It doesn't matter what grade your child is in or, for that matter, if she has not even started formal schooling. We parents are responsible for enriching our children's education. We are responsible for expanding our children's horizons. We are responsible for showing and explaining things, concepts, and places they have never thought of. What follows is my roadmap for enriching your child's education. While I am not a psychologist, I have raised four amazing children following the principles which I lay out in this essay. I was raised this way. So was my late wife. We knew our method worked.
The Early Years
Playing classical music and reading are the foundations of an infant's education as far as I am concerned. I never believed that classical music made my children smarter. Indeed, The Mozart effect: Classical music and your baby's brain debunks that notion. But I do know that the music of Bach, Vivaldi, Mozart, and Beethoven soothed my girls when they were infants. Furthermore, I continue to hear from listeners at the classical music radio station with which I am affiliated about how our classical music programming lulls their children to sleep.
In this video, Erica Goms fromeHow Health discusses how cognitive development in babies can be stimulated by simply playing with the baby and showing them toys.
Reading to your child develops her imagination. Those books which you read over and over to her become old friends. A lifelong habit of reading starts with a mother or father enriching their children's lives with reading stories. View Linda Diproperzio's slideshow The Benefits of Reading to Your Newborn in order to understand how important reading to your baby is.
Once your child is able to walk, visits to a local park, a farm, a zoo, and the seashore are affordable ways of expanding her world. You will enjoy seeing your toddler respond to trees swaying in the breeze as you take her to the park. WhereTraveler has hundreds of articles like this one: 10 Free, Fun Places to Take Kids in the Raleigh-Durham Area Pace your excursions so that they allow her to explore and to ask questions. Don't forget to pack water and some of her favorite snacks.
This video shows the attractions of a local park for toddlers.
The Elementary Years
Once your child is in elementary school (Grades K-5), you can add museums, classical music concerts, and country fairs to the mix of activities. Read 10 Educational Benefits of Bringing Children to the Museum by Monica Atkins to understand how museums enrich your child's life. The Utah Symphony encourages kids age 5 and older to come to their concerts. Kids love country fairs. Chickens, cows, and horses always fascinate children who grow up in an urban or suburban area. 3 reasons to take your kids to the local county fair by Kimi Harris lists some of the things to see at a fair.
The Middle School Years
The preteen and early teen years require a little bit of planning and finesse. Otherwise, whatever you suggest will be boring. We used to pile our girls into the car and go for a short ride to some local historical attraction or monument. Battle sites, old churches, or historic towns were fairly close by our home. We always ended the expedition with a treat from an ice cream parlor or similar. The outing gave us a chance to be together as a family too. Those opportunities are not easy to find as your children grow older.
This video offers three tips to make traveling with teens smooth.
The other thing which we found enriching was taking our children out to eat. Back in the 70s and 80s when our girls were growing up, we enjoyed going to some of the local eateries. We had no chain restaurants near us. These were all locally owned and operated establishments. Patrons were expected to dress semi-formally. We would get odd looks when the four of us were seated, as I am sure that people expected our girls to misbehave. Well, they were well-mannered as that was how we had trained them to behave in public. Parents and children enjoying good food and each others company was always an enriching experience.
The High School Years
When your children reach high school age, you are limited only by your finances and your imagination in terms of enriching your children's education. Our children explored the English countryside and the Mexican Riviera with us. Learning how people outside the United States lived truly expanded their horizons. Traveling with Teens by Genevieve Brown offers good advice about asking for your teen’s input. "When you’re in the planning stages of your vacation, sit down with everyone and figure out what kind of vacation each person wants. Finding a vacation that suits everyone isn’t just wishful thinking. If you let your teen help plan the trip, he or she will feel more involved and the family vacation will start out on the right foot."
Add to the mix of activities music and art lessons as well as sports, and you will be exposing your teen to all kinds of new ideas and experiences.
There are thousands of sites online which can expand your child's horizons. But, just as you do with search results, take time to filter the good from the not so good sites. Do not assume that your child has the ability to do that critical filtering. Sites such as Khan Academy are gems and have an excellent academic reputation. edX has hundreds of college-level courses.
Local Learning Centers
A Google search will yield a list of both national and local establishments which offer a range of learning activities from remedial or tutoring to advanced course work under the supervision of a knowledgeable teacher. Do your due diligence carefully before signing up with a learning center. They are costly options for enrichment, so make sure you are getting quality instruction for your child.
Hiring A Tutor
Whether you are seeking to improve your son's math skills or are looking to find the best string teacher for your budding cellist, that's where tutoring comes in. Think of a tutor as a professional who offers one-to-one specialized instruction. Once again, do your diligence carefully. Personal and professional recommendations are also important.
Enriching your child's education is something over which you exert control and guidance for a period of 15-18 years Think through the process. Set objectives. Be flexible. Understand that you are laying the foundation for life-long learning.
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