Learning Opportunities

I think a lot of the reason people think they can't teach their own children is because they are intimidated, not by the prospect of teaching children their letters and numbers and basic phonetics, but by the organization and creativity of "real" teachers: the carefully designed work sheets with copyrighted artwork; the tidy classrooms with boxes of sharpened crayons; the bulletin boards with themed Learning Place boarders . . .I actually once saw a class devoted completely to classroom bulletin board design in a community college brochure.

In all honesty, I have a chip on my shoulder about these elements of education. A lot of people love and depend on these niceties, but they irk me. They just aren't me and they never will be me, and I have a hard time admitting to their value (If I were to give it some thought, I could probably make a list of "advantages" to all of the things I'm ranting about, but I don't want to and I won't). I was homeschooled, of course, but my mom is one of those people who likes niceties and in the beginning (the early grades) there were lots of Learning Place Boarders and new school supplies. She even went out of her way to buy actual school desks from a real school that was getting rid of some (I covered mine in Star Wars stickers and never found it particularly comfortable to sit at). I'm probably 90% of the reason she'd mostly given these things up by middle school, come to think of it. By that time, I had asserted that I liked to do my math and reading lying on my bed, sometimes listening to whatever I was into at the time (I went through both an NPR stage and a Rush Limbaugh stage, neither of which are particularly conducive to concentrating on algebra). I like freedom to learn my own way in my own place without any trimmings and trappings. That's the main reason I'm drawn away from traditional educational models.

My point? My point is that you don't need trappings and trimmings. That niceties are nice but not essential and you should never let your inability to design a pretty classroom space deter you from teaching when learning comes so naturally to young children. You just need to grab opportunities. Coryn and I used to go to the coffee shop and if we got bored I'd whip out small note pad I always carried in my purse and a pen and we'd do sight word games, counting games, and letter writing practice. With no planning whatsoever.

Today I decided out of nowhere that I wanted to teach her the difference between primary and secondary colors and so we made this simple "worksheet" out of a note pad page and some washable paint (we mixed our own secondary colors).

We put a drop of each primary color on the plate then I showed her what they mixed up to create and explained that these mixed up colors were "secondary" colors. 

I then made another page to work on reading color sight words. I got her to sound out as much as she could and then color in the circle when she figured out what the word said. 

More formal worksheets can be a lot of fun (and there are plenty available online for free if you look). My mom recently sent Coryn a set of workbooks and she's loving them. She gets really proud when she completes the pages. My main concern is that she moves through them so fast and (while I didn't ask how much they cost) they don't seem cheap. 

Here she is, proud of her book learning. 

When her daddy got home, we showed him her color work page. I asked her what the first set of colors (red, blue, and yellow) were and she said, "Primary!" She then smiled really big and said, "And now I know everything!"

So to reiterate: you don't need neat, artistic, professional grade materials to teach your children. Go ahead and make do! What matters is taking advantage of every moment as it presents itself. 

From Grandma With Love

Shared on the Peaceful Mom.