Friday, May 2, 2008
Homeschooling a Toddler?
I'm really interested in homeschooling. I only have one child, and she's only (not quite) 20 months old, but I'm so excited about this that I've had a "school" time of the day since she was 9 months old. We do fun and silly activities that target whatever she seems to be ready to learn at any given stage. When we first started, she was working on saying letter sounds (da-da-da-da-da), and so I would make up funny songs and rhymes focusing on one particular sound each day. She was also fascinated with touching and tasting everything, and so during school time I would give her interesting textures and tastes to explore. I would say over and over to her things that I really want her to learn, like the Apostle's Creed, the Lord's Prayer, the Ten Commandments, John 3:16 (inserting her name), the Shema from Deuteronomy, and I made up a song with the fruit of the Spirit. I would also dance with her singing Christian songs, began working on colors and animal sounds, etc. Now, like I said, she is 20 months old, and she is doing fantastic. I'll never know whether or not any of her amazingly advanced learning has anything to do with our school time, but she blows me away with how well she is doing. And there have been several really positive things that have come from this:
1. She LOVES school. I say, "It's school time," and she half runs half leaps to her room, clapping her hands and saying "school!" Such super positive associations with the word "school" can't be bad.
2. I am learning, for my part, how she learns. Like, yesterday I showed her the lower case r. She hardly glanced at it, but I suspected, because I know how she learns so well at this point, that she got it. Sure enough, a little later she picked up the 2 playdough r's I had made and declared "Two r's!"
3. It gives me a fun, creative, and intellectual challenge in my parenting. I am often thinking about new things we can do during our school time, new ways to work on things she seems to be ready to learn. It is SO MUCH FUN to come up with little games and songs and activities, and it is so rewarding to watch her enjoy the fruit of my thinking and really learn new things through it.
4. It increases the bond between us. Because I don't have it in my mind that "she'll learn that when she goes to school" - be it social skills or reading or science - I am constantly focusing upon what I can do to help her develop to her fullest potential in every area of her life. Consequently, parenting is much more engaging for me that it would be otherwise. As my mothering heart and mind stretch out to cuddle and nurture all of her, we are both growing and we are growing close together.
So, the point of this blog is going to be to record the activities I'm doing with my daughter both for future reference and to share ideas with other moms who are also interested in working with their children at home, either to supplement nursery school or as a substitute. One other note - I've noticed that moms homeschooling a large family tend to neglect the toddlers. Babies go in slings, older kids get "schooled," and toddlers are left to fend for themselves with trucks or something. I only have one child and imagine it must be very difficult to work with each child well at all points of their lives. But please don't forget - your 9 year old will never be able to learn Spanish like your 2 year old can right now. Your toddler is right now establishing his/her capacities and love of math, music, nature, language, etc. - that window isn't going to be open forever. I think the reason we are inclined to begin homeschooling around the age of 3 or 4 is that this is when the wider culture does so - but they do so because younger children are wiggly, more "difficult" to work with (if your idea of "working" with them is sitting quietly at a table with worksheets), and probably need to be home with mom if possible, anyway. But as homeschooling families, I think we should know better. No one thinks the toddler phase is insignificant in their development. So my plea - please give intentional attention to your toddler as you are able. The benefits will last for the rest of his/her life. This blog is devoted to giving ideas geared toward working with those younger years without having to buy curriculum.