Monday, March 28, 2016

Tips for Home Schoolers, Day 1: The Early Years

My first thought for the early years would be that you are teaching your children right from the beginning.

You bring the new one home, and for awhile you are just surviving! They eat; they sleep; they cry; they need diaper changes. I just wanted to hold that precious bundle non-stop! I learned to be firm with myself and set her down, though, so I could shower, dress, eat, do laundry... My first baby spoiled me -- she was such a good baby!

As the months go by, baby begins to take on personality. I took Kristin with me everywhere and talked to her constantly. And she began to talk back! Her first word was, "Duck!", and it was followed by a barrage of verbal growth. The pediatrician was amazed and asked me to write a list of her words, which I did -- it is probably still in a file somewhere.

There are books that can tell you developmental milestones -- I found these books helpful. And one point they observe. There is teething and chewing on things. There is a "Peek-a-boo!" stage where they literally think you have disappeared when they don't see your face! There is a "fill the bucket" stage, then a "fill and dump" stage, then a shape sorting stage. There are wooden chunky puzzles and drawing in sand. All these stages are part of their education, and you should be right in there doing these activities with your toddler. And, of course, the reading to them should start early, like six months or so.

Then along comes another baby, and big brother or big sister suddenly becomes your helper! Kristin wasn't even three yet, but I could get her willing help most of the time to get a diaper or a book.    

I loved the early years! You might think of them as "pre-school". It is all important. So in the early years we played a lot. I also went to the library a lot. I found two great resources that I loved: Help! I have a Pre-Schooler! from Focus on the Family publishing, and Slow and Steady, Get them Ready, with ideas to do from birth.

I still remember, from Help! days with the assignment, "Pop corn, cocoa and a movie together". One day we made squish or goop in a zip lock bag. One day we blew up a baloon and covered it with newspaper paper mache. We painted it and I took whips from our weeping willow tree and wove a basket for a hot air balloon. Never finished it... We made home made play doughs of all types from recipes from another book - cotton dough, silly putty, Kool Aid dough. We made molassas cookie ornaments for the Christmas tree. ::sigh:: the dog ate them.

We took lots of field trips. We got a one year membership to the Denver Zoo and went once a month. We visited newborn goats. We went to the Amy Farm which was a historic dairy farm -- they taught us how to make butter from cream. We went to the Old Town Littleton - a functioning historic park. We visited Tiny Town, a town of miniature houses. We visited the Denver Museum of Natural History. We visited Chatfield dam and swam at Denver's "beach". We picked pumpkins.

I loved to have the girls make a necklace of Fruit Loops on gimp for long trips -- unhealthy and sticky, but fun. And I read to them lots!

As my daughter approached kindergarten age, I worked with her on letters, numbers, counting, shapes, sizes, patterns and such. She was so smart! It was hard to stay ahead of her! 

We loved to go for nature walks. We learned the call of the red-winged blackbird. The Denver area has magpies, and the zoo had peacocks. We also loved to pull off the road and watch the prairie dogs in their little colonies.

My daughter got a hamster and we had fun with that. Our dog died, old age. We let our other daughter get a lop-eared rabbit, and we bred her. We also had a tank of tropical fish and saw our black mollies and tuxedo sword fish reproduce.

I would cook, and I would let my girls help. They loved it. 

I engaged my girls to help me with chores. Laundry had to go down two flights of stairs. They would help me, and when all was to the basement they were allowed to jump in the laundry pile! I used cloth diapers, and we hung them outside on a line. The girls would hand them to me to hang. Every night we learned that if we cleaned up the family room before daddy walked into it from the garage, he was a much happier daddy, so we made that a daily shared task.

My girls were young before the day of computers. I still had to use discipline not to let electronics be a baby sitter. My girls loved to watch movies for hours, like Lady and the Tramp!

The early years are wonderful years. I know they are a lot of work, but try to use these years to have fun! 

This is Day 1 of Tips for Home Schoolers. Other home schoolers are writing posts on tips, too, so grab yourself another hot cup of coffee and check out some more posts below!

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