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August 21, 2014 2:22 PM   Subscribe

What Should A 4-Year-Old Know? "She should know how to laugh, act silly, be goofy and use her imagination. She should know that it is always OK to paint the sky orange and give cats six legs. He should know his own interests and be encouraged to follow them. If he couldn't care less about learning his numbers, his parents should realize he'll learn them accidentally soon enough and let him immerse himself instead in rocket ships, drawing, dinosaurs or playing in the mud." (ht sonika on FB for this)
posted by Phire (28 comments total) 21 users marked this as a favorite

 
That the single biggest predictor of high academic achievement and high ACT scores is reading to children. Not flash cards, not workbooks, not fancy preschools, not blinking toys or computers, but Mom or Dad taking the time every day or night (or both!) to sit and read them wonderful books.

Reading to Kid 1 is the absolute best part of my day. Kid 2 is super mummyish at the moment so I don't get to do that so much, but that's probably just a phase.
posted by Artw at 2:31 PM on August 21 [3 favorites]


My mom still talks about the time I told her that she was reading too slowly, took the book from her hands, and never looked back. Now my 2 year old is showing signs that she is going to do that to me. What goes around, I guess...
posted by RedOrGreen at 2:44 PM on August 21 [5 favorites]


well, actually, high socioeconomic status is probably the biggest predictor of scores and the speed at which kids learn stuff *does* influence their trajectories because if they think they are good at something, they will do more of it and if they don't, they often won't.

nonetheless, it is good advice to read to kids and not stress them!!!!
posted by Maias at 2:50 PM on August 21 [9 favorites]


Not flash cards, not workbooks, not fancy preschools

This sort of thing always reminds me of Kumon, which my wife and I always laugh about when we walk by because their logo looks like a kid who you just told has to go to After School School.
posted by Hoopo at 2:52 PM on August 21 [12 favorites]


also, seriously, "Kumon" is just a name that is funny in ways it should not be funny
posted by threeants at 2:57 PM on August 21 [3 favorites]


"musical instruments (real ones and multicultural ones)"

Anyone know what a multicultural musical instrument is?
posted by ZipRibbons at 3:02 PM on August 21 [1 favorite]


(re: Kumon) Every time I see the sign, the name and logo seem to say "You're a stupid kid, but we'll TRY to help... you little failure."
posted by Rat Spatula at 3:03 PM on August 21 [6 favorites]


Apparently, the multicultural ones aren't real!
posted by ignignokt at 3:31 PM on August 21 [7 favorites]


I think, arguably, adults should also educate themselves this way. Just explore stuff you like, and eventually, you'll be good at some of it while not being burned out. It's how I've used my spare time in the past few years, and while it hasn't made me a Foremost Whatever on Whatnot, I feel reasonably edified.

Of course, somewhere between the ages of 4 and 40, you do have to learn to struggle through stuff that's not fun. 4's definitely too early to risk burning out, though.
posted by ignignokt at 3:48 PM on August 21 [2 favorites]


Anyone know what a multicultural musical instrument is?

I figured she meant thinks like castanets, guiros, maracas, and various hand drums, which have a tendency to be made into toy instruments because they're easy to make sound with. But, yeah, contrasting instruments from various cultures with "real instruments" is kind of a weird window into an unexamined bias.
posted by Gygesringtone at 3:55 PM on August 21 [5 favorites]


I'm not certain the "real and multicultural" line was meant to create a dichotomy so much as to say, encourage them to play real musical instruments. Encourage them to play instruments from different cultures."
posted by Navelgazer at 4:30 PM on August 21


That our children need more of us. We have become so good at saying that we need to take care of ourselves that some of us have used it as an excuse to have the rest of the world take care of our kids.

Buwah?

Since we homeschool

Oh, I see. Yes, being employed is basically an excuse not to homeschool. Now I truly understand the magic of childhood and no longer require paid employment. YAY
posted by the young rope-rider at 4:50 PM on August 21 [14 favorites]


It's still money and power. It's having the money and power to afford to create the environment and scheduled time and educated (formally or informally) caregivers that a child can thrive in. When you don't have that socioeconomic capital to build on, you have to look for alternatives, and unless you're lucky enough to know about current child development, you're going to go to what is marketed to work, flashcards and programs to teach your baby to read, and other expensive tools (LeapPad gah).

It frustrates me that something like Montessori and Reggio, meant for the working class children who didn't grow up with advantages at home, have been turned into high end enclaves of wonderful childhoods for the relatively wealthy.

