queries on toddler-teaching

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

School started in our town today. The buses were out, the children supplied and dressed and sent in by eight to be "educated" until four. Many of my friends and acquaintances have also begun their homeschooling programs over the last few weeks.

In the last few years, I've been somewhat isolated from it all, but it is closer to home now than it was. It is something to consider: how will our children learn? I'm embarrassed to admit that I really have no idea where to begin.

Even at two, Piper shows how much she wants to learn with her letter recognition (spotty though it may be), her counting (we count to five, and she insists on adding the "six!"), and her pattern recognition that has her "reading" the titles on our unboxed videos. She knows most of her colors now (pink is her favorite - those of you who know me well will appreciate the humor in this), and she has opinions on everything.

I've been contemplating the idea of using an hour or so during the day to sit and learn a little together before Button comes in December. But what will we learn? What should I teach her? I know it will look like play to me because she learns so much through play right now. I don't want it to look like another movie, another hour she has to figure out what to do with herself while Mommy tries to get work done.

I am not very good at "playing" with Piper; we both have our own ideas about the way things should be done. I am realizing that the only way for me to try to teach my daughter anything at this point is to create a space where she doesn't believe she's being "schooled." Her strong sense of her own freedom turns those pages long before she's absorbed what I am telling her is on them. Yet she is very open to stories, interested in pointing out what she knows already.

I'm not sure how to make this transition from cuddling and holding to nurturing and expanding Piper's world. I know she is only two, but I think I need some time to grow into this, to learn her a bit more, to learn me a bit more, and she is so ready and eager to take it all on.

What have you done with your little ones when they begin to learn? I'm not a natural at this like my mom was. How is helping Piper learn to be an adventure for me? Do you have any suggestions for materials I could use, ideas for activities we could do? Thoughts on dealing with a toddler who has her own ideas about life?

(image from sxc)


Heidi said...

I think *all* children learn best if they think of learning as play - not as "schooling." I think when I have kids I want to avoid using the word "school" as long as possible (or the phrase "it's time for school.") *Every* moment is ripe for learning - I think the important thing is to recognize the opportunities and seize them. All children love to learn - like Piper, adding the six - I think the tragedy is that we adults "sit them down to learn" and "do school" and before long they think of it as drudgery, something they *have* to do.

So I think the key is to just work with their natural desire to learn rather than fit them into our molds of preschool or kindergarten or whatever.

I also think when my time comes I will do a LOT of reading on Montessori...from what little I know I LOVE what she does with little children.

Carol said...

Already you've taught her colors, numbers, counting, and zillions of other things. Just keep it up. When she wants to know letters, teach her the sounds of those letters. (Teach the letters in her order, when she asks about them.) You don't have to teach the name of the letter at this point. When she knows the sounds (short vowels and hard consonants like K for the letter C rather than the S sound), you can begin combining a short vowel and consonant. When she's ready, you can make 3 letter words. I would never sit down at a table to do this....just do it as you go about your day. Don't change your day in any way. Just keep adding to her repertoire of things she knows. And keep doing this until it's absolutely necessary to sit down with texts and workbooks (which may be never, or may be in late grade school). Try to keep "school" out of her vocabulary as long as possible, and never try to force learning down her throat. Most of us adults who were schooled in a traditional way do not remember much at all of what we supposedly learned. Why homeschool or public/private school at all if that's going to be the outcome?

Talk about colors and then get out some paints and mix colors to make new colors. Count the stairs and the plates and the ducks and then add one more step or plate or duck. When daddy isn't there to eat, take away one plate and ask how many are left. It's so very easy at this age to introduce things.

And of course, read, read, read to her. You can concentrate on the pictures now, but later sometime, you can move your finger along the words as you read and talk about the letters and the sounds they make.

Most of all, have fun!!! None of the "have to" drugery that can come with "school."

the Joneses said...

