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Thursday, November 20, 2008
The Intentional Teacher: babies on up
I'm often asked, "When did you officially start homeschooling?" The truth is, we've been intentionally homeschooling from the beginning. Everyone homeschools in some manner, whether they know it or not. You are always teaching your children something- why not be an intentional teacher?
How can you be an intentional teacher? I've listed six ways to start teaching your preschoolers and beginners..... without plopping them behind a desk!
1. Read to them... a lot. Read rhymes, read novels, read the bible, read stories loaded with pictures.
2. Tell them stories. Make up stories. Go through a photo album- pointing out pictures and explaining what is happening in the photos.
3. Allow them to explore. Let them bang on things, cut paper, doodle, finger paint, dig in the dirt, take things apart...... all under your supervision for safety, but with minimal direction.
4. Ask them questions. Children are great at asking questions. They want to learn about everything. Try turning the tables and asking them questions. Ask them how they feel about certain things, what they think you should do next, how they think something should be done, how they think someone else feels, etc. Their answers may not make much sense to you. They may not even be on topic, but listen and continue to ask questions.
5. Yes, listen. LISTEN to what your children are saying. Pay attention to what they are doing. You'll find out what they are interested in, and you can help them explore those things (by printing out information on the internet, going to the library, visiting a museum, etc). It helps to keep a record of what they're talking about, what they're doing, and what they're interested in.
6. Allow them to help. Sometimes our need for prim and proper perfection keeps us from allowing our children to help out with things. Yes, it might mean more mess. It might take more time, but your children will benefit (and so will you). They can help you cook, clean, pick up sticks, take out the trash, rearrange furniture, decorate the Christmas tree, feed the dog... etc. Teaching them how to help around the house is more than a course in home ec.
I know listening is one of the hardest things for me to do because my children, especially my second child, are very talkative. Nolyn talks all the time, except when he is sleeping. He never really had a babbling stage. He began talking in full sentences very early and hasn't stopped sense. I tend to tune him out much of the time because he repeats things over and over (whether he's talking to me or not, and whether I've answered him or not). That's something that I'm working on- really tuning in and not tuning out.
Remember, it's never too early to start reading. Read to your newborn. Read to your toddler. Don't expect your children to sit still and peer at every page. Just because they don't seem to be paying attention, doesn't mean they aren't.
For example, my daughter, Merikalyn, likes to sit right next to me when I'm reading. Nolyn, on the other hand, will usually play and mumble to himself several feet away, but when I ask the two of them questions about the book, he usually answers correctly. He may not look like he's listening, but he is.
I see many parents who think their children need to read and write by the age of four or five. Studies have shown that children who go through heavy early education and those who don't end up on the same level by fifth grade. We need to go at our children's pace. Let's not set them up for frustration and burn out.
It's important to look at your intentions. Are you trying to produce a child that you can brag about or is your desire to nurture that love of learning within your child, encouraging her to research, explore, and try things out. Be honest with yourself.
Mandy is a homeschooling graduate who spent the majority of her schooling years in public schools before deciding to switch to homeschool halfway through highschool. You can read more about her and her family at MandyMom.com
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