And the basic insult of the question - that the mother asking it was competitive or focused only on academics - maybe she is. Or maybe, she realises her kid is going to have to compete against kids who have huge implicit advantages and she wants to make sure she's giving him the best start she can. One of my kids is dyslexic, and he has had a bunch of intervention and help, but I wonder if he had come to our house earlier in his life, or if he had gone to school in his home country where there's no recognition of dyslexia - what would he have got.

This is "Oh I'm so enlightened and above competition" comes from relatively wealthy homeschoolers who refuse to acknowledge the huge privilege they enjoy, and that their children's wonderful (and better than yours, natch) childhood is not available to many people. Grr.
posted by viggorlijah at 4:52 PM on August 21 [7 favorites]


I don't take nearly enough time out of my daily life to express how thankful I am that I wasn't homeschooled.
posted by Navelgazer at 5:07 PM on August 21 [11 favorites]


Kumon is Japanese. That's why it's such a strange word. It's one of the biggest cram school chains here in Japan. There's one on every other corner, where they send very young kids to cry over math drills. In Japan, they send everyone there, not just the stupid kids.
posted by donkeymon at 5:31 PM on August 21


Kind of wish "she" had not been paired with magical/imaginative/nurturing/artsy descriptions while "he" was paired with mud/dinosaurs/building descriptions, though.

Homeschooling and private school are privileges, big ones. Every kid should have access to really good schools, paid for by tax dollars. Every single one.

I am happy for her kids. I am happy for my kid who lucked out in a serious way when his aunt started a private Montessori-ish school so we could get him on the family rate. Otherwise we'd be struggling to homeschool him, if we could, because Texas schools have become warehouses for nothing but test-prep and he was showing burnout signs in second grade.

I am also guilty and upset because all those other kids in those warehouses would be thriving too, if they could only get a chance.
posted by emjaybee at 7:30 PM on August 21 [5 favorites]


Kumon may be a fine thing - I have zero experience with it - but as an English speaker, I read it as the imperative to "come on" juxtaposed with what looks like the World's Most Browbeaten Kid, and I shudder to imagine what the kids traipsing through that door every day must feel like.
posted by Rat Spatula at 7:39 PM on August 21 [2 favorites]


She missed the part where kids need to socialize with each other too instead of hanging out coloring with mommy all the time, right? Or maybe that's just for poors that have to go to day care? Who knows.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:40 PM on August 21 [5 favorites]


I hope my kid takes her kids to a black metal show and shows them how to roll a joint.
posted by Potomac Avenue at 7:41 PM on August 21 [9 favorites]


This sort of thing always reminds me of Kumon, which my wife and I always laugh about when we walk by because their logo looks like a kid who you just told has to go to After School School.

As far as I know, Kumon was the name of the company's founder, but it also literally means misery in Japanese. (Not really, different kanji.)
posted by betweenthebars at 8:33 PM on August 21


When I was homeschooling I found that the other homeschooling families tended to over-socialize. I was like dude, I can't come to 6 play dates, I have to teach math!

That said, I run storytimes for preschoolers and it's been hard for the parents to accept the free-form art projects we do. They want a cute little "craft" that the kid glued together. I'm more interested in seeing what the kid will do with bubble wrap and paint. Sometimes the kids look at me in confusion. They want me to give them rules instead of just exploring. Makes me sad.
posted by Biblio at 8:42 PM on August 21 [1 favorite]


Mostly fine advice. I don't think she's particularly smug about home schooling you guys. Admittedly I read the first list as saying

"they need to remember that they are flower children and magical moondust floats from their skin as they sing and dance la la la la!"

But the other stuff was more concrete. A rejoinder for parents to spend more time with their kids doesn't seem unreasonable.
posted by Cannon Fodder at 11:57 PM on August 21


"She should know that she's wonderful, brilliant, creative, compassionate and marvelous." - I find that a bit scary somehow. What if she's not all of those things? Compassionate, in particular: my rather extensive experience seems to suggest that hale four-year-olds are often more fond of a rude and honest selfishness than displays of compassion... maybe she should be beginning to learn the value of realistic self-assessment? Excessive praise is more insidious, but just as damaging as excessive disparagement.

