This is a three-part post about re-envisioning the basis for education where we add to the foundation basics of the three R’s a more comprehensive model of education encompassed in the three E’s: expectations, exposure, and education. In last month’s post, we addressed the importance of having high expectations. Now we will look at how exposure contributes to the educational and overall development of our children.
When our experiences and consequently our child’s experiences don’t go beyond the familiar, we limit ourselves. This includes our ability to think critically which impacts our capacity to receive and interpret information. Overwhelmingly, our shared experiences are with people who are like us (family, friends, colleagues). We live lives that don’t allow intimate experiences with people and environments that are dissimilar to ours (culturally, socially, economically, educationally). Consequently, we don’t have an understanding of the dynamics that result in situations and circumstances that are different from ours. Lack of understanding creates misunderstanding, misjudgment, and results in ignorance. Therefore, we MUST be intentional about broadening our children’s exposure – and our own for that matter. Essentially, we must go beyond the familiar.
Think of exposure in two veins – 1) what can I teach my child? and 2) what can my child and I learn together?
Exposing children to new ideas doesn’t have to be burdensome. When going through your everyday routine, share with your child the meaning of daily activities; that’s a form of exposure. For the young child, let him help prepare meals and assist in household chores. As you ask your son/daughter to hand you a spoon and show him/her how to fold a napkin, discuss the uses for both. Tell them why you’re using a spoon as opposed to a fork or knife. Tell them why we place the napkin in our laps when we eat. All the while, you’re introducing new knowledge. Pretty simple, right? When you’re walking to and fro (including to the car or bus stop), talk about the trees, flowers, bees, rain, and sun. Talk about their colors, their function, their beauty, and why getting stung by a bee hurts. This kind of interaction introduces new concepts, vocabulary, and thinking skills because they’re making connections and beginning to understand their environment. When you get on the bus or in the car, talk about different modes of transportation and different reasons why we may use public transportation as opposed to a private vehicle. On the way to a doctor’s visit or the grocery store, talk about the job functions (what doctors, cashiers, customer service personnel do) and how these people help us live and make our lives easier. Similarly, when you encounter an emergency vehicle discuss the role of firefighters, Emergency Medical Technicians etc. You get where I’m going, right? You’re introducing new information, encouraging your child to be inquisitive (i.e., to seek out new information) and observant of his/her environment, and helping him/her understand connections and make meaning of relationships within the environment which is a foundation for critical thinking.
There are also opportunities for you and your child to expand your sphere of knowledge together, particularly as it relates to cultural exploration. If you live in an area where museums are free (e.g., Washington, DC or St. Louis area), you should take advantage of these learning opportunities. Additionally, when you take vacations or local trips outside of your neighborhood (to the next town, city, or state), look up facts about the destination beforehand in order to learn about the cultural significance of the area. Always be mindful to look up facts and history about African American culture, as this is a chance to learn more about the important roles that we had/have in the development of our society.
In the spirit of the three E’s, never tell your child that you don’t know the answer to a question. Instead, say, “let me look that up” or “I’ll have to do some research to find out”. Here’s the thing, just about everyone has a smart phone which means you have information at your fingertips. Therefore, there is no excuse for not knowing. Be resourceful and model behavior that will help your child be successful in life. If there’s something she needs to know, she should seek out the information by asking someone who knows or doing research to find the answer. Lastly, take your child to a public library every so often if for no other reason than to surround them with books (i.e., information, knowledge). Make sure he/she has a library card and teach him/her that the public library is a source of free information.
We’ll talk more about the importance of reading in next month’s post when we cover the last of the three E’s, Education.