How Hard Do You Push Your Kids Academically?

Updated on August 26, 2011
E.M. asks from Chicago, IL
20 answers

My son is 4. He's a bright kid and goes to a great Pre-K program for 3 half days a week. I'm pretty sure that if I enrolled him in an enrichment program somewhere he could learn to read and begin doing basic math.

I was raised to believe that "kids should be kids". School is important, but it is equally important that they laugh a lot...have lots of fun/friends. Let 'em run around all day and get dirty! So, when I see kids being pushed/challenged, my first reaction is "leave the poor kid alone!".

Then again, things are different than they were when I was a kid. It seems that the world is more competitive. How do you find a balance? If my kid is bright, or even "gifted" (I don't really like that word), how do I nurture that part of him without going overboard? My mom made me try lots of things, but I wasn't a joiner or interested in practicing things, and she let me quit everything without much of a fight. I have mixed feelings on whether that was a good/bad thing.

So...anyone have any thoughts on how hard to push/challenge kids -- whether it is academically, musically, or athletically?

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Austin on

We always followed our child's lead. Her interest and her excitement.
We NEVER underestimated her abilities. We just made sure she had what she needed and we stayed interested in her interest."

We read all of the time. We played all sorts of music and yes, she watched TV.. We took her to museums, parks, camping, movies, restaurants, libraries, festivals..

We gave her words for everything, we got down on her level to see what she was looking at. We answered honestly to anything she questioned us about. And we asked her opinion all of the time.

We talked about all sorts of things and asked her to think of these things in different ways.. "Tell me a story.. What is another way that story could end? What if instead of a girl it was a boy? A animal? An old person?"

We were both working full time so she attended day care and loved it. Playing with the other children.. She loves rules, so following rules was great for her. She loved their activities, the different teachers.

She was not so much into toys as she was into creative play and creative activities so we fed on this..

I remembered in the OK City bombing the mom of the 2 little boys that were killed, "My only regret is that I did not read that 1 more book, they always asked for at night.". So my husband and I always did read that one more book and there were tons!!! Yes we may have spent hours on her bed reading some nights, but we would have rather done that than anything else.

Once school started we always told her, "Just do your best. We know you will do great." "be yourself, you are perfect just the way you are."

She loved school and I made sure to be involved. We are still friends with all of her teachers and Principals. Many of them attended her graduation parties and are her friends on FB..

Sports were not her thing, but once she got to middle school she announced she wanted to" row". We have no idea where this came from.. And so she took rowing for 6 years after school (got school credit)and got a waiver at school so she could take 1 more class at school every semester,.

Our daughter graduated with all sorts of honors and now attends a fantastic College on a huge scholarship.. At college she literally "glows" It is her place, her world. She will leave in a week for her Senior year and like we have always said to her each fall since Kinder.. "Just do your best and be yourself, we know you will do great." That is what we tell her when we drop her at the airport.

Just let you child be who he is.. Offer him all sorts of choices. Listen to him. Play with him. Make sure he gets to play with lots of different children and meet all sorts of people. Respect him just as much as he respects you.

And always tell him he is loved and you will always be there for him. When he knows you ware always on his side, that will give him power his whole life.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

I expect my kids to always do their best - not to be perfect but to always do their best.

We laugh a lot in our home...there are times when homework has been fun because we used Cherrios to count or divide.....we've done the lemon and baking soda experiment - so homework isn't always a "chore"...

In sports - again - always do your best...

In music - practice practice practice!

We try to balance fun with everything...some days are better than others!!!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I'm a homeschooling mom...

When a child is young (under 7), I think their world should be mostly play. I'm not big into academics at a young age. They learn SO MUCH by playing and using their imagination. I think craft activities & other various activities are great learning lessons...presented in a way that they don't realize they are learning. For example, we bought one of those Butterfly Habitats where you get them as caterpillars. Then you watch as they go through the cocoon stage and emerge as butterflies. We didn't use a worksheet...we just used the real thing.

