Here’s the next letter my series ~ “Letter To Me” where I share the letters I wrote to myself, encouraging myself (and, hopefully, other new homeschoolers) with what I wish I had known when I started out on our homeschooling journey ~
So you’re starting homeschool with your toddlers. You do not need to “do formal school” with your littles. Forget the boxed curriculums, those expensive educational toys and the dedicated time and place for learning. It IS NOT NECESSARY! Life and learning go hand-in-hand. Sorting laundry, plumping pillows, washing veggies, and any and every activity you are busy with are all part of the lessons learnt at this stage.
Play! Go outside. Explore! A sandbox and some water are your toddler’s best toys! Let her get dirty, play in puddles, smear mud, eat some worms … it is good, old-fashioned, messy fun! Blow bubbles, chase butterflies and sniff all the flowers. Kick balls and throw bean bags. Have fun!
Sing songs. Sing them over and over again. Do hand actions! Dance and move. Play musical instruments; like those you make with some seeds in bottles, two sticks to beat together, a few bells on some string. Buy a few good CDs and play them during the day and in the car. This is the season when the “wheels of the bus go round and round ….”
Read to your toddler. A good Mother Goose or Classic Children’s Storybook with lovely illustrations is all you need. Read with funny expressions! You’ll make the story come alive! Read every day. Read at night at bedtime. Read alouds are the most powerful learning tool you will ever, ever need! Your children will amaze you with an ever-increasing vocabulary, creative imagination and incredible general knowledge! Sit with your child on your lap and cuddle together. This is going to become her and your most cherished memory of homeschooling! And DON”T STOP! Read aloud to your teens! They will still love it!
Encourage narrations after the story … “tell me the story in your own words” or “what happened to the mouse?” or draw a picture of the story. Use a large blank jotter and write your child’s dictated narration under or near their illustration. It will be her precious book of creative learning.
Teach basic skills with fun games. Select one or two short activities per day — roll and cut playdough, sort colors and shapes, pour rice, beans or water through funnels and into jugs, paste magazine pictures or wool or cotton wool onto card, peg with clothes pegs, press stubby pins in holes, cut paper with safety scissors, draw with chubby crayons, finger paint, lace with reels, thread large beads … the lists are endless. Just one or two activities per day! That’s all. Prepare for repetition. Kids love to repeat an activity over and over. It is their way of mastery. Go with them until they have had enough and then move on to something new.
Make Ziplock activity bags for your toddlers if you are teaching older kiddies. They will save your sanity when you need to focus on your older children! Use some of the ideas above, as well as countless others you’ll find on Pinterest and Google. Spend an hour or two once a month and create new sets. Swap them with your friends or make them for each other. Teach your toddler to play quietly and then pack all the pieces back in the bag before going on to another activity. These are also great for church and waiting rooms!
Avoid over-scheduling your toddler! She only needs some swim safety lessons, but don’t fill her days with endless extra lessons. She does not need horse riding, kinder music, group play dates, ballet, ball skills sessions that require you to pack up and bundle everyone in the car and stress to arrive in time … only to arrive home late with tired, ratty kids and still have supper to prepare … Your toddler will not fall behind. You are not neglecting her if you don’t fall into this modern-day trend.
Follow your child’s readiness. Take note of the things she enjoys and facilitates her love to learn gently. You may lead her to something further, but don’t rush her. And if she is not ready for something, just quietly put it aside and try again a few months later.
Prepare your child ahead of events so she can cope with change or new things. Give 5 minutes “heads up” before the game or activity ends so that she can move on without tantrums. Explain your expectations clearly and simply, for example: “When we are in the shop we are not buying any (….) (sweets or drinks) at the till. Here are your sippy cup and teddy to hold while we shop.” Remind her again as you put your toddler in the trolley. Be kind and gentle but firm.
And how to avoid birthday party meltdowns? Use the golden ratio = child’s age: the number of friends + 1, so, if your child is turning 2, then she can cope with 3 friends. Arrange to have healthy party foods or snacks with your friends and agree not to give away sweets as party favours.
Lastly, Nadene, this will all be over in such a short time! Love every moment of every age and stage. All too soon they will grow up and move on with their lives. Homeschooling your children is the most precious gift!
Blessings from your older, hopefully, wiser self,
PS. I did get little teary posting photos of my youngest daughter, Lara, then 5 years old, who is now a tall, slender 13-year-young lady … sigh … and recall those precious young years.
I’d love to hear your views and thoughts on this topic! Please, would you share yours in the comments?
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