Thursday, February 18, 2010

Child Neglect: Guilty

Every mom experiences some Mommy guilt, sometimes justified, sometimes not. I do too. Usually I can tell when its pointless mommy guilt, because it is something I can't do anything about. I try to let it roll off my back. But then, sometimes I experience Mommy conviction (for lack of a better term). When someone says something, or your kids say something and it suddenly clicks, it hits home. Suddenly you see what you have been doing wrong, and the consequences it will have.

I had one of those moments this past week.

I was at a homeschool meeting when the speaker began discussing how to structure your day if you are homeschooling more than one child. My ears perked up naturally because I have more than one child to homeschool and I have been tweaking our schedule lately. She explained that it is a natural inclination to structure your school day around your oldest child. However, her advice was to structure your homeschool day around your youngest child (even, and especially if they are not yet school aged). In other words, you meet the youngest child's needs first. This is a family activity and the whole family should be involved. If I spend the whole day shooing John away from school, or just giving him busy work and not giving him my attention, then I am creating a negative association with school. Guess what I had been doing all this time? When it is his time to start school in a few months, he won't want to have anything to do with it.

Wallowing in what is going wrong is so unproductive. Thankfully the meeting is held in Barnes and Noble so I could run two aisles over to get some solutions. Here is what we have changed.....
  • We start each morning with play-dough. It is John's favorite activity, and it will strengthen the girls motor skills as well. We do it until John is bored, which is usually about 30 minutes.
  • We do our joint learning classes like history and science first so that John can participate as long as he wants to.
  • While Chloe reads to me, Emma and John do math, or vice versa. Emma is doing her math and John helps her count out her manipulatives or he comes over and laces cards with me.
  • After lunch we sit down to have craft time before we restart school.
  • I have special sticker books for John and some pattern manipulatives that we work on together. The difference now is that instead of having him do his work on his own quietly, I make him a part of everything. He is in the "attention rotation".
We have been homeschooling now for close to three years and it has become more and more a part of our lives. School time doesn't just happen during specific hours, its a lifestyle for us, it has become a part of our family life. So it follows that we don't have to stick to some magical date to begin John in schooling either.

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Why Reading Aloud is so important

"Few children learn to love books by themselves. Someone has to lure them into the wonderful world of the written word; someone has to show them the way."
-Orville Prescott,
A Father Reads to his Children

I have made reading aloud an important facet in our homeschooling. Typically we read aloud for an hour a day. But, regardless of the education method, reading aloud should be a cornerstone of every child's education.

While reading grade level material, or board books aloud is important, and it can be a great moment of intimacy. That isn't the type of reading aloud I am discussing here. The reading aloud I find so important is reading aloud on a higher level than the child is currently reading, and reading highly engaging, timeless, imaginative books that will open the natural curiosity of a child. Reading aloud won't teach a child how to read, it will teach them how to want to read. My children are early elementary and a few of the books we have read aloud this year are The Secret Garden, The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe, and The Hobbit.

Reading aloud creates the following in a child:
  • greater reading comprehension.
  • create an association for the child reading=pleasure.
  • increased desire to learn to read, or to be reading, thus creating a lifetime learner.
  • build vocabulary from hearing new words used in context.
  • provide a role model for reading. Children who see their parents reading, are more likely to read themselves throughout their lives.
If you are more interested in this subject, I recommend with the absolute highest regard Jim Trelease The Read Aloud Handbook. He outlines in detail the benefits of reading aloud in the first part of the book, and provides reading lists for every age range in the second half of the book.