When I found out that I was pregnant with my first kiddo, my husband and I were so giddy that we immediately began to plan out every aspect of parenting. (I know, I’m LOLing at that one now, too … silly newbies!) One of the things we were set on was the idea that we would homeschool our kids. But by the time our son was nearing the age of kindergarten, we realized that we weren’t a great fit for homeschooling after all. We did, however, realize the value of going slow and making some lessons a priority over reading and math.
And so, we spent a great deal of time teaching our son moral lessons of right and wrong, respect — both for himself and for others — and patience. And honestly, I’m so glad we did, because in his first year of school, he NEEDED those skills like you wouldn’t believe.
Turns out, I’m not the only parent who believes in letting reading and math wait until school starts for this very reason. In a recent Facebook post that’s quickly going viral, blogger and comedian Crystal Lowery noted that she too is placing a high value on skills that don’t get enough attention like patience, an appreciation for storytelling, and even how to be a good sport. I’m looking around and thinking that a lot of adults we all know could stand to learn a few of these lessons, amirite?
“I’m not teaching my 5-year-old how to read,” Lowery’s post begins. “Don’t get me wrong, we read him books all the time. We’ve imagined ourselves in Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Factory, and we’re 170 pages into Harry Potter’s Chamber of Secrets. We’re teaching him to enjoy stories, to get lost in characters. But we’re not teaching him how to read. Not just yet. He’s too busy learning other things.”
That’s right — she’s busy teaching her son how to do what can sometimes feel like the impossible for most parents. Namely, teach patience, in all forms.
“He’s learning how to be a good sport,” Lowery continues. “How to wait his turn in Candy Land and not gloat when he makes it to the King’s Ice Cream Castle before his sister does.”
She goes on to describe the many other things her son is learning instead — like how to build things, how to exercise, and even how to take care of his belongings. (It was at this point in her post that I seriously started to wonder if she’d ever consider writing a parenting book or two, because these are ALL THE THINGS we want our kids to master!)
Lowery says she wants her son to learn the value of creativity and how to be a steward for the environment by understanding and appreciating how ecosystems work. She even talks about the importance of happiness when she says, “He’s learning that the key to happiness is to focus on his blessings rather than complaining about what he doesn’t have.”
Talk about an amazing skill set to start kindergarten off with. If this child (or any child, for that matter) can get a taste of what these lessons are aiming for — a well rounded, patient, and respectful human with a natural curiosity to learn — then reading will be, as my kids say, “easy-peasy lemon squeezy!”
Lowery tells Babble that she’s a working mom with a stay-at-home-husband, and between the two of them, they have two Masters degrees and a PhD. In other words, they know a thing or two about the educational system. But that’s also why they’ve taken a different approach to preparing their kids for the world.
“We don’t feel that kids need to be rushed into reading over other essential skills,” she says. In fact, she is hell bent on raising great people and not focused on teaching academic skills, which she feels is what teachers are for.
Lowery’s kids, 5-year-old John and 4-year-old Jenna, are coming up on their first day of school soon, which is what got Lowery thinking about what children really need to learn to prepare.
“I think we do rush kids into reading too early,” she tells Babble, “I favor a more European, play-based approach to learning that encourages kids to love books and stories — being read to — rather than just emphasizing phonics. I wrote this post to remind parents that children are learning far more at age 8 than we give them credit for. The ability to read seems to be the only milestone we focus on in Pre-K and kindergarten, and that’s a shame.”
If you ask me, she’s totally on to something there.
Teachers have huge obstacles in front of them in order to prepare our kids with what they need to live full lives in the real world. With worrisome budget cuts to public funding, kids going hungry in schools, and the myriad of skills sets that teachers deal with among their students, parents who can help their kids by giving them a love of learning first will truly help to create a new generation of amazing people. And if that’s not the most important lesson of all, then I’m not sure what is.