Have you ever had a child who didn’t seem to be ready to learn something when you first tried to teach him? Or, have you had a child who was ready to learn something BEFORE you were ready to teach him? What is the best time to teach our kids various skills?
There are books FILLED with information about what to teach your child in various years of their schooling. Some people cling to these books for the comfort of knowing that they are teaching their kids information at the proper time. But is it possible that these books are doing more harm than good?
Our schools are even set up on the premise that all kids should learn certain skills at specific ages. In my opinion, that is a bad idea! Our kids are all unique individuals with various strengths and weaknesses. Some kids are ready to learn how to read at age 3, while others aren’t ready until closer to age 10. Some of our kids are blessed with excellent hand-eye coordination and are able to learn to ride a bike or even use power tools (with Dad’s help) at young ages, where other kids struggle in this area and are unable to learn until much later. And some are never able to get the hang of using them at all!
Pushing Kids vs Waiting Until They’re Ready
Rather than relying on a school administrator or a book to tell you when to teach your child various skills, consider observing your child to determine when he is ready to learn them. For instance, many experts tell parents that they can and should potty train their child at 1 1/2 or 2 years of age. This works for some children. However, many moms struggle and beat their heads against the wall for a long time to try to train their young toddlers when if they would have just waited until the child was ready, they would have saved the whole family a lot of grief.
I know that this was true with potty training in one of my son’s instances. We tried and tried to train this son, to no avail. It was an excruciating process. We rewarded and punished and begged and trained but this son resisted all of our efforts. It got to the point where we were very concerned that this son would NEVER learn to go on the toilet.
Fortunately, we stumbled onto an educational computer game for little kids that this son ADORED. We let him play it for a few days and then genius struck. We said that big boys go to the bathroom on the toilet. And only big boys could play this game. That’s all it took. Our son was now ready to be trained. He put on big boy underwear and never looked back. He never had any accidents. Not even at night. And we never had to remind him to use the toilet. He was instantly trained once HE was ready.
This also brings up a huge point. Not only do our sons need to be ready physically but they need to be ready mentally and emotionally as well. Once this son saw the benefit of being potty trained, he jumped on board and the process was painless.
Knowing When to Ease Up
Another example is teaching cursive. I worked with my boys diligently on trying to teach them cursive writing. Neither of them wanted to learn how to do it. Practicing was always a chore. They did it but their hearts weren’t in it. After several years of struggling to get them to write in cursive, we figured they knew it well enough to get by and started letting them print again. I figured I always print when I’m taking notes and they would probably be the same way.
After a few years of not using cursive and not really being able to do it very well anyway, both of my boys pretty much lost the ability altogether. How depressing!
So, imagine my surprise when one of my sons came up to me this summer and said that he wants to re-learn cursive writing this year. Be still my heart! And you know what?!? I’ll bet it sticks this time because he is the one who wants to learn it.
When is the best time to teach?
You can make this case for just about every subject. Reading would be the one subject that I think kids should master as soon as they are able; however, some kids struggle in this area and don’t learn to read until they’re much older. Mark Hamby, the owner of Lamplighter Publishing, says that he didn’t read his first full book until he was in his 20s.
And George Winston, one of my absolute favorite piano players, didn’t learn to play the piano until he was in his 20s, either!
My husband and I have been concerned because one of our sons isn’t wanting to do much with math but, we console ourselves with the fact that he can get himself caught up in that area if he really wants to.
I took a homeschooling high school seminar with a mom in our area and she said that she allowed her kids to fall behind in certain areas but told them that if they ever changed their mind and wanted to pursue those subjects in college or for a job, they’d have to put in the work to get themselves caught up.
And that her son did that exact thing. He was hired by a computer company and his math skills were deficient. So, he pushed himself to complete several years of math in a few months to allow him to pursue what he wanted to pursue.
So, when is the best time to teach something? The absolute best time is to teach it when our children are ready to learn. We can’t always wait until they’re completely ready but keeping this principle in mind will help us over the long haul. If we can help our kids to learn about things that they are passionate about, we will be sure that they will actually internalize that knowledge rather than just being able to check it off our list that we’ve “taught” them something.
Question: Have you found this to be true? Do your kids learn better when THEY want to learn something rather than when WE want them to learn it? Please leave a comment below.