Most people can remember who their first-grade teacher was. So much so that many websites will have one of their security questions as such. Thus, you won’t be getting mine, not that I have ever used it. That teacher often leaves a memory burn that is now being brought out with the thoughts of your child going to school. The time is coming when they will leave the gentle tutelage of mom and dad and enter the world of public school to meet their Ms. Trubey. (Oops, I said it.)
But before your child begins to learn the three R’s within an organized setting, you are their first contact with learning. From their first words to their first reading books, you are there. You are an English teacher that holds a parental degree. It is your duty to start your child off right. Start young and make it fun. The habits you instill in your child now will form the habits he continues as he moves through his or her education journey.
As your child’s first teacher, always remember that someday someone is going to take over that primary role. Respect their role. Work with them, but don’t forget you still have a job to do.
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Just because your child begins school, does not mean that your part of your child’s development is over. Your child’s teacher will be the first one to tell you that a parent is just as important to the teaching process as they are. You are partners. They teach, you reinforce. If either party does not do their part, then the process breaks down, and a child falls behind.
Communication and follow-up is important. Keep up with what your child is learning. Not only with homework, but in the classroom too. If you have concerns, contact the teacher. Attend parent teacher conferences, especially if grades are suffering. The point is to be involved. School is not a place you send your child for eight hours of babysitting while you go to work. There is a process here and your participation will determine whether or not it succeeds.
Keep in mind that unless what the teacher is teaching in class and what you are teaching at home lines up, your child will be left confused. They will feel the burden of having to choose between you and the teacher. When they choose you, it complicates the teacher’s job because your child is bucking their way of teaching. Imagine this situation times thirty. Now you can begin to understand how complicated being a teacher is.
But we are getting ahead of ourselves. Before we get them into school, we have the classroom of the home to address.
What You Can Do as a Parent
We have already said to start young. This is a normal part of parenting. It begins with each parent attempting to get a baby’s first word to be ‘mamma’ or ‘dadda.’ Why stop there though? Introduce your child to all the words that are associated with his or her little world; bottle, bear, hand, foot, dog, cat, etc. Of course, what comes out of their mouth will most likely sound nothing like the word taught, but it’s all about association at this point. With practice, they will learn.
As they get older, association becomes easier. It’s the pronunciation that needs the work. Correct them gently when they say a word not quite right. For instance, its ‘asked’ not ‘axed.’ I hear way too many adults with the confusion of how this word is pronounced. For an adult, a well-pronounced vocabulary can mean the world. To a child, it provides them a head start in life. Speaking imparts a level of maturity that can get them further than a garbled speech would.
When they get to the age where you are reading and following along, use that time to begin to associate words with what the pictures are showing in the story. Show them beginning letters and occasionally point to a letter and ask them what it is. Then you can teach them to identify the smaller sight words at first, then move into some of the longer ones.
Teaching does not have to be a chore; for the parent or the child. Learning should be an exciting experience. Have fun. Find games to play, songs to sing, and tools to utilize that take the cumbersome and make it enjoyable. There are scads of websites and books out there that do just that; they educate the parent on how to teach a child.
When done right, by the time your child walks through the door to their first classroom, they will be further ahead than most of the class. Your child will have confidence deep inside that they will carry far beyond the first grade. A confident child will have an easier time of learning. Self-esteem is developed in the home. You are not only your child’s first English teacher; you are their first coach. Cheer them on, go overboard when you need to.
One thing to keep in mind that every child is different. Those of you with more than one can testify to that. One of your children will breeze through learning and excel in their education. Then your second child will seem like they are stuck in the mud. Do not get discouraged, with yourself or your child. Keep encouraging them. Reward even the littlest success. A small seed of recognition can blossom into a bushel of confidence, giving your child the desire to succeed. Not only with learning, but in every avenue of their life.