The Philosophy behind Encyclopedic Knowledge for children
One of the funnest and most rewarding programs I have found is Glenn Doman's "How to give your child Encyclopedic Knowledge". The underlying philosophy is very simple. Children are learning anything and everything that their environment can teach them. As their primary link to the adult world, we have an incredible opportunity to help them on their journey.
To paraphrase an example in his book, a child asks his mother "What’s that?" The mother has several ways that she can respond. "I don't know honey" is the most convenient answer. "It's a doggie" is an improvement because it shows the child that you are paying attention to their question. "That dog is a German shepherd." is a fantastic answer because in addition to giving your child's question the respect it deserves, you are also implying that there are many different kinds of dogs, and that there are specific names for them. This final answer was as simple to give as the former two and is much better for the child. If I gained nothing else from any of Doman's books, I did internalize this concept. I never speak baby talk with my children, conversely I have sometimes been teased for my crisp diction with them. That's okay. They're learning to speak English and I am their primary model. When Peter is curious about the toilet, daddy takes the back off and shows him the chain, the plug, the lever from the flush handle, and lets him watch how it all works. We have truly changed the way we interact with our children, and it has made all the difference.
To go back to the German shepherd example, what if we could take it one step further and teach our children the essence of "dog-ness"? By making bits of intelligence cards you can. They are essentially flash cards, but I have to smile that the book insists that they are to be called "bits". After all the work that goes into making these high-quality educational materials, it is an insult to call them flashcards. I am not insulted by the idea of using flashcards with my children if there is lasting value to it, but "bits of intelligence cards" has a nice ring to it, so that's what we'll call them. By showing your child several different dog breeds, even if they do not remember them all, they will still imply the elements that make an animal a dog. They will not be confused to think that cats or horses are dogs because they also have fur and walk on four legs. They will understand what makes a dog a dog. Sitting here writing, I am intimidated to explain in words what "dog-ness" is. I would want to get a scientific entry to paraphrase. But if you show your child several pictures of dogs, they will learn. They will internalize. They will understand.
Making Bits of IntelligenceFor detailed information on how to make good bits, I refer you to Doman's book. However, I have made several sets and do not mind sharing some of the tips I've learned. A good way to find pictures on the internet is to go to google and search just their image engine. I have found several good pictures this way. For example, for musical instruments, I searched for "violin", went through the pictures until I found a violin with a white background I liked, put it in a document where I could print it, and went on to search for clarinet, piano, saxophone, and other instruments.
When I make bits from found pictures, I use a gluestick for the picture on one side, and print of a short sentence (so I can use large print) about the animal in question on the other side. For animals, I like national geographic magazines, which are easy to find used. I have also used several calendars, and some people also use posters. I always laminate them, and they look very professional when they are done.
These are a few calendars that have yet to be made into bits. The bottom three are perfect because they are already just slightly smaller than 8½" by 11". I make all of my cards this size on cardstock because this size is readily available, more affordable, easy to laminate, and then easier to store. Doman never did say what was so special about 11" by 11", so I've disregarded that advice. I've even used flashcards from the dollar store, but tiny children try to eat them.
Brill Baby and Child and Me also have very good resources, but some of them don't have white backgrounds so they're not as printer-friendly. They're absolutely fantastic if you want to do your sessions on the computer and you don't want to make them. I drastically reduced my bit-making productivity when I discovered these resources, and that’s not a bad thing because my time with Peter increased. I purchased a laminater online for $35 from target.com. It only laminates 8 1/2 by 11 sheets or smaller, but it works really well. It's one of my favorite Christmas presents! I purchased 200 laminating sheets from Sam's club for $20, which was cheaper then their online price. I've seen similar prices on other sites for these products. That's the cheapest way I have found to laminate. We have used it a lot, so it was a good investment for us. I recommend laminating because my children can hold them and play with them without damaging them. I want a large family and will have less time for making materials as our family grows, so I need this time investment to pay off. It's so rewarding to see the finished product come out of the laminator. My husband laughs at me because I still giggle with delight when I finish a set.
The Encyclopedic Knowledge program in practice
Here I am doing a session of bits of intelligence cards according to Glenn Doman's book, "How to give your baby Encyclopedic Knowledge". I normally would not do this many cards in a session, and I admit that I'm testing him, which is not advised. Normally I would move through the cards quickly and simply tell him what they are. I made an exception this time because we wanted to make a video. He's 24 months old in this film.
In reading the Doman books, and seeing some of the you-tube videos of amazing tiny children its easy to get so excited about what we're going to do with our children, and when it doesn't work out, it's even easier to get a little depressed about it. "What am I doing wrong?" But we don't give up, and then magic moments happen and we see that we're not doing so bad after all. We have to be grateful for what our children are doing, and not get hung up over what they can't do. There are so many "genius baby" videos an the internet and they have inspired me to implement these programs in our home. But here we must be very careful, because it is so easy to compare our children. Maybe if our own child was side by side to these children in the real world we wouldn't be so intimidated. Each child is unique and has their own gifts and talents. This is not a competition.
When Peter was 12 months old, his interest in bits right seemed to be limited to throwing them all over the floor. Sometimes he would listen, sometimes he would look at the pictures, but mostly I would bring them out and know immediately that it was time to put them away. But I have been somewhat consistent by still offering to do it and a year later we are beginning to see the fruits of our sessions. He is growing every day, and what a joy it is for me as a mother to watch this little man blossom in his understanding.
Organizing your Bits of Intelligence Cards
If you plan on making several bits, it is imperative that you create some system to keep them organized. At first I simply put them on a bookshelf, but as my collection grew, I found myself spending more time looking for the specific cards I wanted then I did spending time showing them to Peter. The system I have in place now was very inexpensive, perhaps even a little tacky, but it is very efficient. I took a used food-storage box for #10 cans, which was the perfect size. I created tabs by cutting 8½ by 11 cardstock pieces in half and writing on them. The smaller tabs were simply trimmed to fit. This box is on my children's dresser, where I have easy access to it. I store construction paper and some other supplies behind the cards. This system works better for me than a filing cabinet would because it has no lid. A lid would create one more step to getting them out and putting them away, which would probably mean that I would not use them as often. To make the program effective and easy to use, create a system that is easy to access, easy to put away, and located where you spend a lot of time with your children. These cards get a lot of use and are loved by both of my children.