So, with young children, I definitely am against pushing them. They should be encouraged to explore the world and taken places or have things brought home that can help them learn and explore it. So, I'm all for offering them learning situations....just not making it the boring kind of learning that I felt they had in school when I was a kid!

I do think letting them lead the way is important. A few weeks after my son turned 4 yrs old, he only knew his alphabet and recognized some of his letters. He seemed interested in learning to read, so I started by having him watch a DVD that taught letter sounds. Two days later, he knew them all. Four months later, he was at first grade reading level - and half of that was interrupted by me having morning sickness. Then he lost interest after reaching first grade. He was only four, so I didn't push. He's still four, it's a few months later, and he's interested again. So, we'll start it again soon. I definitely believe he's gifted, but I still feel like the best thing for him is to play and be a kid unless he REALLY wants to learn something. And, again, I do offer learning environments for him...he just doesn't always realize he's learning.

When my kids are older, they will need to learn certain subjects. If there are topics that they really struggle with and hate, I will not push. I'll try to help if they need help understanding, but otherwise, I'll give that topic a break for a little bit and try again later. Often, just a little bit of time is all they need. I often think it's a waste to try to force kids to learn something when it would be so much easier (and less stressful for the child) to take a breather and try again in a month or so. My oldest daughter is like that. And it's amazing how much easier it is for her when we try again.

When it comes to things like martial arts or piano or other skills that are developing a talent, I wouldn't force my child to do those. BUT if they want to do one, I would get a commitment of time from them before they could do it. For example, if my daughter wanted to learn martial arts, I would ask her how long she is willing to commit to it. If she said one year, then I would hold her to that. At one year, we'd re-evaluate and see how she feels. Then I would either get another time commitment from her, or else she can quit. If she quits, I would investigate why and make sure there aren't issues that need to be cleared up...or maybe she just needs encouragement. In the end, it's her decision, though. If in the middle of a commitment - say six months into her year commitment - if she decides she wants to quit, I would hold her to the year mark (unless something bad was happening, like everyone being mean to her or something).

Anyway, I don't know if that helps at all. I'm REALLY big into NOT pushing young children at all. Their lives should be full of the magic of childhood. They should run, play, use their imagination, and explore the world. I think sometimes that is taken away too soon, and they are stuck in the world of "learning", which deprives them of their natural way to learn through play.

Oh, and as for gifted kids, I think mine fit that definition (though I think every kid is gifted in their own way!), and I'm still opposed to early teaching or forcing of anything...UNLESS the child shows interest and wants to learn it (like my son did with reading). I still fully expect him to do great and excel quickly in school...but for now, he's only four. So, I let him be a kid. It won't harm him at all. In fact, I truly believe it'll help him!

And I am basing a lot of what I'm saying off of things they are researching and finding out about teaching children too young. They used to think that the brain was fully developed, just there waiting to have info dropped into it. Now they are finding that the brain keeps developing. If a child learns something too young, a "less efficient pathway" is developed in the brain. So, while the child appears to have learned it, they didn't learn it as well as they would have if they were older. This can lead to comprehension issues later on. Whereas, if a child is older when they are taught things, their brain is more developed, and a "more efficient pathway" is created in the brain, allowing for a deeper understanding and growth from that knowledge. Another study compared children started off at different ages in school. One school started them at age 5. Another school was at age 7. They both could learn it, but the 7 year olds learned quicker, developed deeper comprehension, and in the end, they clearly benefited from being older.

So, with your son, I'd suggest waiting until he's older than four, as well as following his interests...if he wants to read, help him. If not, don't worry about it. Just because he's gifted doesn't mean you need to feel pressure to teach him young (unless he's interested!). He'll still be gifted later on, and you'll probably be amazed at how fast he'll learn and how much deeper his comprehension is. Hope that helps.

4 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

I have four kids, all from the same gene pool. Only one has blown the world away though all four were given exactly the same thing.

Based on my experience it must come from within.

