I am not a teacher. I am a mom. And this is why I’ve chosen to entitle this series of articles “Learning With Your Children” instead of “Teaching Your Kids”. I volunteer in my daughter’s classroom at school and my respect for teachers has grown immensely since I began. They have loads of kids, loads of material to cover (and likely loads of headaches).
You know how Grandma always comes over with her chocolate chip cookies and her, er, fun-loving lack of discipline and you think to yourself, “gosh darn it, I wish I could have fun like that but I have to make sure they eat a healthy supper! How is it that my mom who never once took ME to McDonalds, decides she wants to take my kids there once a week *wail*.”
Well, cheer up! You can be the fun one when it comes to learning. The teachers don’t have the leisure of unlimited one-on-one time and a mini-van full of gas parked in the driveway. You do! (well, maybe not a mini-van but you get the idea) You can take the kids on field trips every week if you want to and spend time learning skills while investigating things they enjoy.
When the kids come home from school, they’ve had a full day of being taught in a classroom setting. So, when I sit down with Tasha we approach it as more of a team learning experience. Sometimes she tells me about the things she’s learned in school (they learn cool stuff!), sometimes I help her with her homework, sometimes we choose to learn something new to both of us and sometimes we hop in the van -- paper, pen and camera in hand -- and head out to explore the world. I very rarely mention the terms teaching, learning or homework. I very frequently use the words fun, neat and cool!
THE MOST DAMAGING WORD IN THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
It’s a special day. You’ve taken the kids to the babysitter. You’re going to surprise your husband with a romantic dinner for two.
You work at it all day… making yourself pretty, cleaning up the house and cooking the very-most-awesomely-amazing gourmet meal you can. You look back on your efforts and are proud and nervous.
Your husband walks in and says… “Oh honey! I love your hairdo. But your eye-shadow needs a bit of work.”
“The house is very clean… I’m so happy with what you’ve done. But I think you forgot to dust.”
“The chicken a l’orange looks wonderful, but I think you overcooked it just a tad.”
No matter how gently he tried to add those “buts”, the story would likely end with a deflated mommy (and a dead daddy).
It’s a special day. You’ve brought home your first piece of homework to show your mom. You’re excited to sit down with her and show her all the wonderful things you’ve learned in school.
You work at the preparation all day… reading the story, drawing a picture about it and writing the very-most-awesomely-amazing book report you can. You look back on your efforts and are proud and nervous.
Your mommy walks in and says… “Oh honey! You read that page SO well. But that word right there is really kitten, not cat.”
“The picture is very colorful… I’m so happy with what you’ve done. But I think you forgot to put a nose on the little boy.”
“Your printing looks wonderful, but I think you’ve forgotten to put periods at the end of your sentences.”
No matter how gently mommy tried to add those “buts”, the story would likely end with a deflated child.
The most damaging word in the English language is a simple, 3 letter conjunction. It can destroy self-confidence and motivation. It should be used with extreme caution!
When you sit down to learn with your child, decide before hand what your hidden message will be. Are you going to be focusing on math? Science? Writing style? Spelling? Punctuation? Following instructions? Once you decide, stick to your guns. Only “BUT” in when the children have made an error in your lesson of choice. If you're working on math, let the punctuation slide. If you're working on creativity, don't worry so much about spelling.
For the other aspects of what they’ve done, just let it go today… if you notice they’re making lots of errors in an area, choose to focus on that area the next day. Maintain a balance between observing, planning for future lessons and constructive criticism. They don't have to go from kindergarten to college in a week.
Moms... minimize your buts! *wink*
You’re a mom! (dad/grandma/etc) and you’re brilliant. You know darn well what works for your kids so don’t be second-guessing yourself just because someone else says “My Tiffany is reading at a Grade 4 level and she hasn’t even started school yet…”
Well, I bet Tiffany can’t make up a story out of thin air that any grade 4 would find an interesting read like My Tasha can *wink*. Each kid is different and learns different things at different rates… don’t fret it. Build on the skills they have and sneak in the skills they don’t have while gazing at dinosaur bones.
Every child learns a bit differently. I have two girls and at the ripe old ages of 6 and “almost 3”, they’ve already begun to demonstrate differences in subject preferences and learning styles.
Tasha (now Age 6) loved free-time coloring and drawing when she was younger … still does, actually. When craft-time rolled around, she liked a bunch of stuff plopped in front of her and then exercised her “free will” rather forcefully *grin*. She had a hard time following directions for structured crafts and was often frustrated with the process. In school now, her favorite activity is writing in her Journal… again demonstrating an astounding ability and level of patience when making up her own stories. She is not nearly so impressive when she’s supposed to be completing a more structured project (but I still think she’s amazing!)
Kaitlyn, on the other hand, likes more structured craft making. She likes to know what she’s supposed to make and where the pieces are supposed to go. Although not very creative on her own, she is extremely proficient at getting things put together correctly. She listens very carefully to instructions and follows through on what needs to be done. She’s always very proud when she gets it right!
I wanted to mention this right off the bat, because I’m going to give a variety of different ideas for learning with your kids over the next few weeks. Some will work for you and some won’t. Don’t do it just because it’s in a book or on a computer screen. Try, try again until you find the routine that works for you. And then share it with others!
Also, every child has “moods”. One day, journal writing is the fun thing and the next it’s junior science. Be flexible, give choices, let THEM decide. You don’t actually have a curriculum to cover tonight… it can’t hurt to change your plans a smidge. And, you don’t have 30 different kids to please!