today at a math training we were asked to think of a list of facts we want our children to just know- or have at automaticity (i know i spelled that wrong, but spell check isn't helping). we listed things like numbers 1-20, their names, their last names, their lunch pin numbers, and their birthdays.
the idea that there are children who don't know their birthdays is always shocking, but sadly, there are a surprising amount of children each year who come to school on their birthday and have no idea it is different than any other day. they literally do not know when or even what their birthday is.
this is sad on so many levels, but the more i thought about it the sadder it made me. children learn so many basic concepts we take for granted just by going through the experience of a birthday.
birthdays teach children:
-they are important. one day a year is theirs to celebrate, feel special, valued and loved in their families.
-adding- each year they add one to their previous age. it's their most intimate experience with number concepts.
-the name of at least one month, which means they understand what a month is. they begin to understand how we measure time.
-for children whose birthday falls in the teens or twenties, it is an introduction to what numbers look like after 9 when we go to two digit numbers.
-a sense of time. children who know their birthday is coming learn to wait- how to anticipate something- how to count down until that day.
-the concept of a year. you have to wait a full year until your next birthday, which introduces the idea of measuring time in months and in years.
-they are growing, and changing. the concept of that the passage of time brings change. once they understand it happens to them they will be able to generalize this fact to the world around them- flowers, trees, animals, and all of the life cycles we are surrounded by.
it is so sad to me whenever we, as teachers, tell a child it is their birthday. five year olds should be unable to sit still on their birthdays. they should be jumping beans driving us all crazy with their energy and excitement. their friends should constantly be telling us, "my birthday is when the snow comes", or, "my birthday was at the pool in july." i shouldn't have to say "happy birthday" to a little one and have them look at me confused, like, what's that? or, that's something that other children have- not me.