Sunday, June 10, 2012

Step Away From The Flashcards

Good morning!  Today, we have another awesome guest post and this is perfect for the summer time.  

In my previous life before I had children, I was a teacher.... a first-grade teacher to be exact. (Even though I taught a year of third grade - and disliked it immensely - I will always consider myself a first-grade teacher at heart because that's what I did for the 6 years before my children arrived in my world.) In addition, I also earned my master's degree in Literacy, became a certified Reading Specialist, and earned my National Board for Professional Teaching Standards Certification in Early & Middle Childhood Literacy.  

With a background in education people probably think I sit around "teaching" my kiddos all day long. 

But that is SO NOT the case. I decided early on that I would not be "that" mom. I decided that my job was to teach my kids about life skills, not to teach them specific academic skills. 

I don't sit at the table making my kids do worksheets, drilling them with flashcards, trying to use those ridiculous "my baby can read" programs with my infants... no, no, NO!!! 

But they do learn. 


In a way that resembles real life - NOT a classroom. 

There should be a difference between the teacher and the mom. (Unless of course you're a homeschooling family, in which case that's not possible.) For the next week on my blog, Bring Mae Flowers, I plan on posting some practical ways I weave learning into our every day lives without getting too "teacher-ish" with my children. 

 I'm calling my week long series "Step Away From The Flashcards".  

No drills, no programs, just learning through life experiences. 

Today is the first post on that topic. I try to find opportunities for learning in everything we do. One very practical way to incorporate learning into our week is with the grocery shopping. Every time I go grocery shopping, I start with a list. So, I brought the kids along on that life skill - making lists. 

Here's my son in the car on our way to Trader Joe's:

I gave him a piece of paper on a hard book and a marker and instantly we had a PRACTICAL way for him to practice his writing skills and phonics skills on the way to the store! And as with most of these kind of learning experiences I incorporate into my kids' lives, he was SO proud as we walked around the grocery store, checking things off his list. Of course the lovely employees there all "ooohed" and "aaahed" over his list and what a great helper he was, blah blah, blah. 

He was engaged in a real life learning activity and it succeeded in him improving his skills and learning about practical applications of writing. 

Oh, and it succeeded in making him smile! ;) 


Here's another example along the same lines. This is my daughter helping me make the Costco list last month.

She's younger, and therefore less capable than her big brother, but she's still able to learn from this real life activity. She's at a stage where she doesn't need help doing this, but it is VERY early on in her invented spelling journey so sometimes it's a little hard to read when she's done. ;) But that's what makes her feel important - that even though her list wasn't "perfect", we REALLY used it at Costco and she felt so great about being a part of what we would have been doing anyway. (Once again, all the attention she got from the Costco employees and other customers who noticed what she was up to was a definite perk and confidence boost!)


Now obviously, we didn't start out this way. 

We built up to it. 

For infants, just going to the store and constantly talking about everything we were seeing and putting into the cart was a great way to build their vocabulary. 

When they're toddlers, hand them some paper and (washable!) markers and have them draw a picture of two or three things on a "list" like a banana, some green beans, and maybe something like raisins. You can talk about the colors they might choose for each item, what shapes they might try to draw, etc. 

When they grow and begin to have a decent pencil grip, ask them to just write the first sound in each word. So give them a verbal list of 5 or so items and ask them, "We need bananas, what letter should we write as the beginning sound of that word? B-b-b-banana. What do you think you hear there?" And have them write the best "B" they can. It won't be perfect at first... heck, it may not even be legible, but that's not the point. 

The point is that you take that little list along and "use" it to show them the importance of what they just did. It will make them feel so good and they'll begin to see the importance of literacy in the REAL world. 

And so you move on and build from there. 

This is SO much more meaningful than sitting them down with a dry erase board and saying having them write "B" a zillion times so the can "practice". 

You know that kids is thinking, "This is LAME!" 

And it IS lame! 

I'd like to encourage all the moms reading this to step away from the flashcards and the programs and relax. 

Just let your kids be a part of learning with you through real, true experiences and they'll be so much better off for it!

I'd like to encourage you all to not fret so much about being their teacher... just be their mom. 

If you have fun with it then they will to! 

If you'd like to stay in the loop for more tips and encouragement from my blog, Bring Mae Flowers, please visit the Bring Mae Flowers Facebook page and "like" it... you'll then be updated on each of the next week's posts in the "Step Away From The Flashcards" series. 

It's just in time for summer... don't spend your summer "schooling" your kids - I'll help you get some real life learning in while enjoying your summer! 

Good luck and I hope to see you soon! 


WOW!  Thanks Mae! :)  

Awesome tips!!!

I can't wait to have my kids write their own lists for me.

Have a great day,


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