Monthly Archives: June 2011

The Best Teachers

My three young children had been quite ill for over a week. Allen got an upset tummy from something he had eaten; he was just recovering when the viral fever then came around, putting him back in bed for the next few days.

Over the weekend, their health was picking up, and by the start of the new week, I thought we could start out slowly with some school, just to get back in the groove a bit. Usually school time begins around 10:00am for them; today it was noon before we opened the school books. I tried to keep in mind that it had been over a week since their last lesson and might take a bit of time before a couple young kids would “get into it” again.Father and Son Washing Dishes

Still, it was difficult to keep from becoming frustrated, as Allen spent most of the morning either staring off into space, or crying at absolutely-nothing-in-particular. It was quite a departure from my usually happy little boy.

Jessica, on the other hand, had decided that she needed to do the whole last week’s worth of school in one day because she had been sick, and kept insisting on it, so much so that she was accomplishing absolutely nothing. I assured her that we could go at her pace today.

Needless to say, it was not the most productive school day we had experienced.

As a home-schooling mother, it isn’t always easy to find the right balance between school and life. There are some inspired and wonderful teachers and parents who turn every moment in life into an educational experience for a child, without the child even realizing that they are “learning”. Life is just one great experience after another and the parent manifests that in every moment of the day. They just make learning fun, exciting, and an unforgettable experience on a daily basis.

It is great when a parent, especially a home schooling one, can make education fun for children. Especially when they are young, they need a bit more excitement, interaction and inspiration. I have been blessed to have some of these folks teach my kids classes and songs from time to time. I often feel I can’t measure up to this class of teacher. I have borrowed a few of their ideas and tips to make learning fun. Other than that, I tell myself it takes all kinds, and as long as I am dedicated and manifest patience and love, my children will learn that which is most important.

A few tips, for those of us who need them…

Start each school day with something special. It can be as simple as a bug you found in the garden that morning, or a funny song on youtube, or a sketch of the child.

Have a “star system” of some kind, for good behavior, or great performance, or completing something in school. Be consistent and fair with the reward system and children and students will look forward to it.

Be spontaneous. You do have goals and requirements, but at the same time, a dull and uninspired child will work slowly and perform poorly. If you notice they are slowing down or lacking inspirational, introduce a new idea, or a fun break, a live class, or something to bring new vision into their day.

Most of all, strive to be inspired and happy yourself, as well as calm and patient, and every day can be a wonderful learning experience—not only for your children, but you as well. Kids are often the best teachers we have, and their exuberance and wonder can rub off on anyone, of any age. Pretty fair trade, I’d say.

 

Image by © Tim Pannell/Corbis

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Learning Styles, Cars, and “Tantennas”

“Mommy, yesterday I was doing school all day!”

That really wasn’t the case. In fact, he couldn’t have been sitting at the school table for more than a couple hours total (and that was due to focusing issues), but in the mind of a little boy, it has been “all day”.Boy studying

I explained that to him, and assured him that if he set his mind to it, he could accomplish his goals quickly. I also attempted (quite valiantly, I believe) to make his school as fun as possible.

Things went well and he was done before the morning was over, giving us the afternoon for projects and play.

It was Wednesday, and he was looking forward to learning how cars work, with daddy, later that afternoon.

As they played in the yard, my husband opened the hood and called him over. He explained different parts of the engine and their function. After each explanation, Allen would say, “Oh!” enthusiastically.

He finished explaining about the engine, closed the hood, and started doing something else, when Allen bounded up to him.

“Can you teach me more about cars?”

What started as a simple lesson ended up being a long and detailed explanation of every visible or partly visible part of the car.

That evening, I asked him what he had learned about cars. He started naming one part after another.  When he mentioned the “tantenna,” I first helped him with his pronunciation if it, and then asked if he knew what it was for.

“Listening to music,” he replied.

I explained to him that if I played music from my phone hooked up to the car speakers (as I often do), we wouldn’t need the antenna, and that the antenna is used when the music comes through the radio.

