HOME - BASED EDUCATION IS BEST
by Carrie Patterson
Many parents today think they need to enroll their children in preschool or a co-op when they are three or four, and public schools start formal education at age five with kindergarten, when Washington state’s laws allow for children to begin schooling at age eight. The development of early schooling programs like Head Start convinced parents that they need to rush their children out of the home and into institutional programs. However, research has shown that the parent spending time with their children at home is more effective than placing them in a structured preschool program. Dr. Benjamin Bloom*, an educational psychologist whose work led to the creation of Head Start, came to the conclusion that a child’s early learning experiences within the home are the most significant in providing a good foundation for learning. Parents are a child’s best teachers and home the best setting for early education. Here are some suggestions for additional activities you can do with your children at home.
Make your home a place of learning. As a parent, you set the stage for your child’s learning experiences. When you are preparing a meal, think of small ways you can involve your child, whether it is setting out plates to eat on, cutting up mushrooms, or washing the top of a can you will soon open, allow them the pleasure of being a helper. It is our job to eventually work ourselves out of a job by allowing independence to take root, and this is where it starts.
Exhibit joy when they learn a new skill. Children are like sponges that absorb everything in their path. As you show them how to do something, they will marvel at the activity and get excited that they can do it, too! Acknowledge their newly-learned ability and allow them to repeat it as often as possible to reinforce their understanding. What child doesn’t love to help clean the mirrors in the bathroom with a spray bottle of water? With a little direction, they can also wipe the water off the mirror with just as much glee! They can also clean windows at their height with the same amount of skill or wipe down dirty walls.
Talk with your children. From an early age, babies mimic the sounds they hear when you talk to them. As they get older, they learn language from those around them. They go through a stage where they rhyme the sounds. Play along with them. As they grow, they also vicariously learn the past tense of verbs, but they might say “runned” instead of “ran”. Assist them in understanding by gently giving them the correct verb. You are teaching them English. You are their first teacher, and they aren’t even eight years old yet!
Play with your children. Young children learn through play. Exploring the world around them through various indoor and outdoor activities will not only strengthen their muscles, but also stimulate their brain. Build towers out of blocks and see how tall it gets and still balances. Teach them what sinks and what floats when they are in the bathtub or fill the sink with water, make predictions, and test various objects. As they get older, put together jigsaw puzzles, and play table games like UNO, Bingo, Scrabble, and Boggle. They are learning problem solving as well as math and language skills.
Go exploring. Take a walk in the fall and collect different leaves. Observe the trees they came from and look at the bark, the branches, and how their seeds are formed and spread. When you get home, press the leaves between paper towels and place them under a heavy book. In the spring, collect flowers and do the same. You can make a nature notebook or use card stock and make them into note cards. To preserve them, cover with clear contact paper.
Read together often. Children need to hear the sounds of the words and learn the vocabulary that they will one day be reading. They also learn that reading is a left to right and top to bottom process. They may enjoy a specific book and ask you to read it over and over and over again. They will memorize the story and eventually “read” it from memory. These are all pre-reading processes that are important in their development before learning to read. Visit the local library and help your children choose books that you can read at home. Books that have been award winners, like Newberry, Caldecott, Parents’ Choice, or Children’s Choice medal winners are the best in children’s literature.
Be a role model. Your children will want to follow in your footsteps. Have you heard them ask you to show them how to do something? Not only will you be teaching them, but you are building the foundation of an important relationship that will serve you well in the days and years to come. As a parent, it may be difficult to find time to read, but if your children see you reading, it will be something they will want to learn to do.
Don’t rush things! A child will grow and develop at their own unique pace. By spending time with your child, you will know when they are ready for the next challenge and when they are at a plateau and need to deepen their skills before moving on. As parents, we sometimes have trouble waiting. We are eager to move them to the next step. Don’t worry if your child’s not reading Shakespeare at seven or doing multiplication at eight. And it’s OK whether they start reading at three or four years old or are not ready until ten or eleven or twelve. They will get there on their own schedule, when they are ready. Observe them and be willing to watch and wait. Be available and ready when they show interest in moving forward. You will have a more content, confident child who feels accepted, supported, and loved for who they are.
* Dr. Benjamin Bloom, All Our Children Learning, McGraw Hill, New York, 1980.
Suggested Further Reading:
Books by Dr. Raymond and Dorothy Moore: Home Grown Kids, Home Style Teaching, Home Spun Schools, and Better Late Than Early. These may be available from the public library and Pareto be checked out from the CCHE library.
Homegrown Readers by Jan Pierce, Homegrown Publications, 2015.
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