Monday, January 5, 2009

Early Homeschooling: Infancy to Toddlerhood

A young mom recently wrote in with a question:

Q: I noticed that you homeschool, and wondered what you did with your children before they were old enough to begin traditional a traditional curriculum. I am a new mom to a sweet, beautiful 5.5 month old girl, and am wondering what I can be doing now to prepare her for home-school. I have checked out a few books on baby games and infant development from our local library, but wondered if you had any suggestions or resources that you used.

Here is my answer to her (and to anyone else who's interested):
A: Congratulations on your daughter. What a sweet gift.

As far as what to do with infants... read together, crawl together, interact! No TV, except for rare, careful occasions, if you must. Snuggle, talk, giggle, tickle. Talk to her in an adult voice unless you're just playing a game. Don't babytalk; use normal words. As she gets older (closer towards 2), you can play drama/expression games...
"make a sad face, now an excited face, now let's pretend to be surprised, now happy, etc." And, "let's talk like cowboys, like giants, like little babies, like ladies, in a whisper, in loud voices", etc. Tell lots of Bible stories and act them out as she gets older. Teach simple Bible verses ("children, obey your parents", "When I am afraid, I will trust in You.", "trust in the Lord with all your heart", "the Lord is our Shepherd"), and talk about what they mean and how they apply in day-to-day life (at night when we're scared, when we don't want to obey, when we need to be cared for, etc.).

As they get older, teach them to make circles and lines. Put out small toys for them to draw like a still life artist would do. Talk about numbers, sing the ABC song, count lots and lots, name colors as you see them "The green trees, that red truck, your yellow shirt, my purple socks," etc. Do puzzles together and talk about how and why certain pieces fit together and others don't. Let her sit up next to you and "read" for 30 minutes or more. Let her see that books are important in YOUR life. Let her sit up next to you as you read the Bible (she can "read" hers too... simply Bible story books, etc.), so that she sees YOUR dependence on the Word.

Teach things like height, weight, and volume in terms of real-world objects (height: trees, buildings, cars, people, babies, flowers; weight: penny, book, cat, full laundry basket, daddy, car; volume: medicine dropper, cup, trash can, tanker truck, swimming pool, etc.). Around 3 or 4, she'll be interested in writing her name. So teach her how. Teach her the sounds that the letters make (rather than only calling it an "p", make the sound it makes-- "puh" so she hears the sound too... this will help later with reading. Side note-- emphasize the consonant sound-- and minimize any vowel sound you use... like above, instead of PUUUUUH, keep it short: Puh.).

Let her stack bowls/cups on the floor of the kitchen while you throw dinner together. Let her join you in cooking as she is able... counting "cups"... showing what "half" means, etc. When putting on shoes, talk about pairs, and how a pair means two, "see? one, two shoes. That makes one pair." You can use hands and feet to introduce the concept of counting in fives. Talk about money and debt in terms of the grocery store bill, or as you fill up your gas tank. Use the real world to teach her as much as possible.

These sorts of things are the best ways to "homeschool" from the very beginning. I highly recommend a book called "Home Grown Kids" that talks about this very thing in much greater detail... it's written by Raymond & Dorothy Moore, some of the early proponents (in this generation) for homeschooling.

Many blessings-- what a neat time you are in-- enjoy every day and make sweet memories with your daughter!

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