We send our kids to school and expect most of the learning to happen there, but that puts a lot of pressure into those eight-hour days. It also sets the mind to only learn within the confines of those classroom walls. As a result, most kids do not see the big picture or purpose of the lesson. While they can apply their newfound knowledge outside of those four walls theoretically, it is not intuitive, and a normal child may not always connect the knowledge they have learned in the classroom to everyday life.
Yet it is asking the impossible of one teacher to adapt to the learning styles of each individual, all while covering the required curriculum within the short, but seemingly long, school day. In addition, concentrations and interests of each individual fluctuates varying with time of day, mood, and subject matter. From my research, the maximum concentration time varies between 40 minutes to two hours. Longer stretches can be obtained but not without training. While it may not seem a long time from a general perspective, asking someone to do this repeatedly within a day, then day after day, week after week, and year after year is a monotonous cycle we all dream to escape from. Nevertheless, this is what we ask of our children and society as a whole.
Many of us parents still heavily rely on teachers because we are already running on fumes in our own daily lives that we cannot muster the energy and patience to spend quality time with our kids. Long lasting impressionist teaching takes a tremendous amount of energy and thought. If we present an idea and our child doesn’t get it right away, most of us express frustration. The better of us, may take a deep breath and present the idea again. Unfortunately, most of us end up repeating the same idea in the same manner multiple times, trying to drill it into our child. No one is learning from that.
So, let’s start with small steps. Numbers. Numbers are everywhere. Numbers are a big part of our lives and numbers are universal. It’s quite easy to incorporate learning numbers in our daily lives. We can find them on the speed limit signs driving back from school. Isles of grocery and general retail stores are marked numerically. Numbers are found on the digital clocks of our appliances, in our cars, cell phones, dollar bills and credit cards. If we pay attention, there is learning opportunity everywhere.
After learning the numerical numbers at school, reinforce this at home. When your child has sufficiently recognized those numbers (even if it isn’t always correctly identified), start asking if they recognize the numbers on everyday objects. Make it a game to see if they can spot the numbers before you do. One of my favorite games was looking for speed limit signs. M would always be delighted when she could spot and read the numbers before I did.
One tip I found most helpful was when I first started was at the grocery store. One day, we were looking for peanut butter. I had not been to this grocery store before so we asked an employee which aisle the peanut butter was located. She said, “aisle 7.” M was 2 or 3 at the time. I knelt down beside her so that we were eye level. I had to make sure she could see what I could see. I pointed to the aisle numbers hanging between the grocery lanes. I asked her if she could see the numbers. It took a while to get her focused but finally she did. We walked toward aisle 1 so we could start at the beginning. I had M point and say the aisle numbers to me and soon, she thought it was a fun game. When we approached aisle 6, I asked M, “Which aisle did the lady say peanut butter was in?” to work on her recall. Finally, we reached aisle 7, and we looked for jars with the letter “P.” While we were looking, I was approached by the same employee. She said she was very impressed by M and my teaching style. She thought it was a great learning experience and she hoped more parents would do the same. I was flattered, and I hope by sharing this, you can also turn a regular shopping experience into a fun and educated one.
With this grocery store technique, you can also teach chronicity and your child can learn the relationship between greater than and less than numbers. Teaching them to count forwards and backwards will be easier. This is just one example and you’ll be able to find other techniques on your own. At least, this is one method to take their learning outside of the classroom and application of knowledge can start with numbers.