Although parenting is something most all of us do, and it is perhaps the most crucial career of any will ever have, we don’t do a good job of teaching people how to be parents. We give parents lots of advice after the fact, and there are literally thousands of websites and parenting magazines that offer advice on thousands of topics, from potty training to brain training. But it’s hard to know how good, or bad, the advice is; so my purpose here is not to give you all the answers, but to give you some food for thought about the very basics of parenting; and to encourage you to start learning more based on your own personal questions and needs.
As kids growing up in poverty, we had a small school with no kindergarten, no sports programs, and no school cafeteria. Special needs kids were included along with the rest of us, as we had no special education programs; and our only after-school club was 4-H. We used old textbooks, and were visited by a mobile library once a month. From a dozen of my classmates, there are three Ph.D.s and five Masters Degrees; with teachers, counsellors, superintendents, university professors, business owners, and executive VPs of global corporations among us.
This is not unusual, really. Many have come through the same route, Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and former Justice Sandra Day O’Connor, astronaut Sally Ride, and First Lady Michelle Obama, just to name a very few. There are reasons for this, and I will outline those reasons for you in this book. The foundations for successful parenting increase the probability of raising smart kids, and this book will teach you how to use the most formative years in a child’s life the years from Birth to 5.
During my several-decade career in education, I’ve watched many changes with dismay. The current focus on standardized testing as a means for labelling both children and teachers as successes or failures, enervates the classroom and creates fear and anxiety that diminishes learning. But each political party that comes into power has to create its own magic bullet for solving the ills of education, which has the effect of keeping everyone continually off-balance in trying to meet new and different benchmarks.
There are too many cooks with different recipes that are spoiling the stew, politicians, pundits, philanthropists, corporate CEOs, foundations, all with their pet projects and favourite people (who are often not the best sources of information/expertise). Most of them have little or no knowledge of children or the educational environment; and because they ignore the complexities of what we know about child development and the structures necessary for growth, they fail. Decades and thousands of initiatives later, it only seems to get worse.
So, what are the answers, pray tell?! What it really boils down to is the quality of parent-child relationships, coupled with the quality of community connections. The way in which these relationships are built have their basis within ourselves, not in the next best-publicized program or school, and certainly not in the machinations of the powers that be.
I will not regurgitate, nor try to debate, all that’s been written about schools and teachers, teaching methods and standards. If you care to know about these controversies and differing points of view, you can find them everywhere in daily newspapers, magazines and online; and decide whether they are of value to you and your children.
What I will do in this brief guide is expand upon the basics that research shows are unequivocally essential for raising smart and successful adults.