When teachers ask me how my son is learning at such a young age, I usually say, “I have no idea.” The truth is, with a lot of love, curiosity, and consistency, he's learning more than I could teach him in a million years.
But how and what are the teachers teaching him?
I believe that every child, regardless of background, culture, or wealth, has the potential to learn. But how this potential is developed depends on so many factors. In today's world, it's more important than ever to highlight and support the factors that will benefit my son in the future.
This is why I'm writing this article. I want to help parents, teachers, and caregivers understand the process and challenges of child learning so that they can better support and guide young children on their road to academic success.
The age of a child when they start school is often referred to as their ‘early childhood. But how early is early? When I think about my son's childhood, I don't think about when he started school, I think about when he was born, and how his life has changed ever since.
I call these the ‘formative years and believe they are crucial for the development of secure and independent identity, as well as providing an opportunity to grow and learn.
An important point to make is that children are not little adults. They are not physically or mentally capable of assuming the responsibilities of adulthood. They are still children, and as such, they require help and guidance. This is especially important when considering their need for security and safety.
When these needs are not met, children can become anxious and act out or even hurt themselves. This is why it is essential that they have adults around them who are capable of providing this security and guidance.
It is also why the formative years are so important – it is in these years that an adult can best form a secure and independent identity, as well as provide the guidance and support a child needs to reach their full potential.
One of the questions I'm often asked is how my son is learning at such a young age. In most cases, the person asking has only the most basic understanding of how children learn. They assume that because he is so young, he either doesn't need to or can't learn anything.
If this were true, of course, they would be right. But it is not!
It is vital to understand that all children, regardless of background, have the ability to learn. However, this ability is largely untapped, and without the proper support and guidance, a child's potential can be severely limited. This is why it is important to identify the factors that limit a child's potential and work to eliminate them.
Before we begin, it is important to establish some key terms. What do I mean by potential?
The potential for a child to learn and achieve is usually measured by their IQ. However, potential can also be measured by the child's engagement in learning activities, such as reading, doing mathematics, or engaging with the arts. In other words, potential can be determined by what a child is active or involved in, not just by what they can do.
What factors limit a child's potential?
There are five key factors that I believe hold back my son: insecurity, dependence, limited social skills, low self-esteem, and anxiety.
Inequality is on the rise, and nowhere is this more evident than in the world of education. According to the United Nations' 2019 Human Development Report, almost half the population of the world's poorest countries are unable to read or write.
These children are at risk of falling behind their peers, and being restricted from reaching their full potential. Insecurity is one of the major factors limiting these children's ability to learn.
Insecurity manifests in many ways, but it usually takes the form of insecurity about one's body. Children who are insecure about their body image are often uncomfortable in their own skin and struggle to feel confident and secure.
This often leads them to either avoid learning, which in turn limits their potential or to focus on easier lessons, which ensures that they will not jeopardize their opportunities to learn. Insecurity also takes the form of feelings of isolation, as well as an inability to trust or communicate with others.
Children who do not feel accepted or included often feel alone and develop poor social skills. These are key factors holding back my son's social skills and limiting his potential to learn. Insecurity also impedes a child's ability to access and process information, limiting their potential to learn.
Another key factor holding back my son's potential is his dependence on others.
A child who is overly dependent on their caregiver or parent, or anyone else for that matter, is often unable to function independently. They require assistance with every aspect of daily living, which impedes their ability to learn.
Children who are overly dependent also crave approval and attention, which are important for their social development. However, they can become disconnected from reality and behave in an uncooperative manner, impeding their ability to learn.
Even the most basic tasks, such as getting dressed or eating meals, require assistance.
Sometimes this can take the form of help from an adult, and sometimes it can take the form of a child's demands. Either way, dependence restricts a child's potential to learn.
Children with social skills, such as the ability to interact with others or manage their emotions, are often much better equipped to deal with the challenges of everyday life. They are often more flexible and can adapt better to new situations.
Children with limited social skills or have special needs such as autism, struggle to interact with peers and are often excluded from playdates and social events, impeding their potential to learn.
Even worse, some children with social skills discover that their peers are mean or frustrating, which can lead to aggressive behavior. For instance, my son has just discovered that his friends are teasing him, calling him names, and telling him he's ugly. This only fuels his already established the short temper, and he lashes out, often physically, in response to their teasing.
This kind of behavior is not uncommon in children with social skills, as it can be difficult to learn to control their emotions and become more mature. The result is that these children often struggle with feelings of insecurity and lack self-confidence, limiting their ability to learn.
An important point to make is that not all socially motivated children are aggressive, and not all aggressive children are socially anxious. It is a common misconception that children who are social are necessarily aggressive, or that children who are aggressive are necessarily isolated or lacking in social skills. This is not so!
Self-esteem is how much a person values and respects themselves. It is a combination of a person's body image, social skills, and ability to cope with challenges. Children with low self-esteem are often hesitant to ask for help, as they do not feel that they are good enough, and often doubt their ability to succeed. This inhibits their ability to learn and limits their potential.
It is often said that children with low self-esteem are less well-liked by their peers. This is due, in part, to their timid and unassuming nature, which makes them less attractive to other children.
When a child does not feel good about themselves or their appearance, it can be difficult to develop a positive attitude. This is also the case when they are unable to cope with social situations independently. For instance, if you ask my son how he is feeling, he will likely answer with “I don't know” because he does not feel good about himself. If you ask him if he is scared, he will likely respond with “No, I'm not scared.”
This is because he does not feel like he can cope with being outside by himself. He needs an adult to accompany him, as it is too risky for him to go to the playground alone. It is important to note that low self-esteem does not necessarily mean that a person is unattractive. It simply means that they do not feel good enough about themselves, and therefore do not feel that they deserve praise or attention
Helping your child learn from a young age comes with many challenges and parents from all over face the same problems.
Some can cope on their own while others get help from preschool educators who are trained professionals in teaching phonics and numeracy.