The concept of knowing and applying the basics is one of those lessons that's come to life through my son's, Little Man's, educational journey. In my son's magnet elementary school, two of the academic subjects that are covered every day are language arts (includes reading and writing) and mathematics. These two areas of study consist of core, foundational skills sets that youngsters need to pick up early and carry with them for the remainder of their lives.
So, one of the life lessons that I'm currently working on with Little Man is the idea that you have to know the basics first before you can take on newer, more challenging information or activities. For instance, in my son's third and fourth grade years of elementary school, it was incredibly beneficial to hone in on having him do regular math facts drills at home (in addition to any math instruction he was receiving from school). My husband and I used various techniques, such as memorization of math facts through the use of flash cards and timed worksheet drills over addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division problems.
Reason being: he'll be introduced to more difficult math concepts, multi-step problems, word problems, algebraic problems, etc. as he increases in grade level, so it was extremely important for him to get solid with working simple math facts, dealing with numbers 1 - 9. And then, he was able to move on to a concentration on math facts with higher numbers once becoming proficient with numbers 1 - 9.
In other words, first things first. You have to build the foundation correctly from the beginning in order to successfully add on to it. As adults, we know this to be true. If you have a foundation that isn't solid, then the whole structure is in jeopardy of caving in or falling over. And guess what happens to an unstable foundation? One of two things comes to mind.
Well, you sure can't build on it the right way, because anything you add to a faulty foundation will, inevitably, be faulty as well. So, you'll have to tear down the foundation and the structure that was built on this problematic foundation and start completely over. Or, you can try to bring in the supports needed to strengthen the foundation and make it strong enough to safely add on to, if it's salvageable.
In the first three primary years of Little Man's formal educational journey, I noticed that a pretty solid foundation (decent comprehension of basic math) had been built, but some of the ground work that was laid needed to be tightened up a bit. And those math facts drills have been incredibly helpful in preparing him for this fifth-grade year of math that's preparing him for what I call the less concrete (more abstract) math he'll be dealing with once he hits middle school. Fundamentals first, and then the hard core stuff will make more sense when he has to face it later on.
And some other areas of focus for the basics have been reading fluency and speed. As a matter of fact, these two areas are worked on each school day during Little Man's language arts instruction but have also become focal points of attention in our household as well.
Through some observation, reading fluency and speed are skills that Little Man can use some help in fine-tuning; so as his parents, my husband and I are going to give him the tools he needs to tighten down the nuts and bolts that are loose. And the simple tools we've chosen to utilize are more opportunities for Little Man to read out loud. We've even tied incentives into reading out loud.
For example, there was a period of time (during school breaks) when my husband would have Little Man read out loud for a certain amount of minutes before he would be allowed to watch one of his educational shows on PBS Kids or National Geographic. That timeframe of reading had to be met in order to partake of the entertainment, or Little Man would miss the incentive for that day. What Little Man was learning from this exercise is to work first, play later. He was also learning to work toward achieving a goal. You put work in to receive positive results out.
Another "learning the basics" opportunity for Little Man involves our bedtime routine, consisting of some form of reading before bed. It's been a part of the regular schedule for years. But, I've turned things up a notch and given him more of an "out loud" reading role in the last two years. Instead of me always reading to him, I make sure Little Man reads to me. Or, we take turns reading from a book during our reading time.
In order to make our reading sessions truly advantageous for my son, I allow him to create a list of books he's interested in reading, which are also considered AR (Accelerated Reader) books; and I'll go to our local bookstore and purchase one or two books at a time for him to read. By allowing him to pick books from authors or series he likes, I know Little Man will enjoy our reading time more. And, reading books on the AR list allows him to meet reading goals for school.
Furthermore, because my family and I have daily family Bible studies, we've incorporated Little Man into the reading scriptures rotation now that he's older and can more easily handle the difficult wording and sentence structure that occurs sometimes with the King James Version of the Bible. So, he's getting to read multiple scriptures (even a chapter or chapters of text) "out loud" at each setting.
I thoroughly enjoy having him take his turn at reading the Bible out loud, because he's exercising his reading comprehension of text by reading God's Word. I firmly believe that having Little Man read the scriptures out loud has allowed him to actually understand them better and he's great about asking questions when he doesn't understand something. It does a mom's heart good to know her child is learning both skills and content that are life-changing and life-sustaining.
So, what I've come to observe is that there appear to be WIN-WIN situations all the way around, when it comes to basics in math and reading skills practice for Little Man.
And when I look at how fervently I stress the importance of learning and applying the basics in order for my son to grow and move on to higher heights and deeper depths, I'm reminded of this same lesson I should be welcoming for myself. And, here's the deal. Going back to the basics requires that I look at the things I'm good at, that I enjoy doing, and that provide value to others.
What's that one predominant activity that hits all three criteria in my personal experience? Well, I said it best in my opening statement, "the basics, for me, is writing". And, I wholeheartedly mean this statement in the truest sense of the words. I write and have been writing, but I want to really hone in on my blogging and book writing skills and get truly proficient with them. I want to do all the self-instructional things I can do to become a better writer, whether that means reading e-books, taking online courses, or simply writing more (since you can't get better at something you don't do or practice enough of).