Also, while I have raised three boys with massive boxes of assorted LEGO and I myself was practically fetishistic about the stuff when I was a kid, I no longer think it is such a great toy. It is a metaphor for the hierarchical-industrial approach to making things, and actually dissuades from bricolage, from making stuff from stuff that is actually in the "raw material" category, from working with what's available. I remember my own and my kids' "damn, this doesn't work like LEGO does!" moments. And that's not even to mention LEGO's long slide from general-purpose stuff towards sets reinforcing the collector mentality which, once built, kids are quite reluctant to take apart and put to other use (thank god for gravity!).
posted by holist at 1:09 AM on August 22 [5 favorites]


Mostly fine advice. I don't think she's particularly smug about home schooling you guys.

Yeah, IDK. Personally, I chafe at the "it's okay for dinner to take two more hours!!!" and "it's okay for the living room to be an insane mess!!!" kind of stuff.

It's the conflation of their good luck in not having to worry about various things with some sort of virtue on their part that chaps my hide, as well as the assumption that parents are just willy-nilly leaving their kids with whomever because we want to have spa days. It's a continuation of this trope you see all the time in stay-at-home-mom askmes, "we didn't need a big house so I stayed at home!!" The implication that other parents who do things differently are largely doing it for selfish, shallow, and/or frivolous reasons is very grating.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:20 AM on August 22 [4 favorites]


Yeah, IDK. Personally, I chafe at the "it's okay for dinner to take two more hours!!!" and "it's okay for the living room to be an insane mess!!!" kind of stuff.

I meant to include more with this.

It's not actually okay for dinner to take a lot longer if you have a long daycare day and you need to get the kid in bed so they're not miserable the next day. There are real, practical limits to what most parents can do in a given day with their kid. Our ability to actually hang out with them without snapping and being shitty because we need a break every once in a while is actually a practical limit, too.

IDK. I've known a lot of parents over the years and most of us are trying to do our best. We're certainly not farming out kids out to strangers for spa days at the expense of our kids' mental health, while they scream and cry that they've only seen us for an hour in the last month. Most of us are already trying to do our best to balance our kids' needs with our needs (which are real) and doing a pretty decent job of it, considering.
posted by the young rope-rider at 7:26 AM on August 22 [4 favorites]


I no longer think it is such a great toy. It is a metaphor for the hierarchical-industrial approach to making things, and actually dissuades from bricolage, from making stuff from stuff that is actually in the "raw material" category, from working with what's available.

Maybe my experience is unusual, but all the times I can remember watching kids I've play with legos (as opposed to putting them together like a model) have used them as story telling tools. They build something for the next part of the story and draw inspiration from the limitations of what's on hand. I once watched my son create a small creature (one block) and then trace it's evolution up to a big crab looking thing, it was pretty great.

I'm not certain the "real and multicultural" line was meant to create a dichotomy

I'm pretty sure it wasn't either, but it still did.

I'm not saying that she's a horrible person for having a bias, and honestly, if I had a slightly different musical history, I'd probably share it. The bias may just be that Western Music puts more emphasis on harmony than other cultures, and so values pitched instruments more. Maybe it's just that it's easier to get something that doesn't sound awful out of a shaker than a violin. Right now music has been largely seen as something professionals make, so of course an instrument that requires professional training is more "real" than those a toddler can play. Or it could just be that there's a lot of toy percussion instruments, so people are more likely to think of it in the context of being a toy than they would a violin.

Those are all ideas that can diminish appreciation for other cultures' music. Most people never have cause to talk about, or really even think about, any of them, so seeing one out in the wild like this is note worthy.
posted by Gygesringtone at 8:20 AM on August 22 [2 favorites]


A rejoinder for parents to spend more time with their kids doesn't seem unreasonable.

I feel like I've come across a number of studies and time-management anecdotes lately that suggest we spend more time with our kids than ever before. I don't know any of my two-income, working parent friends who don't spend enormous and all of their free time with their kids. Nobody just lets kids wander anymore either. It's really weird what kind of pressures get created in the face of actual pressure and limitation. "Having a hard time keeping your head above water while you self-fund your entire retirement, try to purchase a home that doesn't bankrupt you, save for your kids college which will be enormously expensive and will happen in the uncertain future?! Also! Maybe you're a horrible parent, too...for mumblemumble reasons....."

We are so weird.
posted by amanda at 8:44 AM on August 22 [1 favorite]


OMG stop telling me what to do, Internet Mom!
I think she was trying to reduce the pressure on mothers who are worried, and ends up just piling on more shit.
posted by Omnomnom at 1:04 PM on August 22 [1 favorite]


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