Babies and Reading and Math, Oh My!


      The Doman method. This topic inspires heated debate among parents and child development specialists. Is it developmentally appropriate to teach young babies to read, identify quantity, perform equations, recognize hundreds of “bits of intelligence” and learn facts about them? Is it safe or worthwhile to begin a program of physical development soon after birth? Is it safe or even effective to teach infants to swim?

      My gut instinct is to say yes it is possible– as evidenced by the many children actually doing these things–, and that as long as it is not forced or turned into a high pressure demand for the child to progress at a certain rate or perform on cue for the gratification of parents, worth trying. Glenn Doman and his daughter Janet Doman, authors of various books on the topic and directors of the Institutes for the Achievement of Human Potential in Philadelphia, say that learning is and must always be a joyful experience for the child and for the parent. They contend that if information is presented joyfully– I really like that description– the child will learn effortlessly and be eager for more. They stress that the parent should always end a session before the child wants to, so that the child is always excited for more. In this way, they say, a very young child can learn to read, do math, have “encyclopedic knowledge”– which really is just broad knowledge– learn multiple languages, perform gymnastics, and really anything the parent and the child find interesting and enjoyable. They say that as much or as little time as you want to devote to teaching your child, as many or as few areas you want to cover, you can’t go wrong because spending joyful, loving time with your child teaching them exciting things is always good.

      I plan to use the Doman method with my child. My view is that to try it and find that it is not what I was hoping is better than to dismiss it without trying. So our child will have a crawling track from birth, we will introduce words when it seems appropriate (3 months seems to be a common time), then quantity, then “bits of intelligence” (cards with pictures of specific objects). I want to see where this goes and if my child derives any benefit from the program. As always, I’d rather give it a try then skip it because it seems unusual.

      I also very much appreciate the phrase “professional mothers” that the Domans use. Really there are professional mothers and professional fathers. The term refers to parents who devote the same time and energy to teaching their children as professionals in other fields devote to their careers. I like the respect for the seriousness of parents that this term conveys. To be a professional mother or father is a far cry from being “just a mom” or “just a dad”!

      Anyone who has experience with this system, positive or negative, is welcome to share the experience. I’d love to hear from others who have tried this!

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