Being Your Child’s First Teacher: 3 Practices That Will Help You Raise Lifelong Learners

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Being your child’s first teacher is less about doing specific educational activities a few times a day than it is about transforming your every day tasks into learning experiences.

Imagine that you’re time with your children is one big ongoing field trip.

Prior to staying home full time with my one and three year old boys I taught preschool and then middle school. Parents always asked me what they could do to help their young children succeed in school. Now that I have kids of my own, I understand why parents wanted suggestions beyond completing homework, reading nightly, and taking an active interest in their children’s learning. School is some kind of alchemical institution that transforms young minds into golden vessels of knowledge and skills, right? Whatever a mere parent could do to contribute must be special too, right? I’ve found myself asking these questions as well, since having children and still have to remind myself that they’re wrong in their very premise. Learning is not a series of magical lessons that add up to an educated child; learning is a way of looking at the world like every experience is an opportunity to deepen understanding and improve the way in which we act in that world. One of the greatest educational gifts we can give our children is to teach them to live like lifelong learners by exhibiting curiosity, modeling persistence, and celebrating creativity.

3 Simple Practices for Teaching Young Children
1. Narrate your life: You may feel crazy describing everything you do as you do it but doing this regularly will help build your child’s vocabulary unlike anything else-even if you don’t think they’re listening. “We’re going to buy 1,2,3,4 juicy red apples. I’m going up drop them into the brown bag. Ooh they smell so fresh. I bet they’re delicious!”

2. Think Out Loud: Teaching your child HOW to think is probably even more important than teaching them WHAT to think.”Ugh! This jar lid is stuck on tight! I can’t get it off. I won’t give up. I’ll need to try another way. Maybe heating the lid in hot water will help loosen the lid. Yes! It opened now that the metal is hotter.”

3. Ask Questions: Asking questions about what they see and what you’re doing is great for helping steer and enhance their observational skills. Go even deeper by asking questions back to them when they ask you a question and encourage experimentation. My son asks, “Why can’t I put my popsicle in the water? “. I respond, “Well, you can but the popsicle is cold and the water is warm. What do you think will happen?” Then I went and got another popsicle to avoid another meltdown.

Internalizing these practices and making them habit expands the time and geography of a child’s learning from inside a classroom for a limited amount of time, to the world at large for their entire life.

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EduPark: Building Community and Learning

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Learning how to parent, educate, and manage my kids have always been top priorities for me, but I’m seldom able to attend classes, lectures, or events because that would mean leaving my boys at home. This is why I’ve created EduPark which seeks to provide an opportunity for families and educators to build community and share knowledge in a kid friendly environment.
Put more simply, EduPark will provide learning opportunities for parents at parks.

I’ve started another blog for the organization. Check it out here at EduPark

Hear ye, hear ye: Unexpected Learning during Mommy’s Audiology Test

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After attempting to pacify my boys with a Chick-fil-A breakfast for 30 minutes prior to seeing doctor and with a lollipop for the 10 minute examination I was competently out of tricks and bribes. Thus my shudder of trepidation when I was told I would need to go back to Audiology for several hearing tests. A place that requires absolute silence and my little thing one and thing two do not mix. As I wheeled my giant double stroller back to the testing area I was fully prepared to be told that I would need to reschedule my hearing screenings. I was, therfore, pleasantly surprised when I met the infinitely understanding audiologist who not only helped problem solve hope to keep my boys happy while she conducted my test, but also turned the test into a learning experience for my 3 year old son. The boys “helped” her as they watched me through the observation window. She explained the test and how it checked mommy’s hearing.

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I made sure to get her name and sent an email of thanks and recognition to the clinic administrator before I even left the parking lot. Feeling grateful this morning 🙂

Go Away, Big Green Monster! Monster Face Craft

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It’s October! Monsters, skeletons, and Jack-o-lanterns are the perfect spooky characters to help us learn “All About the Body”. This week we’ve been learning about the face- the features, where they are, and what they do.

The book Go Away, Big Green Monster by Ed Emberly is the perfect book to bring together learning and Halloween fun. Each page of the book features a different part of I’ve monster’s face. After reading the book I had the boys identify each part of the face and glue it on the monster in the correct location (well in Patrick’s case not quite correct). The other great thing about the book is its broad appeal. Ages birth-5+ would enjoy and learn from “Go Away, Big Green Monster”.

I just cut out the pieces the night before. The “long blueish green nose” was just blue because come one-who has teal construction paper. You could cut the purple hair out squiggly looking, but I thought it’d be a good fine motor activity for Maxwell to squiggle his own.

This activity is great for teaching:
—Position words (the nose goes ABOVE the mouth BELOW the eyes etc)
—Facial Features (I had Patrick 20 months point to each part of his face)
—Fine motor skills (squeezing the glue and precisely placing the pieces)
—Literacy (the book is pretty simple but great)

This video on YouTube is a great extension song-the boys ask for “the monster song” all the time.
Video: Go Away,  Scary Monster! Go Away!

