A pioneer in the field of early childhood education, Dr. Sally continues her work as a writer, and we are thrilled to have her writing for us. Based on her many previous books, Dr. Sally is now bringing us her insights. You ask your question, and you will get your answer… right here! This will not be just any answer. It will be just that one that will help you a lot. Check in every week to see what special tip she has to offer.
Dr. Sally shares…
Sometimes you pick your profession, and other times your profession picks you. Read on, and you will soon know exactly what happened to me.
Dr. Sally’s Story as told by Dr. Sally
When my older daughter Cynthia was born in 1976, she came into the world with a disability, a condition that put her behind the starting line in every area of development. At the same time I arrived as her mother, a first grade teacher with a basic understanding of the beginning of education and a lot of love. “Where do I go from here?” The job was clear–to get Cynthia off to the best start possible, but the answer for how to do that was not. What was the best way to give Cynthia that important foundation? Who had the knowledge and expertise to make that happen? Who could help to sort this out?
First I reflected on all the teachers and tutors I had met, and none of them seemed like they would be qualified for the job. Then I looked for help through the child care system, but there were only a handful of programs, and none of them seemed to be good enough. Finally, after giving the situation enormous amounts of thought, I realized that the early years were the most important learning ones and that the best time to begin was then. Since no formal teaching was available on the baby/toddler level, I knew I had to figure it out and made up my mind to try.
I had originally chosen to become a first grade teacher because I intuitively liked the idea of getting children off on the right foot. “The beginning” held the key. While first grade at the time was considered the beginning of formal education, I had always suspected that real teaching should start earlier. I had often questioned the wisdom of waiting and wondered if the infant/toddler/pre-school years might really be the right time. I sensed that basic skills might be easier and more natural to learn on a lower level and that maybe the best way to teach reading might really be while learning to talk. There was no time to waste.
Faced with this challenge, I did what any other mother in the same situation would have done– read all there was to read about baby education and then buy all there was to buy that might help. There were only a few books available: How to Raise a Brighter Child by Joan Beck, The First Three Years of Life by Burton White, Loving and Learning by Norma McDiarmid, and Teach Your Baby to Read by Glen Doman. While the term “educational toys” did not yet exist, I found a few wooden toys made in Finland that would have qualified by today’s standards. One was a rattle with movable parts that made a noise when you shook it. Another was a cause-and-effect crib gym. Still a third was a unique one-piece bending cylinder that combined fun and purpose. I really liked them all. Together these three well-constructed wooden toys along with those four high quality books all gave me just the right background I needed to begin work. Eventually I wrote a book Teaching with Toys: Making Your Own Educational Toys based on the unique set of teaching toys that I had developed.
Cynthia and I ended up being a great pair. The more I taught her, the more she learned. Then the more she learned, the more I taught her. And so the process continues… all the way up to current times. While she has become an expert in her own right advocating for others, I have developed a full professional career in the field of early childhood education. With her focus on art, poetry, and public speaking, she is bound and determined to spend her life helping others; and with my love of teaching, I have an endless desire to spread the word about the effectiveness of early learning and the impact it can have on later life.
I began my pursuit to help Cynthia with observing her as a baby. What was she actually doing? The answer was playing. She played with cards, paper, plastic containers and other simple household items. She also gravitated to people and responded well to family and friends with whom she interacted often. I noticed that repetition and familiarity were behind what and whom she remembered.
Then one day I thought, “If I make her toys that exhibit basic concepts like colors and letters, maybe, through the process of repetition and familiarity, she would learn them.” Before long, I made such toys, and not long after that she showed that she remembered them. Numbers and shapes were next, and soon she was reading over 100 words.
By the time she was three, she started to attract attention. One mother asked, “Our children are much older, and they don’t have any kind of disability, but they do not know anything like your daughter does. How did you teach her?” If I get a group of mothers together, would you give us some workshops on how you taught your daughter?” she continued. Even though I really did not know at the time what I had actually done, I was flattered by the request and said yes. In time I figured out how to organize all the toys I had created. Then I made a plan for how to explain them. Before long, she had the mothers together, and I was out there giving a series of six workshops to my neighbors. For each session I gave out separate handouts, and it was those handouts that I eventually turned into my first book Teaching With Toys: Making Your Own Educational Toys published in 1981 by the University of Michigan Press.