I don't really worry about the other three, even the one that is an adult. See I was like him, smart as a whip but I didn't do tricks. If I blew someone away it was because I wanted to do so. Oh all the knowledge I could get get my hands on is sorted in my brain but I was not an exceptional student. I went back to school to get my degree. Four years, 173 hours, yup, I can do tricks if I want to.

I guess my advice to you is get them around knowledge. If they are smart they will learn. If they want to do tricks they will, if they don't it doesn't mean they aren't smart or they aren't learning, ya know?

Oh, same kid who blew everyone away in school was also an amazing athlete. A keeper no less, mean as spit, a mans goalie. It is just part of who she is and I did nothing to make her that way but give her the opportunity.

I hate the word gifted as well. :)

3 moms found this helpful


answers from St. Louis on

Straight A's are not necessary in our household. I do however expect them to study and try their best. I was never good at school, but hubby was #1 in all of his classes even college so I pray they have his smarts.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

Kids learn by playing - that is how they interact with the world. Taking him on hikes, planting a garden, visiting the zoo and museum - will all teach him about nature and science. Flying a kite, building things, mixing paint colors and making art - will all teach him as well. He will learn to love to read because you read to him and he sees you reading for pleasure - not because you force him to trace letters and do work books. At least this is my approach for my DS - currently 5-1/2.

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answers from Los Angeles on

I encouraged my kids to read and learn. One of the best ways to get them to like reading is to read to them and let them see you reading.

One of the best ways give your kids a good marriage is to let them see you loving and having fun with your wife/husband. Since I was dating my wife, I always opened doors for her and offered my hand when she got in and out of a car. I give my wife flowers on a regular basis and write her love notes and poems. My wife and I celebrate our anniversary every month. (Its been a game with us to see who can wish the other happy anniversary first on the 28th of the month.) My kids picked up on this and 6 of my eight children were married on the 28th of the month. All of my sons are gentlemen to their wives and all the spouses(except 2) of my kids have come to me after they were married and thanked me for teaching my kids to be ladies and gentleman.

I wanted my kids to appreciate the finer things in life, even though we were poor. We played classical music and refined music for my kids when we went on road trips. I insisted each of my kid have one year of music in high school. I told them it was their choice to have a year in the band or the chior. All of them decided to have more than one year and they all enjoyed it.

I insisted all my kids do the best they could in school and do all their home work. I enrolled all my sons in the scouting program of the Boy Scouts of America. I cannot tell you how much they benefitted from doing that. It was tremendous.

Academically, I pushed them to do their best because I wanted each of them to go to college and get a good job. 5 of my children did very well in school. They all got scholarships. The other three didn't do so well, but all of my kids have graduated or have some college. I have one son that graduated from medical school and just got a job in a pharmacy. He just passed his state exams and is just waiting for his certificate.

Good luck to you and yours.

2 moms found this helpful


answers from Jacksonville on

I would not push, period. Let your child lead. If your child is curious and wanting to know what things say (the signs on stores, the writing on your grocery list, what time it is, etc)... the offer to teach him. If he says no thanks, let it go and just ask him questions... LOTS and LOTS of questions.
Teaching (especially at early ages) should be about asking questions to let the child think. Not about imparting information. What do you hear? What do you think that ukelele sounds like? Do you see any letters hidden in the picture? Do you think those flowers smell sweet? How does the lemon smell?
If you want to teach him to read (and you can--you don't have to send him somewhere) take a look at "Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons". I did it with my kids, and they learned quite readily. Once child was done at 4 yrs 3 months, the other was done before her 4th birthday. So your child isn't too young... IF he shows an interest. And the lessons are designed to get your child thinking.. there are pictures that you cover up until they have read the sentence about them, and they are supposed to guess what they will see in the picture (this helps them practice comprehension skills). Then you show them the picture, and discuss what is going on in the picture. My kids always loved that part.

