What can parents do to improve their child’s learning experience? That’s the question we’re looking at today. It’s no surprise that you want the best schooling for your child. But what does the research say about what’s best for today’s children? And how can you set them up for long-term success in life and education? We have a really interesting study from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development we’ll be looking at that will help us answer your questions. I’m excited to dive in!
This is such an important topic. Children’s education not only sets them up to be successful in life but it also shapes the world’s future. They’re leading the next generation, so we want to ensure we’re providing the best classroom environment for them to learn, grow, and get support.
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American children are falling behind in critical skills
The research from the OECD offers an interesting insight into children’s education. The study evaluated how well five-year-olds from countries U.S., Europe, and Estonia were developing across a range of early skills that would set them up for success in the world. Skills like reading, writing, and mathematics, but also their development of self-regulation and social-emotional skills. What may be surprising and definitely disheartening is that children in the U.S. are behind in this critical literacy and social and emotional skills compared to the other five-year-olds from Europe and Estonia.
And it’s not the only piece of research that backs that claim. Another recent study from Child Trends found that around half of American children are not on track in at least one area of school readiness. While it’s a stark statistic, it doesn’t mean there’s no hope or that there’s nothing you can do to help your young student learn well and not fall behind in mental cognition.
The benefits of early education
What the research highlights is the importance of teaching children early. The earliest years of a child’s life are full of opportunities to grow in essential skills. Science shows us that children’s brains will never be more open and receptive to new information than during their first three years. In fact, that stage of life is when nearly 85 percent of brain growth occurs. It’s an incredible window of opportunity for families to prepare kids for elementary school and set them up for positive long-term outcomes.
The benefits of this stretch beyond being ready for elementary school. It also sets up children to become happy and helpful contributors to society and the community at large. That has long-lasting impacts that can’t be measured. But it’s clear in the research that starting education early, though it may be costly to make adjustments, has far more benefits. In most cases, correcting or addressing education issues later on, is more costly and less effective.
A nurturing environment
A strong start that gives children the most helpful environment to promote school readiness includes two essential things: nurturing interaction with caregivers and protection from toxic stress. Decades of expert child development research show the importance of nurturing environments to young brains. Protection from toxic stress and nurturing relationships are associated with higher levels of activation and connectivity in parts of the brain that support language and thinking abilities.
Understanding your child’s needs
Following the guidance of the latest research can help you understand what your child needs to have a solid foundation. Unfortunately, in the United States, there’s a divide in policies that benefit children and families, which could make up a totally different conversation. But there are more barriers other countries have addressed to help families, especially mothers, offer those nurturing environments for their babies. An example includes paid leave, with the U.S. being the only developed country that doesn’t mandate paid leave for a parent after childbirth.
While we can’t change policies, the stress of experiencing the covid-19 pandemic, or other factors at play in the background, we can offer encouragement and practical day-to-day solutions. We have no doubt you can provide a nurturing environment for your child, which gives them a wonderful space to develop mentally and emotionally. Start early and teach what you can before they reach kindergarten. Their brains are essentially little sponges, so it’s the best time to set them up for success.
And if you’re ever overwhelmed by a seemingly unending to-do list, there are professional resources that can help you. Online learning programs are available; consider even reaching out to a school or teacher and seeing if they recommend any early learning material.
Early education extends to more than just pre-school and kindergarten age groups. From one to three, young brains are rapidly developing and forming new connections. Taking that time to offer more instruction, a nurturing environment, and cutting out toxic stress will result in them experiencing long-term health and success.