A Petting Zoo and a Letter B Activity at Maxwell’s Grade A School

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Today was Maxwell’s 8th day (4th week) of his two day a week Mother’s Day Out Program. He went on a Letter B hunt and the school rented a petting zoo for all of the kids because they learned about the 6th day of creation when God made all of the animals (it’s in a church).

We-could-not-be-more-happy with the school. Maxwell is excited to go every day and every day his teachers plan something special. This week they’re focusing on the letter B and the teachers had the kids make Binoculars to go on a B hunt where they collected things starting with the letter in their handmade B Box Backpack. Too sweet right.

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A few weeks ago they collected 7 snacks each representing a day of creation  (the theme of the whole school chapel time that day).

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Academically, Maxwell isn’t super challenged but I’m very grateful they’ve been working on scissor skills and writing-both skills I struggle to give him one on one instruction due to an overly interested little brother.

The most important factor in the skills 2 favor is that Maxwell is associating school and learning with fun and friendship.

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More on our choice to send our son to a Mother’s day out program twice a weeek in homeschool:
Connecting Homeschool and Schoolschool

Choosing to Send My Son to a Two Day a Week Mother’s Day Out Program

Strategies to Build Confidence and investment on the first day of school and beyond

Scarecrow Decorates for Fall

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After a rain induced 2 day sabbatical, Scarecrow has returned to check on the cleanliness of the playroom and to reward tidiness with tidings of Fall decor. Maxwell industrially cleaned up the room this morning to remedy the hot mess he’d left last night. I helped scarecrow decorate during the rare occasion when Patrick actually napped while Maxwell was at his two day a week school.

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The pumpkin/jack-o-lantern window cling was only a dollar at Target. I plan on having Maxwell and Patrick change the face each day. It’ll be good for Patrick especially to identify facial feature names.

I’m holding a lot of decorations back so that the boys can earn them by taking care of their things and following directions.

More about The Scarecrow in the Yard:
Introducing: The SCARECROW in the Yard

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Introducing: The SCARECROW in the Yard

imageYou may have heard of The Elf on the Shelf but I’m pretty sure you’ve never heard of The Scarecrow in the a Yard. Why haven’t you heard of it?  Probably because I made it up three days ago when I saw a 5ft scarecrow for sale at the craft store for $7.

Who is this mysterious straw stuffed friend?
He was inspired by the character No Noggin from the special Curious George: Halloween Boofest (also on Netflix)-a scarecrow who looses his pumpkin head. Maxwell loooooves this show. So, I knew he’d be totally bumped if we had a scarecrow of our very own. Our Fall Friend Scarecrows(very important to market him as a friendly-not scary – scarecrow) was waiting to meet Maxwell and Patrick right outside their playroom window one morning after I’d told Maxwell I thought I heard a scarecrow outside the night before.

The Scarecrow stays outside all day scaring away crows, but at night when all of the birds are asleep he can come down from his stick!

What can scarecrow do?
1) He watches kids play all day and has fun watching them clean up, share,  and learn.
2) If any toys are left inside at the end of the day he likes to sneak inside at night and take them!
3) When he sees children make happy choices he will get them surprises.
4) He loves Fall and likes to surprise people by decorating their house at night.

Why a Fall Friend Scarecrow?
1) It’s fun.
2) Apparently, the good opinion of a straw stuffed piece of felt holds greater sway over my sons’ actions than does mine. They really wanna impress this guy.
3) He helps me keep the playroom clean by stealing toys.
4) There are so few ways to meaningfully observe Fall in Texas since the two seasons here are Summer (April – September) and slightly less hot summer (October-March).
5) It’s super cheap.
6) It probably creeps out our neighbors to see a scarecrow facing into our house and periodically moving it’s position around our yard. This just makes me chuckle 🙂

I will continue to make updates on new ways Scarecrow interacts with us throughout the Fall. Goodness I love how kids make MY imagination come alive 🙂

Updates:
Scarecrow Decorates for Fall

Great Website with Lots of Songs About Fall and Scarecrows
http://www.preschooleducation.com/sfall.shtml
Before revealing scarecrow each day we sing one of our scarecrow songs.

The Floppy Scarecrow
Sung to: The Itsy Bitsy Spider

The Floppy, floppy scarecrow
Guards his fields all day.
He waves his floppy, floppy hands
To scare the crows away!
Repeat and replace Hands with arms, toes, head, legs, etc…

Scarecrow
Sung to: “Teddy Bear, Teddy bear turn around”

Scarecrow, Scarecrow, turn around.
Scarecrow, scarecrow, jump up and down
Scarecrow, scarecrow, arms up high
Scarecrow, Scarecrow, wink one eye
Scarecrow, scarecrow, bend your knee
Scarecrow, scarecrow, flap in the breeze
Scarecrow, scarecrow, climb into bed
Scarecrow, scarecrow, rest your head

I’m a little Scarecrow
Sung to: “I’m a little teapot”

I’m a little scarecrow stuffed with hay.
Here I stand in a field all day.
When I see the crows,
I like to shout
“Hey! You crows, you better get out!”