When my own children were little, a few wise mamas urged me not to worry about academics.
Being a former public school teacher, this was a FOREIGN concept. Weren't children supposed to read by the first grade? Shouldn't they know all of their times tables by the third grade? Wasn't a timed test of sight words necessary for future success in life?
Shouldn't all children have generally the same skills by the third grade?
As we abandoned the ideal of public school, my preconceived notions of "what children should know" were left by the wayside, too.
I began to realize the inherent value of PLAY, EXPLORATION, and WONDER. (and also the value of staying in your own lane!)
Now, whenever I am in contact with moms of littles, I tell them one thing: LET THEM BE LITTLE.
How to Cultivate the Wonder
Forget the "Developmental Milestones"
Developmental milestones occur at different times for different children. Don't be bound to what a book or "expert" says your child should be doing.
You know your child the best and no expert should take the joy out of being with your child.
Please don't get hung up on READING, MULTIPLICATION TABLES, PENCIL GRIPS, and other things like that. You will know if something is truly a problem, or whether your child might just need a little more time.
I cannot emphasize this enough! Society has trained us that all children should conform to certain developmental standards, and it just isn't so. Children ARE NOT standardized.
Read Beautiful Literature
We entered so many new worlds through books when my children were small.
I remember a 5 year old boy crying in the back of the van as we listened to the end of Charlotte's Web - and then again a few years later when Robin Hood died. I recall a little girl immersing herself in the world of Peter Rabbit and The Box Car Children. We gave the animals in our yard names after I read The Burgess Animal Book for Children aloud one breezy week in the fall.
We adored Paddle to the Sea - which took on so much meaning after a trip we made to Niagara Falls!
Many, many mornings were spent curled up on the sofa reading The Adventures of Winnie the Pooh with my early-bird son, and many fun Five in a Row dinners were prepared as we immersed ourselves in those beautiful books.
Do you sense a theme here?
We entered into the world of the book we were reading. We felt the emotions deeply. We engaged in imaginary play, and spent lots of lazy time with our books.
I guess I could have been drilling sight words, but I'm not sorry I spent those years the way I did.
Give Them Fine Arts
Exposing children to art and music when they are little not only adds to the fun in their lives (and YOURS!), but it also builds an appreciation of beauty into your children.
What a gift.
Take them to concerts, plays, musicals, museums, art classes - whatever you can get your hands on. When they are older you won't be able to field trip as often, so do it NOW!
My children always enjoyed our adventures in Chalk Pastels! I vividly remember declaring one day "Angry Birds Day" in our house -- the kids woke up in the morning and I cancelled regular school and we did nothing but Angry Birds activities -- including chalk pastel Angry Birds!
Of course I always included TONS of beautiful music, using SQUILT, too.
This might be hard, especially if you aren't creative yourself.
It requires a lot of letting go, accepting messes, and thinking outside of the box.
Children live in a beautiful make believe world and are desperate for us to enter it with them. Follow your children. Let them lead.
Let them create with their hands. Sewing, calligraphy, knitting, and other handicrafts are a beautiful investment in time.
Oh, and let's not forget the LEGOS - they inspired so much creativity in one of my children in particular!
Because I was a slightly obsessive Type A mom (which I now wish I could go back and change!), I needed to have a more controlled approach to creativity (is there such a thing?!). Notebooking was one way I could ensure my children were learning, but also having the opportunity to demonstrate that learning in a creative way.
Cultivate Your Own Sense of Beauty & Wonder
My entire attitude towards motherhood, education - and really life - has changed so much since we began homeschooling.
Life is short. If we want to cultivate qualities in our children we must first model them ourselves.
This isn't always easy.
A few books have really helped me in this area:
- The Mission of Motherhood
- 10 Gifts of Heart
- Walking on Water: Reflections on Faith and Art
- Pocketful of Pinecones
- Teaching From Rest
I will say it again: Your children will grow up. You will wish you had let them be little. You will wish you had cultivated the wonder
It is a change of heart and mind that you will never, ever regret.
Take it from me - a few dear friends encouraged me in this area and I adore the children I have now, and the WONDERful memories we share.
Good luck -- it's hard keeping our kiddos little in this world.
I know you can do it!
Charlotte's WebRobin Hood (Dover Children's Thrift Classics)Beatrix Potter the Complete Tales (Peter Rabbit)The Boxcar Children Bookshelf (The Boxcar Children Mysteries, Books 1-12)The Burgess Animal Book for Children (Dover Children's Classics)Paddle-to-the-Sea (Sandpiper Books)The Complete Tales of Winnie-The-PoohFive in a Row (Five in a Row): Volume 1Five in a Row, Vol. 2Five in a Row (Five in a Row): Volume 3Beyond Five in a RowFive in a Row Holiday : Through the SeasonsFive in a Row CookbookFive in a Row: Christian Character and Bible Study SupplementThe Mission of Motherhood: Touching Your Child's Heart for Eternity10 Gifts of Heart: What Your Child Needs to Take to Heart Before Leaving HomeWalking on Water: Reflections on Faith and ArtPocketful of Pinecones: Nature Study With the Gentle Art of Learning(TM) : A Story for Mother Culture ®Teaching from Rest: A Homeschooler's Guide to Unshakable Peace