Buy him some inexpensive musical instruments or "toys" (toy keyboard, guitar, flute, etc). And then play with him with those toys. Make it fun. Talk about what the sounds they make are like.... do all the sounds sound the same? Are some soothing? Some grating? But don't have a schedule... just say "Hey let's play _____!" and get all excited with him. Then go outside and play outside for awhile.
The best teaching at that age is experience. Let him experience his world. Visually. Through touch. Through sound. Smell... all the senses. And TALK about the experiences. Don't turn them into a "lesson", but talk. Ask his opinion. Get him to tell you how he experiences different things.
And if you come across something that he REALLY is excited about, then go with that. Get involved with it with him.

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answers from Boston on

For the most part I let the kids lead, but after a certain age make sure they understand that a commitment is a commitment so if they sign up for something, they stick it out even if they don't like it. I can't remember what age that is (definitely not 4 lol). I do try to make sure that they're signed up for something every season, be it an extra-curricular club or leadership group at school, playing an instrument, doing a seasonal sport, taking art classes or theater, or doing a season-less sport or activity such as Karate or scouts. My oldest son is pretty passive and does nothing but hockey and lacrosse and my step-daughter can be a little passive and not a joiner so we're pushing her to find something to do, especially academic things like the math team. My younger boys are game for everything and between the two of them have done soccer, baseball, basketball, skating, lacrosse, karate, and drums (they're 5 & 7). My 7-year-old will probably be like me and want to do everything and stress himself out, but I survived and thrived doing that so if that's the road he chooses, I'm all for it but won't push him.

I tutor kids in SAT/ACT prep and college admissions and it's amazing to see how much the "elite" kids manage to do. My top students have all excelled academically and were also very competitive athletes, artists or performers (and were usually nice, and attractive, and wealthy to boot - tough lives!). While I would love to see my kids in that peer group some day, it's not terribly likely to happen but I will continue to give them chances to push themselves and if they happen to excel at something, great! But if they're happy being in the middle of the pack, that's fine too.

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answers from Lynchburg on

I offer you THIS reading...

I had typed A LOT more before I went to 'copy and paste' this...but it is 'lost in cyber'

Anyway...this is...IMO...a 'good' gauge of what most parents can/should do with our 'little' ones...

Private me if you'd like to hear from an 'old' mom...of MANY kids...

Enjoy the read!

All I Really Need To Know

I I Learned In Kindergarten

by Robert Fulghum

- an excerpt from the book, All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten

All I really need to know I learned in kindergarten.
ALL I REALLY NEED TO KNOW about how to live and what to do
and how to be I learned in kindergarten. Wisdom was not
at the top of the graduate-school mountain, but there in the
sandpile at Sunday School. These are the things I learned:

Share everything.

Play fair.

Don't hit people.

Put things back where you found them.

Clean up your own mess.

Don't take things that aren't yours.

Say you're sorry when you hurt somebody.

Wash your hands before you eat.


Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.

Live a balanced life - learn some and think some
and draw and paint and sing and dance and play
and work every day some.

Take a nap every afternoon.

When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic,
hold hands, and stick together.

Be aware of wonder.
Remember the little seed in the styrofoam cup:
The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody
really knows how or why, but we are all like that.

Goldfish and hamsters and white mice and even
the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die.
So do we.

And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books
and the first word you learned - the biggest
word of all - LOOK.

Everything you need to know is in there somewhere.
The Golden Rule and love and basic sanitation.
Ecology and politics and equality and sane living.

Take any of those items and extrapolate it into
sophisticated adult terms and apply it to your
family life or your work or your government or
your world and it holds true and clear and firm.
Think what a better world it would be if
all - the whole world - had cookies and milk about
three o'clock every afternoon and then lay down with
our blankies for a nap. Or if all governments
had a basic policy to always put thing back where
they found them and to clean up their own mess.

And it is still true, no matter how old you
are - when you go out into the world, it is best
to hold hands and stick together.

© Robert Fulghum, 1990.
Found in Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten, Villard Books: New York, 1990, page 6-7.

