Many of the most vital lessons for children begin at home. I remember realizing this when I took off from work for a period of time with each of my kids. Through constant stimulation and interaction, a child begins to advance in speaking, using motor skills and understanding concepts.
Although I don’t have a background in education, I came to see that I could be a teacher at home. In fact, I know that I’m the best teacher for my children. Over the years I’ve learned that continual narration, observation and exploration, and resources help me build the foundation for my kids to do well in school and life. In addition, one lesson can lead to another.
Narrate Constantly Talk, talk and talk more. You cannot speak enough when it comes to helping your children. Dr. Dana Suskind’s book Thirty Million Words: Building a Child’s Brain details how critical parent talk, words, and nurture are to a child’s life, especially in the first three years. She remarks, “The brain is almost entirely dependent on what it encounters on its ride to full development.” In other words, the more we talk to our children and narrate the world around us, the more chances our youth will have in being better communicators. Suskind compares talking often to food needed for growth, saying it is needed “for optimum social nutrition and intellectual” development. You may be tired on a particular day or you may be more introverted and don’t feel like talking. On days like this, put on an educational program or music for your children. But take short breaks from discussion. I noticed a big difference in my two year old’s tantrums and outbursts after I spent time finding ways to communicate with her. When I spoke frequently and explained everything I was doing all the time, my daughter finally began to catch up. It knocked down barriers that were once between us. Children are sponges and really do soak up the information you give them. Observe and
Explore As age appropriate, include your kids in what you are doing. Help them observe and explore in your home, in your backyard, in your neighborhood and every place you visit. Any activity can lead to an educational lesson. Go for a walk. Write down animals and plants you see. If you don’t know what they are, describe them. Include the color, shape, where it was found and more. Look them up at a later time. A few weeks ago, my kids found a ladybug in our yard. We jotted down a few features about it. My girls asked me questions like how to tell if a bug is a male or female, what food they eat and how they move around the backyard. Since I’m not a plant or animal expert, I informed them that we can turn to resources to continue learning. Their simple questions can lead into lessons of history, science and math.
Find Resources to Continue Lessons After our exploration, my oldest daughter and I performed an internet search. We looked up details on the ladybug, for example. We found interesting facts that neither of us knew. This included how to tell the gender markings of a bug. We also learned the benefits of having them in our garden. Turn to the library for other resources on any subject. Locate books on the topic you wish to study with your children. Look for an organization that you can visit to continue the lesson, such as a nursery or garden store. Perhaps you can find an expert on the subject who can speak to your kids in person. Arrange a group activity with other parents and children. Any task can lead to an educational opportunity. You can measure ingredients for a quick math lesson. Find out about an animal using science. Write a poem about that lady bug in the yard and how it makes you feel to complete an English assignment. Possibilities are endless.
Be the first and last teacher for your child. After exhausting your resources, return to talking and narrating constantly. Let the learning cycle continue. So much can be done at home and with little effort too. As parents we should foster a love of education for our children and never let it end.