A Well-Educated Child

Add Depth To Your Child’s Education with “Being There” Experiences

Your child is settled in school and learning to read, spell, add and share. She has entered the American educational system, and when she comes out she will have a diploma as proof of her education. But is classroom learning enough to truly educate a child? In the film “Good Will Hunting,” Robin Williams’ character puts a young upstart in his place with the following line: “If I asked you about art, you could give me the skinny on every art book ever written, but I bet you can’t tell me what it smells like in the Sistine Chapel. You’ve never actually stood there and looked up at that beautiful ceiling.”

Giving your child opportunities to “look up” at beautiful ceilings, the stars, great authors and fascinating places can add invaluable depth to their education.

“Being There” Experiences

According to Andy McKenzie, assistant to the superintendent for Early Childhood Services for Tulsa Public Schools, the car wash, the city dump, your neighborhood Kinko’s and your own kitchen can provide many enrichment opportunities.

“Any being there experience is a being there experience,” McKenzie said. A “being there” experience is one in which you are actively interacting with your child. “Talk about the process of what’s happening wherever you are. Ask questions and really listen to your child’s answers.”

According to McKenzie, a “being there” activity can be as simple as inviting your child to help you cook, or taking your child to the grocery store for a “walking field trip.”

“Talk to your child about the process of whatever you are doing,” McKenzie said. “‘I’m putting butter in the pan. Why do you think I butter the bottom of the pan?’”

At the grocery store, you can explore exotic fruits as you talk about “rough,” “bumpy” and “smooth.”  When you get home, you can cut samples of the fruits to explore their smell, taste and texture. You can even research the home country of the fruits, finding their location on a map or a globe.

Enrichment Means Brain Power

Providing enriching, “being there” activities will actually increase your child’s brain power by building new neural pathways. “The brain is a pattern-seeking device,” McKenzie said. “With each new experience, it immediately starts seeking past experiences and builds on them. Learning is a layering process.”

When you describe a ball as being round, and later describe a full moon as round, and still later talk about an orange as being round, your child is building on past experience with the word “round.” Later, when your child sees a balloon, he will draw on this past experience and think, “round.” But if the ball, the orange and the moon are never labeled, the learning never occurs. Use every opportunity with your child to “layer on” learning.

“Involving the body in any learning event increases the neural activity of the brain,” McKenzie said. “It activates the motor areas of the brain which assist in sequencing thought. These are critical roles in learning and life. Movement is crucial to every other brain function, including memory, emotion, language, and learning. Our higher brain functions have evolved from movement and still depend on it.”

Travel as Enrichment

Travel (across town or around the globe) is a great way to layer on learning, expanding your child’s horizons, increasing cultural sensitivity and making history and geography come alive. Whether you visit a local Vietnamese restaurant and sample the spring rolls, Yellowstone Park and marvel at the sunsets or New Orleans and listen to jazz, travel will enrich your child’s education.

Play as Enrichment

Play is a child’s work. In this age of “screens,” play doesn’t happen as often or as spontaneously as it could. By limiting your child’s time in front of the television and computer, you are encouraging brain enriching imaginative play. As the holidays draw near, remember that kids don’t need expensive toys or computer programs to learn. All most kids need to spark several hours of imaginative play are dress up clothes, tools and toys for building, art supplies and a large appliance box.

What Enrichment Is

What is enrichment? Enrichment is books and being read to. Enrichment is paddling a canoe, attending a wedding in a far city, riding a subway or a horse or a bicycle built for two. Enrichment is discovering that your drawing of a tree may be very different from your friend’s, and both are great. Enrichment is playing Monopoly, or hopscotch, or a harmonica. Enrichment is body surfing in the ocean, catching crawdads in a creek, and bouncing over swells in a speedboat on a lake. Enrichment is attending a Bar Mitzvah if you are Christian and a christening if you are a Jew. Enrichment is learning that Jacob’s parents think kids should play outside after school instead of watching T.V. Enrichment is being awakened in the middle of the night and wrapped in a blanket to watch a meteor storm. Enrichment is seeing where mom works and getting to use the copy machine. Enrichment is listening to a polka band, Mozart, the Beatles, a banjo and a marching band. Enrichment is spending the night at Jamal’s house and eating baklava for the first time. Enrichment is a refrigerator box in the back yard, a plane trip, a stick of incense, a star fruit, a hands-on museum. Enrichment is sampling sushi even if your favorite food is pizza. Enrichment is discovering that Lily’s parents don’t allow toy weapons while Aaron’s parents have a big box of dress up clothes – including plastic swords. Enrichment is having parents who find the world to be an utterly fascinating place and passing that fascination on to you!

Categories: Big Kids