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answers from Chicago on

I was a professional nanny for over twenty years. I worked for families that were very wealthy and sent their kids to the best preschool. I worked on the east coast and in IL and these top preschool all had one thing in common. Preschool was for play, social skills and learning to share. Why, because they need these skills when they start Kindergarten. This is the time for those skills, skills they will need for the rest of their lives. Everything else is a bonus, none of these preschool taught reading, math or science, they just learned it through play. Studies have shown that kids that are early reading or don't read they all even out around 3rd grade. Most of my charges were gifted, some reading by three, doing math at four, but the teachers never cared, they just wanted the kids to be nice, share and be able to sit for more than 15 minutes. I don't think there is anything more with having a well-rounded child, learning spanish at a early age or music lessons. Kids will give you their clues/signs about what interest them, could be playing piano, bugs, painting, I think if you nurture their interest or talents then they will learn so much not only about themselves, but about other people and it will make them interested in learning more. Now, totally different when your child is 4 compared to a elementary child who may need assistance. I think you are right about letting kids be kids, but if you child really likes math, there is nothing wrong with finding a class or program that he can learn how to use those skills, cooking for example. Good luck!

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answers from Washington DC on

Well my answer wil be a lot different for a 4 yr old then a 16 yr old.
Work on letters et al now. Musical exposure at this age is another big plus. Really arts in general great for young kids.

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answers from Houston on

I think I've been a tiger mom from the beginning, but esp when it comes to school. I push my kid but not w/writing or books, at least in the beginning. I pushed him to learn to simply focus on things - me, words, what he was doing, what was around him, listening to me, etc. I think focus is the key to learning, no matter the congnitive level or comprehension.

When he was little, I didn't let him play w/alot of toys all at once. He had alot of toys in his toyroom, but I would only pull out a small basket at a time, even when he was a baby. I saw too many babies/kids go from one toy expensive developmental toy to another, picking one up and then throwing it down and picking up another - all w/o even bothering understanding it. To me, that isn't growing and learning - it was developing a short attention span. I also made sure he didn't play w/alot of battery or electric toys. Even if he outgrew his toys, I'd pull them out a year later to see how he would play w/them and gain new knowledge. Take blocks for ex. Where as a baby, he'd just chewed on them, as a toddler he learned to stack them, and then as a prewschooler he learned to build structures.

I also had him help me w/non kid chores. This year it has been helping me in the garden. In the past it was doing laundry, dusting or even washing the windows.. I felt it was good for him to not always have to do kid stuff and do things an adult expected of him, so that when he is in a classroom w/a teacher, it wouldn't be so foreign to him to have to follow instruction when it came to doing something he couldn't or didn't want to do. Don't worry, I always made it fun.

I didn't let him watch TV. If I did, btwn 2-4 yrs old it was Cars movie and that was if he did an age appropriate chore beforehand. He is turning 6 next month and he didn't get a DS until this past March and his first Wii until this past May. Even then, he is only allowed to play one or the other 1 hr a day on the weekends. And if he wants to watch TV, he doesn't get to play his video games.

I've also always pushed him to play w/kids much older and much younger than him. With the younger ones, I used that as a way to be a leader. If he around younger kids, he had to make sure they were always safe (no glass or liquids they could get to, no small toys around them they could swallow, he watched his behavior in case they copied him). Same w/older - if he saw them doing or saying things he wasn't sure he could do himself, it was a great opportunity to learn to make good decisions on his own. I did that so he could be prepared for all the different personalities he'd come in contact with at school.

Now that he is older, I did have him do schoolwork type of work. He just started K but this past summer, we went over all his pre-k paperwork and reviewed his writing, reading and thinking skills. He loved it. Every morning after bfast we spent an hour writing letters and numbers, counting, going through thinking skills workbooks, and he can read most of a level 1 reader out loud. I bought a huge dot to dot workbook and even though he thought it was for babies, I made him do it anyway b/c I wanted his fine motor skills to be strong. I also started calling out sight words and he had to write them down like "it, at, no, go" and a few 3 letter words.

