Are Dual Language Programs Widening the Academic Gap?
Good parenting is preparing your child to be a successful adult. For your grandparents and parents, this meant instilling a good work ethic, a code of moral conduct, and a decent education for their sons and daughters.
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However, your child inherits a very different future from generations past, one that requires a level of preparation never seen before in our history.
To be ready for this interconnected, highly-skilled, fast-paced world, your child needs:
Critical thinking skills
Cosmopolitan understanding of the world
Ability to communicate across languages and cultures
High degree of technical skill for even non-technical jobs
Self-confidence and self-sufficiency
The good news? You can help your child along this path at almost any age and see both immediate and long-term results. Below are 10 ways to boost your child’s chances of success.
#1: Introduce Primers (ages 3-10)
Primers are introductory textbooks with age-appropriate information on subjects as diverse as language, politics, and technology. By introducing learning at a young age, with information tailored to your child’s level of comprehension, you’ll create a solid foundation of knowledge and create a love of learning.
A recent favorite for my 3-½-year-old son is The Little President: A Presidential Primer by Joan Holub and Daniel Roode. Instead of exposing him to political infighting and indoctrination in the news, he’s learning about the office of president so he can make informed voting decisions in adulthood.
Research shows that only 36 percent of people can adequately describe their emotions as they occur. When emotions are misunderstood, poor decisions and counterproductive actions follow.
By expanding your child’s vocabulary, especially in the areas of feelings and emotions, you give children the ability to understand both their feelings as well as those of others. This specificity leads to better decision-making in all areas of life.
My son is 3½, and every month I make a list of 10 words with kid-friendly definitions. We incorporate these words into conversations, and then he has practice identifying and using these words.
#3: Learn a Second Language (ages 2-18)
The benefits to a second language are many: improved brain function from “thinking” in a different language, ability to communicate with people from around the world, and increased job opportunities in the global workforce.
The best time to teach a child a new language is when he or she is learning their primary one. The older one gets, the harder it is to become fluent in another language.
What if you don’t know a second language yourself? Many parents are in this situation, including me. I’ve discovered a bounty of free and low-cost resources, like the streaming site Oznoz for small children. Older children can use free language-learning sites like Duolingo.
#4: Encourage International Friendships (ages 5-18)
The best way to develop a global outlook is to be part of the global world. When children have friends from other countries, they take in more information than they could ever learn from a book or program.
Programs like PenPal World match your child with an age-appropriate friend and give you parental control. In your community, your child can meet friends from other countries by participating in cultural festivals and events. And you can foster international understanding by hosting an exchange student in your home for a year of study.
#5: Attend Tech-Based Camps and Programs (ages 6-18)
To encourage technical skill and understanding, enroll your child in a technology-focused summer camp or program. Even if your child doesn’t want a technology-based career, these skills are valuable in a future where everyone will rely heavily on technology.
Programs like iD Tech or Girls Who Code offer programs around the US to boost training and comprehension of valuable skills like coding, robotics, engineering, and design.
#6: Build a Healthy Body (birth-18)
As technology permeates our lives, intelligent adults in the future will actively manage their nutrition and exercise and avoid the problems that come with sedentary living and fast-food convenience.
Basic understanding of nutrition, the importance of exercise, and healthy sleep practices will ensure your children are physically ready to enjoy a successful life. They’ll be far less tempted by vices like smoking or excessive drinking as teens and young adults if healthy living is a way of life from childhood. The Twice as Good Show on YouTube teaches kids about healthy eating in an entertaining way.
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#7: Cultivate a Practice of Self-Reflection (ages 6-18)
To become successful adults, children must learn to accurately appreciate their actions in the world and recover from mistakes. Regular conversation around the dinner table or before bed creates a habit of self-reflection that will serve your children well throughout their lifetimes.
Huffington Post parenting blogger Meg Conley recommends asking your kids 3 questions every night:
How were you brave today?
How were you kind today?
How did you fail today?
These questions foster an ongoing conversation around self-awareness, social interactions, self-confidence, and problem-solving.
#8: Discuss World Events (ages 6-18)
Debate and discussion are almost a lost art, and those who know how to research, foster understanding, and work together to solve problems are always going to make a bigger impact.
By talking about current events every day and asking your child to understand the facts as well as the motivations on every side, you’ll create an adult who is both an independent thinker and someone who can influence others—a powerful combination in any career or life. Are Dual Language Programs Widening the Academic Gap?
#9: Study Abroad (ages 14-22)
What better way to get a global education than to learn in a foreign country? Your child can become a high school exchange student or opt for a semester abroad program during college. your child will have a more global experience than many adults will know in a lifetime.Are Dual Language Programs Widening the Academic Gap?
You can prepare your child for this option by encouraging participation in language clubs during middle school and high school as well as by hosting an exchange student in your home.
#10 Live in Another Country (birth-18)
Residing in another country, especially to become fluent in another language, is an option more parents are exploring. Whether on a sabbatical, a temporary work assignment, or a permanent move, parents who relocate their families to foreign countries gift their children with daily, widespread exposure to at least 2 cultures. By living even temporarily in another country, your child will have a more global experience than many adults will know in a lifetime.
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