of the biggest differences were seen in social skills and behaviour.

Montessori children displayed a greater sense of "justice and fairness", interacted in an "emotionally positive" way, and were less likely to engage in "rough play" during break times.

The schooling system was invented in the early 1900s by Maria Montessori to educate poor children in her native Italy.

There are more than 5,000 Montessori schools in the US, and around 600 in the UK, where they are privately funded.

The method discourages traditional competitive measurements of achievement, such as grades and tests, and instead focuses on the individual progress and development of each child.

Children of different ages share the same classes, and are encouraged to collaborate and help each other. Special educational materials are used to keep children interested, and there is an emphasis on "practical life skills".

The researchers, who reported their findings in the journal Science, compared children aged three to 12 at a Montessori school in Milwaukee with those at other schools in the same area.

Children were tested for mental performance, academic abilities, and social and behavioural skills.

Angeline Lillard, from the University of Virginia, who co-led the study, said: "We found significant advantages for the Montessori students in these tests for both age groups.

"Particularly remarkable are the positive social effects of Montessori education. Typically the home environment overwhelms all other influences in that area."

Not only were five-year-old primary school children better prepared for the "three Rs" at primary level, they also had higher scores in tests of "executive function". This is the ability to adapt to changing and complex problems, and is seen as an indicator of future school and life success.

Although the Montessori children were not regularly tested or graded, they did just as well in spelling, punctuation and grammar exams as those given conventional lessons.

Older Montessori pupils were more likely to choose "positive assertive responses" when dealing with unpleasant social situations, said the researchers.

They also displayed a "greater sense of community" at school.

The scientists concluded: "Montessori education fosters social and academic skills that are equal or superior to those fostered by a pool of other types of schools."

- The Guardian, UK (26 September 2006)

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Early Childhood Education: The Key to Success in Life

Nelson Mandela, the well-known statesmen, once said, "Education is the great engine to personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, that the son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, that the child of a farm worker can become the president of a great nation."

The truth of this statement can only be fully appreciated if one considers the enormous importance of preschool education. The famous Japanese violin teacher and educationist, Shinichi Suzuki, once expressed a great truism when he said, "The destiny of children lies in the hands of their parents." The direction and the quality of this destiny are largely determined — by the parents — in the first seven years of the child's life.

A study by High/Scope Educational Research Foundation of Ypsilanti, Michigan, showed the significant value of early learning. From 1962-1967, 123 African Americans, all aged 3 to 4 and born in poverty, and therefore at a high risk of later failing in school, were randomly divided into two groups. One group was exposed to a high-quality preschool program while the control group was not exposed to any preschool programs. The program that the experimental group was exposed to was based on High/Scope's active learning approach. In the study's most recent phase, 95% of the participants were interviewed at age 27. Additional data were gathered from the subjects' school, social service and arrest records. The most significant findings of this study were:

  • Almost a third as many of those attending the preschool program, opposed to those with no preschool exposure (71% vs. 54%) graduated from regular or adult high school, or received their General Education Development Certificate.

  • At age 27, four times as many of those exposed to the preschool program, opposed to those with no preschool exposure (29% vs. 7%) earned $2,000 or more per month, and they also scored higher on home and car ownership.

  • At age 27, only one fifth as many of those with proper preschool exposure, opposed to those with no preschool exposure (7% vs. 35%) had been arrested five or more times, and significantly fewer arrests for drug dealing were made under the preschool program group members. (7% vs. 25%)

  • The rate of out-of-wedlock births was lower among the group that had received preschool exposure. (57% vs. 83%)

There is a proverb that one never gets too old to learn. This, however, is only partially true. There are indeed certain aspects of learning that can only be acquired effectively during the first seven years of life. Parents, who are desirous of offering their child an adequate preschool education, should therefore take care to concentrate on these aspects of learning. Some of the most important of these skills and aspects of learning are discussed below.

1. Language:

Language ability has been found to be an important predictor of reading ability. It is therefore of the utmost importance that parents should do everything possible to ascertain that their child be given optimum opportunities for language acquisition, more so because of the fact that, before the age of seven, a child has a phenomenal ability to learn language. From the age of eight years, the child's ability to learn language is equal to that of an adult. It is therefore very unwise if parents do not exploit the wonderful opportunity that is presented only once in every child's life, and only for a short space of time.

Parents should talk to their toddler as often and as much as possible. The more the small child is exposed to language, the quicker he will start to understand speech and later also start speaking. It is important that on a daily basis time should be set aside for story reading and/or story telling. However, it is vital that the same story be read or told over and over every day. The same story should be read to the child for several months before a new story — a slightly more advanced one — is introduced. This new story must also be read over and over for many months.