Don't get me wrong - he had plenty of time to play and be a kid. We are early risers so by the time we finished bfast and did chores and school work this summer, it was only 9am...around the time his friends would get by the time they got together, my kid had already helped in the garden, eaten bfast and did schoolwork. But when it came to playing w/friends, I never hoovered. it was always a free for all and very often my house was full of loud, noisy kids with my kid being the loudest and noisiest of them all!


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answers from San Francisco on

I believe it's my job to ensure that my children reach their full potential. If I don't push them to do that, then I'm not a very good parent. For different children, that means different things. Currently my kids go to public school (darned economy!) so I fully expect that they will get straight A's. It's just not that hard. They're both fully capable of getting 95% and above on everything, so it's what I expect them to do. That being said, we support them in terms of helping them study, making sure they start working on long-term projects well in advance, we ensure that they're in bed on time, and that they do independent (but challenging) reading before they go to sleep. We feed them healthy food and keep our home life happy and calm. This is all to ensure they can achieve everything that they can academically.

Part of being a well-rounded person, of course, is having hobbies, and our girls do have hobbies. They both love to dance, and have lessons a few times per week. I expect them to try their hardest and give their teacher their full attention and respect - and if that didn't happen, there would be hell to pay (and they know it). But because they know it is a privilege, they take it seriously and they do enjoy their dance lessons. If there came a time when they no longer enjoyed dance lessons, we would stop taking them. At that point, though, they'd have to pick a sport - they need some kind of exercise.

Even with that going on, they have plenty of time to play. They're usually in the pool an hour or two a day, and have play dates and sleep overs with friends. Just because I expect them to give their all academically and in their extra-curricular activities does not mean their lives are miserable. You can look at their faces and see their joy and love for life. They are just very disciplined. I think it'll serve them well as they grow older.

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answers from St. Louis on

In my opinion and according to the age you are talking about...little kids learn by playing.
Gifted or not gifted, there are plenty of things to use for the little ones to learn:
Coloring and reading A LOT
Cutting and pasting
Have FUN with them and pay attention to them
Playing with legos or making stuff on their own
Adding cheerios, grapes or little cars
Counting toys while they are cleaning them up
Ask the children for help when you are dusting or sweeping, setting the table or sorting laundry.
Playing like they are on a plane or at the cafeteria or a mall where they know how to behave and carry a tray to eat.
Show them every day how to leave the bathroom clean after they are done, and encourage them to wash their hands.
Dance, sing together and make up songs or stories
Take the children to a PE class or sport or extracurricular activity where they can be by themselves.
Encourage your kids to finish what they started (sport, art, drawing, etc...)
Teach them manners and how to behave at the table or in another haouse just by role playing.
READ, READ, READ a lot to them . Let them know every day that you LOVE them and LIKE them they way they are, but DO NOT give them whatever, whenever they want.
Kids learn by imitation and repetition, otherwise the little ones will get burnout. On another hand, it is so true that we live in another world much more competitive but artificial where brands, status, or who has more and plastic stuff is very important. So since my kids are little I teach them more than basics and more about life. I teach them that they can do whatever they want if they do the best as can be. They can make mistakes but they have to find solutions and never, never give up.
We give them more than we had as children and less of what we can afford today. They have to earn what they want, but at the same time they are loved and cherished very much.
Not easy.....but..that's our parents' job isn't? and I LOVE IT!!!!!!

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answers from Cleveland on

I don't push them at all. All I want for my children is for them to be physically and mentally healthy and happy. Truly.

If my child becomes a rocket scientist, but is miserable doing it, why would I want that?

If my child becomes a bagger at the grocery store (and I'm not saying there is anything wrong with being a bagger! we all need baggers - I'm just using it as an example of something people don't think of as being a career) and has no aspirations to do anything else, BUT is extremely happy with himself and his life, why would I NOT want that?

