Sunday, October 16, 2011

Hispanic Heritage Month: Latinos and Education, instilling intellectual curiosity in a child.

Odilia Rivera Santos

You can provide an elite private school education for your children without spending any money. It does require that parents take a long at themselves and invest time and energy in working one-on-one with their children.

1. Attitude - the adults are the prototype for what a child envisions as his or her future adult self. Your language is extremely important. Focus on solutions and not problems when you speak. If you constantly talk about problems, a child will feel that life is difficult and he or she will feel easily defeated. If you state the problem simply and go on to talk about how the problem may be addressed, the child learns critical thinking skills and gains an optimistic outlook. Teach that every problem has a solution.

2. Self-advocacy - young children have to be taught to be activists. They need tools for setting boundaries between themselves and other kids, adults, etc. They must understand that they have rights everywhere they go and that no one has the right to be verbally abusive or to touch them without permission.
Teaching children history with an emphasis on their particular racial or ethnic group as "victims" will create a sense of hopelessness and a person who feels hopeless is less likely to stand up for him or herself.
Make sure to expose children to the history of brilliant leaders and to focus on those who triumphed despite adversity.

3. Goals - the best way to teach children to set goals is to have some goals yourself and to speak to your child about the process. If you are a parent working on getting a G.E.D., do not speak about the experience with regret or in a way that connotes that you feel like a failure; instead, focus on talking about what you are learning and the interesting people you're meeting in the process.
Don't do the "Don't do what I did" speech because it is fear-based, boring and not effective.
Consider presenting yourself to your kids as if you were an employee.
The truth is that your kids are evaluating your parenting skills; your assessment as a parent will come in the way of your child's positive or negative behavior.
Be a dynamic employee/parent who the child will admire. Children listen to people they respect, admire or find interesting. This does not mean that you become their friend and abandon providing structure for children's lives; it means that you must be a person a child would like to emulate.
You are in charge but in order to be an effective parent, you must be humble enough to admit when your parenting approach is not working.
The goal is to have a happy interdependent relationship with your children in which they can make informed decisions when you are not around to offer guidance. If the parenting methods you are currently employing are not getting the results you'd like, change.

"The definition of insanity is doing the same thing and expecting a different result." - Einstein.

4. Standards - there are certain skills that a child is expected to learn before going on to the next grade. You can find a lot of useful lesson plans to do at home on PBS Kids and Starfall is a great website for phonics help.

5. Language - teach your child Spanish by putting time aside to speak only in Spanish. You can choose to speak Spanish on the weekend or at night, but make sure you do not respond to your child if he or she speaks English. If you ask a question in Spanish and the child answers in English, keep asking in Spanish until you get an answer in Spanish. The most natural way to learn language is through employing it in everyday life: watch films, read books, listen to music and have conversations in the target language -- Spanish.
If your Spanish skills need some brushing up, Directo al grano is a great grammar book that provides a comparison of Spanish and English grammar. MIT offers free online courses -- take a Spanish class. Lo que no mata engorda.

6. Recreation as work and work as recreation - you can teach reading comprehension, research skills and critical thinking through doing research on subjects that the child enjoys. You can read the same books and articles and talk about them.
Choose one day per week to go to the library and always keep the appointment.
It is a good idea to read books on library reading lists, as they represent books used in schools. Reading books at home before the child reads them at school will give them a sense of accomplishment and insure they are better prepared.

7. Oral communication skills - boys tend to give one-word answers to questions while girls only need one simple question to talk for two hours. Make sure every question you ask is open-ended. Open-ended questions force the child to think.
Did you have fun at school today? - this is a yes/no question
How was school today? - this is an open-ended question, which allows a child to produce language, review syntax, use of prepositions, etc.

Give the child your undivided attention without staring at them. Some kids feel scrutinized and as if they are being interrogated if you ask questions and make intense eye-contact. Be casual but listen closely. You can try having a conversation as you prepare a snack together or do some other quiet activity.
Do not interrupt a child who speaks slowly; he or she might process information slowly and interruptions will make the child feel uncomfortable about speaking.

Make sure the television is not always on.
Attention deficit disorder begins at home with too much stimulation: cellphones, television, radio, music, a group of people talking at once.

8.Make time for important stuff. Reading and talking with your children is vital. Throw your television out the window, but make sure no one is standing below first. Limit television viewing because there are very few jobs for people that require them to sit still, stare blankly and overeat.

A bad education is hard to undo but a great education is something that no one can ever take away from you. The best inheritance you can leave your children is intellectual curiosity.

Check out my creative nonfiction essays Latinalogue Puerto Rican Nonfiction Part I and Latinalogue Puerto Rican Nonfiction Part II:

Writers, be careful not to die of exposure.!/UrbanBrainiac!/bezotes!/latinaauthor

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