During that time Cynthia and I had a golden opportunity to peek into the field of early development and find out a little more about it. By chance we were able to validate some information about early learning that had formerly been known only in a theoretical way. Through concrete practices we could see day in and day out that effective input brought about worthwhile output. Through our own experiences we then knew first-hand that the early years were indeed the all-important learning years.
Was it normal love and my educational background that truly made this happen as I had originally thought? It had to be something else. What was it? A power. Parents hold a power that guides them to do just the right thing for their child at just the right time. It is some kind of energy that a parent releases at just the right time in just the right amount to solve a child problem. The solution can be as simple as calming a crying baby, or it can be as complicated as nursing a sick child back to health. No matter the challenge, parents have this extra strength to go to any length to help their child. Yes, by using my maternal power, I was able to provide for Cynthia the foundation that she needed to succeed.
While the first successes had to do with beginning concepts and learning from homemade toys, the next ones had to do with skills like reading, writing, listening and thinking and learning from home-designed games. There was math, motor, mid-line development and much more. Before long I explained everything in Growing with Games: Making Your Own Educational Games, published by the University of Michigan Press in 1986.
Where Do We Go from Here?
With this information and all that came after it, today children and parents are still in need of guidance and direction. Why? With the abundance of information available–in books, magazines, and on the Internet, what could be missing? It had to be something important, something major. What did Cynthia have to help her to reach such heights? Was it her high self-esteem, clear sense of self, and feelings of inner strength? She leaves no doubt in your mind when you meet her that she is determined to succeed. Hmmm, where do we go from here in the world of parenting?
It is experiences that make the difference. People are a product of them. The more positive and productive they are the more positive and productive the person will be. Experiences take place 24 hours a day, seven days a week, 52 weeks a year, and every year. There is no break. Every minute is important. While it is every child who should have the finest experiences, it is every parent who should know how to provide them.
The Next Step
A blog! What a good way to teach this kind of information! I can divide it up into three parts: tips that include activities, Q & A, and parenting techniques. In this way, not only can I provide the most up-to-date useful information, but I can also deliver it in small user-friendly sequences. Last but not least, I can give feedback. And now I do.
I am the proud mom of two beautiful daughters. Cynthia holds down a job as an advocate, volunteers with her local Kiwanis club, is a member of the Mashpee Chamber of Commerce, flourishes in the arts, writes her own inspirational poetry, and performs in a musical troupe. Most recently she has started to give public speaking presentations as a way to inspire and encourage others. Her sister Deborah, proud mom of Emma and Brandon, is a speech therapist who enjoys an amazingly full life of her own. Writing is my passion, and I get to enjoy that right here online with you.
Sally Goldberg, Ph.D. was the first parenting expert on “Parent to Parent,” a FOX TV Channel 7 weekly news segment. Dr. Sally is a professor of education and parenting book author.
A prolific magazine writer, Dr. Sally has been published often in a multitude of magazines across the country. Her regular columns have appeared in Florida Wise, Florida Baby, Today’s Parent, and Viewpointe. Her unique, logical, and down-to-earth advice has been quoted in numerous magazines and newspapers including Parent’s Magazine and American Baby. Consumer Reports featured her concepts in two major editions of Best Baby Products.
Dr. Sally worked for many years as an instructor of early childhood education on the adjunct faculties of Nova Southeastern University, Barry University, and the University of Phoenix. Well-known for her tools and strategies for self esteem development, Sally was a national conference presenter and a frequent guest on TV and radio.
Dr. Sally was one of the nation’s first parent coaches and founder of Dr. Sally Parenting, Inc. She has Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees from Cornell University and a Ph.D. from the University of Miami. Check out: Amazon’s Complete Selection of Sally Goldberg Books.