No Plan Survives Contact With Reality

Is it possible to plan too far ahead? Every day or two, I read a Facebook post along these lines: “My child is 16 months old. I’m worried about how I will teach Math, History, and Science.”

What does a child learn at 16 months? Depends, but it probably includes learning new words, learning to communicate, learning to feed and dress herself, learning to climb and run, and so forth and so on. One might sneak in a bit of math – counting toes and so forth – but seriously? How much shall we expect of a toddler?

“No battle plan survives contact with reality” – to adapt an old military saying. Each child differs. One will pick up reading as easily as walking, and almost as early. Another will wait until years later. One will simply inhale math, another will master it at a slower pace – but may have other remarkable gifts.

As for reading, read interesting books and talk about them. As for math, do interesting math problems; “verbalize the math” in your everyday life. If there’s interest, keep stretching. Try to take a break while you’re still having fun.

A friend taught ESL in Thailand. He had a very simple method: everyone was advised to go to the library weekly; to pick a book which was both interesting and challenging; to write down any new words and look them up; to talk to him and ask questions any time. His students had excellent results. Obviously, they were considerably older than 16 months, but you get the idea – much less structure is needed than is typical in most schools.

My homeschooled grandchildren don’t have “reading class” at all. They ask for help learning to read at early ages, usually about 3 years. They master it within a year or 18 months. And they read a lot – going to the library, bringing home stacks of books, devouring them, talking about them. They share interesting passages, compare to other sources, and create scads of new ideas.

Other children learn to read at 8 or 9 years. Some have posted about how closed captions and Pokemon books enabled a 7 year old to advance very rapidly in just two months. Others report that Minecraft has encouraged their children to learn to read high-school level manuals.

One cannot predict and plan how one’s child will learn a year from now, much less six or ten years from now. Better to relax, observe and interact with one’s children, model interesting and humane conduct, model learning and literacy and numeracy and critical thinking and respect and adaptation and communication. In short, live an interesting and responsible life, and one’s child is likely to behave similarly.

3 thoughts on “No Plan Survives Contact With Reality”

  1. …..or you can do the Glenn Doman method at around 1 year old, and they can learn to read in the same way that they learn to talk.


    1. Thanks for your comment, Paul. I’ve heard a little about the Glenn Doman method, and some parents find it works well.

      A few, unfortunately fall into the trap implied by this post: over-planning and expecting and worrying too much, paying too little attention to their own children, too much to their anxieties. I do believe early reading is beneficial, but it’s very important not to instill fear and loathing in children, who naturally love to learn.

      From what I’ve read, Doman strikes a similar balance in his writing. His method works best when children enjoy it as a fun form of play, not “work,” not forced.


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