Effective language acquisition is dependent upon ample repetition of the same words, phrases and language structures.

2. Concentration:

Concentration is both an act of will and an acquired skill. For that reason it is important that parents make sure that the small child will receive enough opportunities to exercise this skill, so that he will be able to sit still and concentrate for at least 20 minutes or so by the time that he goes to school. From about two years the parents can start reading stories to the child. It is important, however, that the child must sit still and listen to the story. He must not be allowed to run around or play during the reading. To make this possible, the parent must start with a short story of about five minutes, and then little-by-little increase the time. In this way the child's attention span can gradually be stretched.

3. Work attitude:

The idea of school readiness is a universally accepted concept. However, readiness for work is probably even more important than school readiness. There has been a tendency over the past decades to try to make learning fun. This is certainly one of the reasons why there is so much learning failure all over the world at present, because learning isn't fun; it is work. Naturally, work — just like learning — can often be very interesting, and it can even be enjoyable. Moreover, there are always aspects of work — and therefore also of learning — that are neither interesting nor enjoyable. Regardless of this, however, they have to be done. It is of the utmost importance to teach a child that work is something that has to be done, and done to the best of one's ability — also those aspects of work that are not interesting or enjoyable. The child whose parents do not succeed in teaching him this, faces a very hard and difficult future.

4. Coordination:

Nowadays, two of the common symptoms of children, who have difficulties with learning and with reading, are that they have low muscle tone and that they never crawled. Both these problems can be prevented in a very simple and easy way.

Low muscle tone is merely an indication of weak muscle strength, and a baby will only crawl if his parents teach him to do so. Children can only do what they are taught to do.

General muscle strength of the body is to a large extent determined by the strength of the back muscles. Muscles remain weak when they are not exercised. Parents should from very early in his life provide their child with opportunities to exercise his muscles, especially the back muscles. This can — and should — start from as early as a month or two.

By following a very simple procedure, parents can lay the foundation for their children to later have good coordination and strong muscles. From about a month or so the little baby should be allowed to spend as much time as possible on the floor in the face-down position. The baby will lift up his head, and this will develop strong back muscles. Being left in this position will also encourage the baby to try to move forward, which will encourage him to start crawling.

Later, when the child is a little bigger, eye-hand coordination can be developed by playing throwing and catching games with the child with a ball or bean bags. Fine motor control, as a preparation for a good handwriting, can be developed by letting the child crumple papers. Start by tearing pages from an old telephone directory, and giving the child one page at a time to crumple into a tight ball with one hand only.

5. Body parts:

Put on a pair of glasses with blue lenses. Everything you look at will have a tint of blue.

The great German philosopher, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804), once said that we "see things not as they are but as we are." This axiomatic statement is based on the fact that we human beings approach and interpret our world from inside our bodies. Just like everything appears blue to the persons with blue lenses, our perception of our world is tinged by our knowledge of our own bodies. The child, who has inadequate knowledge of his own body, will be inclined to misinterpret the world around him.

For an example of this, consider the phenomenon of reversals. Our bodies have a right and a left side. It is therefore inevitable that we shall interpret all objects that we encounter in terms of two-sidedness. Unless the child has been familiarized adequately with his own sidedness, there is the distinct danger that he may misinterpret the sidedness of other things — like b's and d's, for example.

Bath time presents an excellent opportunity to teach the small child body parts and sidedness. As soon as the child is able to sit up by himself in the bath, the teaching should commence. Don't simply take the little foot and scrub it; rather hold your hand and then say, "Give me your right foot," and wait for the child to place his right foot into your hand. If he gives you his left foot, say, "No, the right foot," and then scrub only this foot. Next, nominate another body part, with left or right, and wash this. In this way go through all the various body parts, each one — where applicable — with left and right.

If a parent continues doing this every night for two or three years, the child will certainly have no uncertainties about left and right or body image. The effect of this, inter alia, will be that the child will not have any difficulties distinguishing between b's and d's.

6. Counting:

Counting can be regarded as the language of mathematics. It is therefore just as important to teach a child from very early in life to count well. The easiest way to teach a child counting is to start with his fingers, first with the fingers of one hand and then later both hands. Remember that, like with anything else, much repetition is required.

7. Colors:

Color is another very important very basic thing that should be taught to children very early in life. It is important to start teaching the basic colors first, white, black, red, green, blue and yellow. Again much repetition is required. One can, for example, play games with colors, e.g. "Put all the yellow blocks into the green box."

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Tulip on Blog

Hi everyone.....Tulip has its own blog space. We hope to use this space to update you with what's happening in school, activities that are coming soon, articles, and other useful material. It would be like our very own newsletter. Hope you find this interesting and useful.