Daphne is older, and also sees her older siblings "do school," so Piper might not take to this idea as much: but my kids always liked sitting down and doing a quick worksheet. You can print them off online or draw your own. "Where is the triangle? Color on the triangle. Where's the square? Color on the square. Where's the circle? Color on the circle. Yay! You're done! Very good!" Repeat until she loses interest, probably no more than 10 minutes. Other than that, just carry on with what you've been doing!

-- SJ

Kelly said...

Oooh - the practical suggestions are wonderful! Pip will sit down as long as she thinks it's time with Mom. I just want to start building that "Mom/learning time" into our routine...

Monica @Know-Love-Obey God said...

Do you live near a zoo where you can get a membership? When mine were that age, we went every Monday. Even now, we go about once a week during summer break.

Christy said...

What I loved to do when the girls were little was take them to the local library for story time. I also liked the book "Slow & Steady Get Me Ready" which has an activity (an educational game using household objects) for every single day of your child's first 5 years. It's pretty amazing. You obviously don't have to do it every day, just pick the ones you like best. I can actually give you a copy of the book when you're up here. I heard that you're coming up the weekend Kate is moving. Let me know if you want it.

My kids are actually begging me to start school this year, if you can believe it.

Kelly said...

Christy, I'll take it! I'll call when we're up, stop by to say hey!

ellen said...

I took the same approach Daphne did when my oldest was two. I printed out little letter sheets. I would draw with him, drawing shapes, etc, and asking him about them. He loved it. He also loved it when I'd draw the alphabet with sidewalk chalk in the driveway and we'd play alphabet hopscotch. We'd throw a small rock and try to name the letter before he jumped on it.

We started first, though, with what he wanted to do. Then after a little bit of time, I got to pick. That seemed to work with my very independent child.

Even after my second was born and I couldn't be very organized, I tried to find at least 15 or 30 minutes a day to give time to him (realistically, sometimes five minutes!). Since I was already in a little pattern it seemed slightly easier.

Carrie said...

I found this awesome website the other day called "Tot School" - here's the link - http://lapbooksbycarisa.homestead.com/TotSchool.html - I love the ideas & am going to start some of them with Zachary this fall before OUR baby comes in December. :) I heard somewhere that it's really important to let them 'create' every day - either drawing, coloring, painting or sculpting with play-doh, and I really need to get better at taking time for this. :)

cori said...

There are lots of awesome ideas already posted here. But I can't resist giving you my two cents as well.:)

The best book anyone ever gave me was Jim Trelese, "The Read Aloud Handbook". I was given this when I was pregnant, devoured it and have never stopped reading to my children. This time together is such a gift. They learn immeasurable things, plus the time with you will give Piper more pleasure/bonding than you realize.

I would advise following her lead. She is processing so much about the world around her right now. Every second she is learning. Going for a walk, collecting leaves and gluing on a piece of paper is super fun. Then holding your hand around hers as you write the letters will help her hand feel what writing is like.

Everything is tactile at her age. She wants to touch, feel, put in her mouth everything.

It's fun to put shapes made with masking tape on the floor and watch what she does with it. Maybe she'll lay all her toys along the tape, following the shape, maybe she'll lay on all sides of the shape, maybe she'll sit inside of it. It will be so fun to watch how her mind is processing this fun stuff. And it has nothing to do with school and everything to do with learning!

My hope for you is that you just have fun with her. Don't feel any pressure to 'teach' her per se. Just enjoy time exploring together. She's learning way more than counting and letters. She's learning life.

Angela Fehr said...

I think kids are wired to learn - how much they learn before they even reach school age. And I hate hate this push to academia for preschoolers. They are learning! Stuff that interests them, that they are ready for, that teaches them how the world works! If you are reading to Piper, and talking with her and engaging her in your daily life, it is enough.
I do homeschool my 6 and 5 year old girls and we use Sonlight. It is a great program with lots of read-alouds and very communicative. I read Ruth Beechick and Raymond and Dorothy Moore when I need homeschooling reassurance and inspiration.

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