His next question was, “How does the music get into the antenna?” This prompted another extensive explanation—conducted in turn by myself and my husband—about radio waves and electromagnetic fields, about energy and discoveries.

Again, a number of wholehearted “Oh!”s showed his interest at the discussion and subject matter.

Every child has a different learning style (or styles). Every parent and teacher also has a different style (or styles) of teaching. Sometimes it is a challenge when you discover something isn’t working. Maybe you are discovering that your teaching styles are not all that similar to the learning styles of your child (or student). When you are the primary educator, that can present a fair challenge, to make times of learning fun and educational for both of you.

It often helps to find others who are available to take up certain aspects of learning, and be open to new methods of education, such as searching online and letting them learning something via youtube (that you have checked over first to make sure it’s okay), or asking a friend or relative if they can teach them some skill over the summer or during weekends. There is almost no limit to new and unique ways that a child can learn something; it just might take a bit of research or thinking outside the box, but it’s worth it.

I realize that my son won’t always ask me, as he did his father, “Can you teach me more?” but I can still do everything I can to help his times of education be interesting and interactive, and make every moment a learning experience.

 

(Image by © S. Seckinger/zefa/Corbis)

The Outside Solution

On those days that the indoors start to get to me, and I find myself becoming a bit claustrophobic with the four surrounding walls, parenting issues just seem magnified. The kids are louder, their tiffs are amplified, the messes they make just seem bigger, and on and on.

When the world seems smaller and small problems seem bigger, I realized that something automatically helps me feel a whole lot better—going outside. I don’t mean running outside for a moment of peace and quiet to escape from the “madding crowd” (though that helps at times). I mean bringing the kids along outside too.

Beneath towering trees and a timeless sky, amidst the cheerful sounds of birds and breezes, everything seems just a little more peaceful, enjoyable, and manageable.

boy playing outsideThere’s virtually no limit to what can be learned and experienced outdoors with just a “prop” or two—usually something that they find on their own.

With a few pieces of chalk, kids can create an imaginary world of fun, a hop-scotch tournament, or I can give an impromptu and interesting “chalk talk” (educational live class with pictures included).

They find sticks, and they are knights or soldiers.

They find dirt and they are digging for treasure or building castles.

They find bugs and they have discovered a whole new tiny world of living creatures.

They find grass, plants, and flowers and they have soft ground to fall on during a game of rough and tumble, or a place to run around and play tag.

And in the meantime, I can sit and take a few breaths of fresh air while watching them run around and play. Pretty soon they notice me sitting there and I get invited to a game of tag, or asked to draw a chalk train. After all, they want me to be a part of the fun…that’s what parents are for.

Love, Cards, and Goldfish

Children love to give and receive love. They understand a simple truth—that loves makes people happy. In their minds, love makes them happy and they like to be happy; therefore love must make other people happy too. Children enjoy making others happy.

cuddle from a little boy

A cuddle from Allen, when I was pregnant with Aiden

One night, I was putting my children to sleep. My son asked me to cuddle with him for a “just a few minutes”. After a moment of quiet, he asked, “Do fish go to Heaven?”

I answered that Heaven is a place where everything that we love will be, so if you had a fish that was special to you, it would probably be in Heaven. Then I asked him what will be the best part about Heaven.

Without hesitating at all, he said, “Jesus.”

“What is the best part about Jesus?” I then asked.

Again, he had the answer right away: “Love!”

“And what’s the best part about love?”

This time he thought for a moment before he said, “Giving.”

For a three-year-old, I thought that he had grasped the concept of love pretty well. It is giving.

Because giving and receiving things make children happy, many children have a strong desire to give things to others as well, from hugs, kisses and cuddles, to “second-hand” items wrapped in a blanket or newspaper.

Every now and again, one of my kids will get in a gift-giving mood and will look through everything they have, wrapping up item after item and finding someone to give it to. Once my daughter wrapped up my hairclip and gave it to me.

“Thank you,” I said whole-heartedly “but it’s already mine.”

