Early Learning – the 20-20 Vision Through Hindsight on What Worked for Us

We’ve come a long way since the early days when I first started exploring early learning for Aristotle. Someone asked me a while back how my views on early learning have changed, what I would still do and what would I do differently. I have been giving this a lot of thought and if I were to have another baby – not saying we are planning to have another child but hypothetically speaking – this is what I would do…

Early Literacy

There is a strong movement for and against early reading. Some experts think it’s bad for really young children to be “taught” to read. In my personal study of two (and based on those whom I am familiar with through early learning forums), early literacy has been nothing but beneficial. In my experience, I have yet to come across a parent who told me they felt their child was negatively affected from learning to read “too early”.

The biggest paradox I find with early literacy is that some experts think it is okay to inculcate good reading habits by reading lots of books to our children, but the moment we bring out the flash cards, that’s when it’ll all go to the s***s. The premise, it seems, is that we will somehow ruin our children because we flashed a bunch of cards with words and pictures on them. Does that mean all those board books with single pictures and words are bad, too? Those are like flash cards in disguise, right?

Here’s my 1 buck from my experiences…

Aristotle learned to read mostly because I read to him a lot. I did do a bit of flash cards, but not a whole lot – definitely not a complete flash card program because I was still new to the early learning scene and didn’t know a whole lot about it. Whatever I did do with flash cards, I did all wrong because I didn’t understand how really young children learned. Flash cards can be a really great learning medium but you have to know how to do it right (more about that in another post). With Hercules, I started with Doman’s flash cards, then I moved to BrillKids Little Reader because I felt it was a more complete program and because it was easy to use and very convenient for a busy Mum.

The reason why I think the earlier the better is because when your child is very young, they’re interested in just about anything new that you have to show them. They are more eager to learn. If you wait until they are 6-7, as is the recommended age, they’ll be more interested in what’s on the TV, playing games on their iPads, or annoying their little brothers. Granted, some kids will still learn how to read easily at 6-7 years old, but I’m willing to wager that a lot more will struggle compared to if they had started earlier.

If I had left my two boys to their own devices, I’m pretty sure Aristotle would naturally have picked up reading early and that he would have done it quite easily because he’s just that sort of kid – he’s bookworm. Now that we’ve bought him the e-reader, he preferentially elects to read over the iPad at times, especially if he’s on a very entertaining series. Hercules, on the other hand, would have had a much harder time learning to read if I had not done the Little Reader program with him. We could see this from the way they both responded to books from an early age. Aristotle could sit and listen to me read book after book and still beg for more after my voice had given out. Hercules could barely sit through the reading of one book without attempting to turn the pages before I was done, or getting up to find something else to do.

So even though I’m sure the Aristotles of the world don’t really need to start learning to read early, it is the children like Hercules who will benefit most from an early start. Either way, it doesn’t hurt to start reading early. I’m also pretty sure that it was our early reading program that helped Hercules develop an appreciation for books, and that it is the reason why he even bothers to sit down and read now.

Flash cards

Kind of like early literacy, there is also a strong anti-flash card movement. I think it is because there is a misconception that the use of flash cards with young children equates to pressure and hot-housing. I’m not really sure where this misconception arises from but I’ll wager a guess that it might be because it is felt that children are being robbed of their play time. If that’s the case, I think it’s silly. Don’t get me wrong – I am a big supporter of learning through play. I think play is very important and that children should get lots of time to play and explore on their own. However, I also support the use of flash cards in early childhood. Perhaps somewhat ironically I believe that flash cards are more important for the younger children and here’s why…

Just as with learning to read, I find that the younger your child is, the more interested he will be in what you have to show him. And because young children learn so fast, the amount of time you spend flashing cards a day is actually a very insignificant proportion of their day. With Hercules, it took me about 15 minutes a day (give or take a couple) and then we were done. As long as you perform your flash card program well, your child will enjoy the sessions with you and will ask for more. If not, you probably need to revisit the way you’re doing it. After while, there will come a time when your child may outgrow this phase and he will make it clear what he wants to see and what he isn’t interested in.

For their ease of use and the convenience, I used Little MathLittle Musician and Little Reader Chinese for my flash card program. If I had to do it all again with baby no. 3, I would still take this path.

BrillKids International Literacy Day and Back to School Promotion

To celebrate International Literacy Day, BrillKids is offering a Back to School promotion on all their products! From 6 September  to 23 September 2013, you can get 10% off Everything! Prices are already discounted. For an additional 10%, use this coupon code: BKAFF36716.

BrillKids Promo Sep 2013

Right Brain Education

Given that Aristotle is 6 and Hercules is 3, it is still early days for us to comment on exactly how much we are getting out of our right brain education experience. Both boys demonstrate a lot of promise and I am hopeful that we will see the kind of results that are coming from Japan. Since my boys will be the first wave of children with right brain education in our country, we have no local predecessors to look towards for inspiration. Follow us on this journey and I will continue to share with you our results.

Published by Shen-Li

SHEN-LI LEE is the author of “Brainchild: Secrets to Unlocking Your Child’s Potential”. She is also the founder of Figur8.net (a website on parenting, education, child development) and RightBrainChild.com (a website on Right Brain Education, cognitive development, and maximising potentials). In her spare time, she blogs on Forty, Fit & Fed, and Back to Basics.

4 thoughts on “Early Learning – the 20-20 Vision Through Hindsight on What Worked for Us

    1. Yes I did. And I totally recommend it to any parent wanting to teach their young child to read. It was a vital part of our early ed program for Hercules and because of it, he is now reading very well and interested in books and reading. Hercules has always been an active child who had trouble sitting still. I really think he wouldn’t really be quite as interested in books if we hadn’t made it a focus of our early learning program. Being a child with a much shorter attention span compared to his brother he needed the short, punchy and engaging style of Little Reader. I cannot expressed how glad I am that I had Little Reader as a resource for teaching him to read.


  1. good to know! 🙂
    regretted that i bought little math first, thinking i can do reading on our own but later on ive decided to get little reader too (would be cheaper if i purchase both together).

    i have a baby 4 months old next week. when do u think its best to start the program?
    im aware many other babies started at 3 months old and etc. it varies.

    is there any developmental milestones that i should observe before i can start flashing?

    when did u begin with hercules?


    1. I started with physical cards first (I bought the Glenn Doman kit) but I saw we needed more so I finally bought LR and LM together. I hesitated at first because I already spent so much money on the Doman kits. In hindsight, I should have just gone straight with BrillKids. I cannot recall exactly when we shifted to LR but I think he was about 10 months. We started physical flashcards when he was 3 months. Hercules’ was a “slower” child and didn’t show much response for a long time. I confess I had my doubts at first, too, because he wasn’t like the other children who were responding very quickly. But after remembering what happened with Aristotle when I gave up signing to him, I kept going with the programs with Hercules and didn’t have any expectations of him. After a while, he finally started showing me what he knew – which was so much more than I even realised! – and I was glad I didn’t stop.

      The other thing with Hercules was that even though he wouldn’t show me he recognised the words, he would still ask me to do LR and LM with him everyday. When he was old enough, he would crawl into my lap and point to the icons on my desktop to show me what he wanted.


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