Moose loves the United States of America like some kids love Elmo. He talks about the different states constantly, LOVES doing his puzzles (his “big USA” and “little USA“). When he first learned his shapes (over a year ago), he used to point them out in everything. Now, he points out States (for example, the rug in our dining room has a leaf shaped like Maine, the emblem on his shoes looks like Alaska, etc). In the process of doing the big puzzle, he is learning capitals. He asks for the capital for every state, and is picking them up at the rate of 2-3 per day. He asks me what the capitals are everywhere – in the car, at the store. Sadly, I don’t know the capitals beyond the states I’ve lived in and a few others. I keep a placemat map in the car so I have something to refer to when we are out. I’ve already told him a wrong one, but somehow he knew not to retain it (yes, I now know that Oklahoma City is the capital of Oklahoma, NOT Tulsa – give me a break!)
I recently read in a parenting magazine that kids don’t retain anything they learn at a young age, therefore parents shouldn’t stress about trying to teach them to read or any other “hard facts.” There is a sad assumption that in order to teach a child something, you either have to drill them or make it so structured they won’t want to learn anymore, or that it will be stressful for the parent and child (does Moose look stressed in the video above?) If this is true, why bother teaching anyone anything? I took French in high school and can’t recall a lick of it. I learned South Carolina history in middle school, but I don’t live there anymore and I couldn’t tell you what year they seceded from the Union.
Moose knows his states better than anyone I know because he does his puzzles multiple times a day. We all know toddlers love doing things over and over – every parent has a book that they have hidden to avoid the 50th reading in the same day! And I never force him to do it, he asks to do it before he even eats breakfast. He carries around the placemat when we go out so he can talk about the states.
If you give a small child a little bit of real knowledge, they will find many ways to integrate it into their day. All I do is show word cards, math, bits, and music 2-3 times a day. It takes less than a minute for each “session.” When he is playing, I will hear him practicing saying artists names (my favorite is “Botticelli and “Albrecht Dürer”). Sometimes, he pretends to teach his cars. His favorite pupil is Frank (the combine from Cars). He will say, “Look Frank, that’s a Roseate Spoonbill! Good job, Frank!”
I didn’t realize when I started “teaching” Moose, but a wonderful side effect is that I am learning these things at the same time. I can now identify the name and artist of 20 different classic art pieces. I know 10 of the most beautiful birds from around the world. I know all of my states and most of the capitals. My pitch identification is improving – I can now “hear” what C sounds like if I just think about it. The only thing I can’t do that Moose can is identify those darn red dots by sight – he can pick out the difference between 15 and 13 dots (although Ben can also do this).
Not that I am competing with my son – I WANT him to beat me. By the time his finishes school, his base of knowledge will be a thousand (maybe a million!) times bigger than mine. And I will proudly tell anyone who will listen that the Moose is smarter than me 🙂