She stopped for a minute, and then said, “I wrapped it up for you though.” Something about wrapping things just makes it all that much more special.

home made card by JessicaKids often enjoy making “cards” for people. My daughter will sometimes ask for a piece of paper, and within half an hour, she will have produced a colorful and unique picture with a note that usually says something like, “I love you. I hope you have a nice day. Form Jessica. To Mommy and Daddy.” It might have a few spelling errors, but it’s made with love; what can be better than that?

At any sort of occasion, a friend’s birthday, etc. she will ask if she can make a card.

Cards are simple and make wonderful gifts from children. A little bit of creativeness and help on the part of a parent can make a card into a memorable and lasting gift for the recipient. It can also bring a parent and child together with a meaningful project, and garner creativity in the child.

It will be an unforgettable experience, and who knows what could potentially come of it? I know an artistic family in which each child contributes something to the designing of all their cards: thank you cards, greeting cards, and Christmas cards. They save money, and I’m sure those who are on the receiving end feel more touched with an artfully handmade card than with a last-minute store-bought card quickly signed, “Much love from all of us”.

If you have a free evening and are about to sit your kids down in front of the TV so you can get a few moments to yourself (or to finish up the laundry and pay your bills), stop and reconsider. Give just half an hour of your time to your child. Ask your child if there is anyone they know of who is not feeling well, or whose birthday is coming up, and work with them to design a card. They will be thrilled at the chance to do something for someone else, and something with their parents. The card might not last forever, but the memories created together will last always.

A Question of Following and Friendship

Question from a father:

I have two daughters. One of them is six years old and the other one is two years old. My elder daughter has many friends, but sometime I get the feeling that they are trying to avoid her. She still follows them around and wants to hang around with them. How should I convince her not to follow them?

 

Positive Parenting:

This is a big question. A hot topic in parenting circles today is the balance between sheltering and protecting children vs. letting them make their own choices, choices that might put them in a situation where they could end up facing problems and difficulties.Little Girl Kissing Sister on Cheek

As parents, and probably more so as parents of young children, we want to keep our children safe from people or situations that could end up causing them hurt—whether emotionally, physically, or other forms of hurt. This is definitely one of our primary responsibilities as parents: to protect our children from any sort of harm or danger.

Unfortunately, things are not always so clear cut, such as your situation stated above. You are concerned, and rightly so, about the effect on your daughter if she were to continue following a group of kids that don’t seem to want her around. You might even feel that they are not the best influence on her in the first place. However, as our children have their own perspectives, your daughter might see it differently. From her perspective, they are probably “cool” kids; maybe she has fun interacting with them.

What is the answer? The exact solution would be different for each child, as every child is in a unique place mentally, physically and emotionally. A strategy instituted by one parent might work great for one child but be an absolute flop for the next child. Even something that works for a time will not always be the answer. Children change and grow, just as we do…or should be doing.

In this particular situation, I would ask a couple of questions:

 

  • What other options does your daughter have as far as interaction and friendship if she didn’t have these children to interact with?
  • Why do you feel that her interaction with this group of children is negative? For instance, does it affect her overall attitude and demeanor?
  • Have you witnessed one or more of the children talking negatively to her, or is it a matter of your concern that she might be hurt if she realizes they are avoiding her?

Answers to the above questions could help in more specific advice, but here are a few general tips and ideas:

  • Work to create opportunities for her to interact with other groups of children.
  • Sign her up for a class, or take her to the park, or find other places and situations that she can meet and play with other children.
  • Try to get her interested in other things by creating more opportunities for fun and learning with you, as a parent.
  • There are many websites that give ideas for educational activities and more, or take time to teach her a skill, such as riding a bike or some form of artwork.

Communication is also a great key in a parent/child relationship. Sometimes our children need a reminder that we are there as a friend and that we have their best interests—their happiness and overall well being—in mind. Of course, we can’t fulfill every need of a child for friendship, fun, and education, but if they know we are accepting and encouraging, we will be able to more easily guide them into making the right decisions.

We won’t always be with our children, right next to them, telling or advising the way that they should go, but as we consistently pour into them day by day, the things we instill in their hearts and minds will be with them always, no matter how old they are.

 

(Image by © Roy Morsch/zefa/Corbis)