So while my husband keeps talking about college (in 6 years) and my son is already rebelling against it, I don't care whether or not he goes. I want him to find what makes him happy. And since both my children are very compassionate, it won't surprise me if what makes them happy is doing something that makes others happy. And how cool would that be.......?

Blessings to you and your son.

1 mom found this helpful


answers from Williamsport on

There is nothing overboard about a couple hours per day of "work", be it scholastic learning, music lessons, sports, classes, whatever. There is still the majority of the day to play. A mom on here accused me of labeling my 5 year old a "phenom" because I have her in music lessons and language classes and am considering homeschooling (shorter hours than all day kindergarten) so she can continue those things and STILL have lots of time to play. In other developed countries, foreign languages and music are standard for ALL kindergartners, and kids start school by age 3 (France for one) so it's really in the eye of the beholder. I believe in offering the potential to learn a lot, but haven't found it necessary to cut out play or crack any whips. A good schedule suffices. And a modicum of discipline. And lots of play.

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answers from Chicago on

as a mom of a 12 and 9 yr old, and a preschool teacher to many many more I think that it's more important to do ...


preschoolers do need to know their letters by sight and sound and be able to write lots of them, all their numbers and how many that number is and how to write some of them, patterns, how a book is used, how to spell their name and write it, how to take turns and most importantly how to listen to a teacher and get along with friends

but they also need to have fun, explore their world, get dirty, do fun art projects, and have fun

I find that about 15 minutes a day of instruction in a skill (not TV time instructing but hands on matching or writing or actual skill work. I like to have preschoolers (from about 2 yrs old) watch Leap Frog Letter Factory often so that they get the alphabet sounds and names down pat, but otherwise hands on stuff works best.



answers from Chicago on

My school-aged boy has PLENTY of time to play, get dirty and be a kid. However, I also expect him to put his full effort into whatever he does, whether that be school, sports, music, reading, etc. There is no quitting allowed. If he wanted to try karate and I signed him up for it at the park district, he'll be going to all the classes whether he ends up liking it or not. Only after all classes in the session are done will we decide together whether or not to sign him up again. This teaches kids to see their commitments through to the end.

My boy is extremely bright--loves math, science, reading. I know his capabilities and I don't expect him to be able to do things above his current abilities. However, if there is something I know he can (or should) be able to figure out, I will certainly expect him to do it! As long as I know he tried his hardest, I'll accept whatever grade comes out of it. I look over his homework, but I do not EVER just give him the answers if he's stumped...I help him figure it out for himself (after all, I can't be there taking tests for him!). If that's considered pushing, then I guess I push. But only because I know he can do it...not because I have unattainable expectations. (there is NO "tiger mom" in me! there always has to be balance)

As for "play" time, like I said, my boy loves science and if I give him a robotics kit or a new book, that IS "play" for him! And he's learning something, too...BONUS!!!

Right now, he's also into learning how to distance run (hubby and I have taken up running and doing local races/runs). So, we're working on training him. I know how much he can or cannot handle and when he's run for 5 seconds and starts the "I'm tired," I give him the "You can do it! I know you can! Keep it up...just another minute!" coaching. But running is also play. As is us getting outside as a family throwing a football or frisbee around or going on a long bike ride together. There is plenty of unstructured play time, but not all of it has to be that way! We, as parents, are here to guide our children and to teach them how to interact and be a useful member of the world we live in. That starts early, but those lessons can be taught in many different ways.

