Investing in the Child’s First 2000 Days

When people ask me why we decided to homeschool our child when he was 3 years and 10 months, I tell them that I want to get to know his learning style better so I can match it with my teaching style as a parent. I have always believed that learning starts at home.

In one of the pediatric conferences I attended, the first 2000 days in the child’s life was in focus. There are only 2000 days between the time a baby is born and when he or she will begin kindergarten. During that time, brain architecture is forming, creating either a strong or weak foundation for all future learning. Harvard University neuroscientist Jack Shonkoff says, “Brains are built not born.” What happens in the first 2000 days sets the foundation for the next years of life.

Child development is a dynamic, interactive process and it occurs in the context of relationships, experiences and environments.

RELATIONSHIPS. When the child feels safe and secure, he can focus his attention on exploring. Children who receive sensitive, responsive care from their parents and other caregivers in the first years of life enjoy an important head start toward success in their lives. The secure relationships they develop with the important adults in their lives lay the foundation for emotional development and help protect them from the many stresses they may face as they grow (Werner and Smith, 1992).

EXPERIENCES. Experience strengthens connections in the brain. Neuroplasticity allows structural and functional changes in the brain brought about by experiences and training. Neuroplasticity in the first five years of life is the most critical period of human development. After the critical period, the brain may never again show the same ability to make changes in neural connectivity. During the first 2000 days, children’s brains grow fastest between the ages of 0 and 3 years.

ENVIRONMENTS. The young brain is very plastic and soft-wired, the child’s environment plays an important role. When the child is in a nurturing environment, with quality early learning experiences, children are more school ready.

It is primarily because of the maximal plasticity of the brain during the critical first years of a child’s life that I have decided to take on the major role of being my son’s first teacher. We are now in our fourth quarter and I must say, we were able to get to know each other, with my son wearing the hat of a learner while I wear the hat of a teacher. Our daily routine is far from perfect but as a mother, through direct observation, I am slowly understanding how he learns best. We have incorporated creative activities so that at an early age, he will realize that learning can, and should be fun.



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