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Sunday, August 17, 2008

Can You Predict What Type of Learner Your Toddler Will Be?

What kind of learner is your toddler? When my children were 18 months old I would have said, “the type of learner who drops food off her tray and when I give her more, she drops it again. Does that mean she is manipulative or just working out probabilities? She is the type of learner that throws away the toy and sits in the box. Does that mean that she thinks outside of it? She devours books, literally. Does that count as a half hour of reading a day and will the library accept a damp pile of pulp?”

It feels like it should be important to fit your child’s learning style to a preschool philosophy. Let yourself off the hook. I think it is almost impossible for a new parent to be able to identify the subtle cues that might predict what type of learner their child will turn out to be in middle school, high school or college and in most cases it doesn’t matter. All things being equal, your child will thrive in any number of safe, well-organized situations. Children react in many more intriguing ways to a variety of stimulus than we can ever imagine. Sometimes it is good to just put them in a fertile environment and see what happens rather than trying to plan an outcome. After they have had a few years in school you will see if they do well in groups or individually; if they need motivation or are self starters; whether they crave structure or freedom. Then you can choose their middle schools accordingly with a lot of insight.

If your child is healthy and happy without any signs of specific learning issues, the style of school that you send them to has more to do with your preference than theirs. You shouldn’t treat that preference as insignificant. If you feel more comfortable with your child in a school environment that is familiar, or you respect the school’s seriousness about the curriculum or the warmth of the community or the vitality of their creative teachers you will support the program. The more you are engaged and emotionally invested in your child’s school the more your child will feel it. Preschool is about socialization, and introduction to literacy and learning to love school. The more you are part of that; the more the importance of education is transferred to your child.

So what kind of learners did my children turn out to be? They are avid readers AND healthy eaters.

Joyce Szuflita is a working mother of twins. She has been a Brooklyn resident for 28 years. As NYC School Help, she consults with families who are doing the school search; public or private, nursery school through high school. Her aim is to save you time, clarify your priorities, present you with thorough information in a clear uniform format so that you can make an informed decision about your child's education. She takes a crazy stressful process and makes it clear and manageable. Joyce is also a regular contributor to Hip Slope Mama.