Is all this helping him to do his best, whatever that is in whatever category (sports, education, etc)? Yup. And I'm proud of that! He'll grow up knowing what it takes to be the best HE can be at whatever it is he chooses to do, be it rocket science or basketball. That doesn't mean he'll be THE best at it...just means he'll be the best HIM he can be.



answers from Savannah on

Hmm. Push? I don't really consider myself very pushy, but I also don't just sit back and let them do whatever they want. I'm a bit of a list nerd, and I have done a few lists that we try to go by. For example, I listed the areas we have needs in (in my view): spiritual, emotional, physical, mental/intellectual, social, financial, etc, etc. My husband and I come up with a goal for the week on what we'll do to keep on track with these needs, as we see them. I arranged my daily routines to include ways to fill those needs for myself and the kids (husband joins in but does his own things too). YES, if some of you are wondering, it's my own take of some Franklin-Covey stuff, lol. I also wrote out a list of school subjects as they could pertain to my childrens' ages: English, Math, Science, Health/PE, Social Studies, Geography, History, Spanish, Bible, Music/Art and try to come up with ways that we can incorporate what I think is age appropriate for my boys every week (some things every day, some things every week).
English (literature would be me reading to them, letters, phonics, writing, spelling, reading), Math (counting, learning number recognition and how to write them, we play math games with skittles and use skittles as little treats / rewards), Health and PE: We learn about good nutrition and have times everyday for exercise, morning stretches and exercises, why naps are good for us, evening: horseback riding, soccer, kung fu, etc). We play games I remember from when I was a kid especially when the neighbor children come to play: army dodgeball, crazy dodgeball, freeze tag, capture the flag, hopscotch, etc. Science is everywhere. We're blessed to live near a nature preserve, the beach, there's not a lot of light pollution so we can go star gazing and talk about that, when they come back with something they're interested in, we'll study it together. We've learned all about tides this summer while playing at the beach and discussing it when issues come up. When trying to make my eldest not chew his fingernails, I took some clippings and we checked it out under the microscope. (We also look at leaves, bug pieces, etc in the microscope). We learned how to grow vegetables together, etc. Our version of Social Studies is going through photo albums and discussing trips we've been on (14 countries so far) and how people groups are different in some ways, the same in other ways, why things are different (little history, little bit of the Guns, Germs, and Steel book), what can we learn from them? We do social projects locally (they help me stuff bags for an outreach we were doing at a homeless shelter: put gloves in every bag....put hats in every bag....etc, we put canned/dry food in boxes or on shelves for the food 4 year old goes with my 8 year old sister and my dad to visit and "help" with bingo at a nursing home, etc). Geography: we are learning the "States Song" now, we have a USA puzzle, we talk about where everyone lives, where we've been, what's different about those places (we used to live in the prairies, now we live on the coast, we went kayaking in the swamps behind grandma's house, etc), and we discuss stuff when we go on trips to the mountains, or forests, etc. History is fun, my husband is the biggest history buff ever and is great. Stories, books, pictures, politics and history often overlap during dinner conversation, movies, places that are fun and ways to learn a little (Renaissance Festival, cultural festivals, even Medieval Times, lol). Spanish: we sing songs, we have Spanglish conversations, we use the Rosetta Stone homeschool edition and all of us do it together (even the 1 year old). Music and art: everyday facts of life in our house. No lessons yet because of their ages, but we listen to so many different genres it's not funny. The boys have lots of "kid instruments" upstairs to play with, sometimes we have our own concerts and sometimes we attend concerts (in the park, garden, town square, festivals, or "real" ones). Art: we color and play doh and have "projects" using cutting and glue, glitter and paints, etc. But that's more play time. We don't do a lot of sit down at the table and study time. We DO learn A LOT everyday/week over playing, going, doing, reading, watching. We DO have one 10 minute block of "homework time" on days they go to preschool (1 year old colors or does puzzles), and on days they don't go to preschool they do three 10 minute blocks of time to sit down and practice things like reading, writing, and "math" where we use skittles to add/subtract. We'll have both boys try scouting when they're old enough, music if they'd like, etc. Sports, chess, whatever they want, we'll encourage. I want them to be well rounded, but also able to chase after whatever sparks their interests. I think as they grow older, to be balanced, they need BOTH their own study time growing up with what they want, and also the stuff that they will need whether they "like'' it or not. I HOPE I won't have to "push" as much as guide. We'll cross that bridge when we get there though (real school, older kid attitudes, etc).

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