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August 30, 2011

Building Blocks of Knowledge Acquisition

The girls’ language skills started to really blossom around 20 months. It was about that time that they started being able to fill in the blanks in simple songs and rhymes, including the ABCs. I could say, “A…B…C…[pause]” and they would shout out “D!

Over the next couple of months, they began singing their ABCs in earnest. They also learned their numbers to 10, and then to 15 (although they still often skip the number 13...despite any superstitious surrendering at our house).

My gut was to boast, “My girls know their ABCs! My girls can count to 10!” [because I was some kinda proud]. But something about saying that just didn’t quite sit right with me [beyond the fact that boastfulness is not always becoming]. :)

Yes, the girls could say their ABCs, but did they know what they were saying? They could recite their numbers, but I knew they weren’t counting.

Several months ago I read the book Einstein Never Used Flashcards. A big part of it talks about the process of knowledge acquisition. It’s just so fascinating to understand the building blocks…how children learn one skill set, and the next is built upon it.

One section of the book is devoted to numbers, and what skills precede a child being able to grasp more abstract concepts…from less versus more, to counting, to addition and subtraction.

At 2 ½, I can finally say that my girls can count. They now can recite their numbers to 20…but over the past week, Baby B counted four crayons, and Baby A counted five keys. It really felt like a major milestone!

One section of the book is devoted to language and reading skills. I found it so interesting that a major step is a child’s ability to realize that letters on a page tell us something…that combinations of letters form words, and the sequence of words communicates an idea.

I know our girls are there, as evidenced by the endless, “What this says?” questions at each and every turn.
And I finally feel comfortable saying they know their ABCs…they’re not just making sounds to the tune of a familiar song. They can identify their letters, and – although they sometimes need a little help – they can list a few words that start with each letter.

I don’t mean to suggest that I needed to have read that book to “teach” the girls, or that I’m “following” some lock-step approach. [The point of the book actually is to reinforce the importance of playing and reading and talking, citing that a “flash card approach” is not necessary.]

But reading the book has helped me to understand some of the milestones to look for…and appreciate. And the whole idea of the process of knowledge acquisition is pretty darn cool, if you ask me.


Carrie said...

And this is exactly why early childhood education is so important! As a former high school math teacher, I saw many children who hadn't developed the basic skills in mathematics and struggled so much to just pass their courses. It's so hard to actually learn something if you don't have the basics; and it's so hard to catch up if you start off behind. I think maybe all our legislators should read this book before making their decisions on educating our kids.

Isn't it so fun when you can see that the girls actually "get" what they are talking about and not just copying you? I'm especially amazed at the crazy grammatically correct sentences that come out of their mouths!

Marcia (123 blog) said...

Still... your girls are VERY clever!

I have magnetic letters and we play with them on the fridge. They know a lot more than I thought but the definites are K, C, D, M and Q/W (Connor loves those two :))

Twinside Out said...

I'm going to have to get this book! I know very little about how babies/toddlers learn, and I am excited to read about it.

And it sounds to me like your girls are pretty darn smart! ;-)

Andrea said...

Very cool lady!!! You have every right to be proud!! I personally think your girls are pretty outstanding!!

Barbara Manatee said...

Yes, you can boast about your lil smarty pants cuties!! :-) That's what Mamas get to do! :-)

Jacob and Sarah were trying to tell Adam that he couldn't go to Kindergarten yet because he didn't know this and that....but I told them, in all honesty, I'm pretty sure he knows more than they did at this age b/c he picks up so much from them!

reanbean said...

I remember you mentioning that book. I think I'd find it very interesting too. I'd just need to find the time to sit down and read it. :o)

Being teachers, it's really hard for T and I to resist the opportunity to "teach" our kids something. Similarly, it's sometimes hard for me to see one kid "getting it" when another one is not even close. But I've been really trying to keep myself in the background of their learning (to a certain degree). I want them to explore and learn as much as they can on their own- one of the reasons we chose the preschool that we did.

But it is hard not to be proud of their letter name/symbol knowledge and their abilities to count groups of objects (though mine constantly skip 16!). No boasting, though. :o)

Rebecca @ Unexplained X2 said...

I think I'm going to get that book...I know a lot about the higher education, but little about early childhood. This is going to help.

When we were on our way to preschool orientations, I panicked b/c I thought the Crazies didn't know anything. So, I asked them to sing me the alphabet...wouldn't you know? They did it! I didn't even know they could...we don't spend very much time on it, but I'm going to get better at that. The love counting, but always skip "7." Weird, right?