Preschool at home?

I have been asked often about how I start my youngest children’s education.  Truth is many are afraid of teaching their own children at home because they don’t know how to give them a good education. But I personally believe that anyone can teach their own children, especially the younger grades. More than that. I believe that we, as parents, can be their best teachers. Why? Because small children only learn from people they feel connected to. They have to feel a personal connection  with their teacher before they can open their mind and heart to learn from them. Trying to succeed can be scary. They need to be able to trust this person asking them to try, trust that if they fail they will be loved and supported still. Charlotte Mason (author of The Original Home Schooling Series by Charlotte Mason ) called a child’s education “A parent’s sacred duty to God and to that child. That said a preschool education is a fairly easy one to give.

Preschoolers are naturally curious, and always trying new things. Some that amaze us, some that require our patience. We want to cultivate this natural curiosity, and give it direction. We want to celebrate every accomplishment. At this tender age we want to cultivate the love of learning. Learning must mean at least three things: –
– Connection (Positive attention and connection from the teacher)
– Fun (Hands-on, fun experiences)
– Success (enough chances to feel succeeful)
The most important goal at this age is to help them fall in love with learning. So when a child does something wrong, it helps to use gentle language and say “Almost, try again”, or “That is a good try! Lets try it this way.”
The skills I expose them to at this age are, cutting with scissors, gluing, sorting, recognizing numbers and letters, counting, tracing, listening to a story, finding things in pictures, identifying colors, and some physical skills such as crawling, catching a ball, jumping a rope, and skipping.
Here are some things I like to have that help the children discover these skills.

This fun game gives the children a chance to sort, recognize and corelate numbers, find and identify shapes and numbers, and match them up! It is a great favorite at my house.

Lacing cards are great for helping children coordinate their little hands and fingers. Even toddlers love to try to get the lace through the holes. This can also help teach patterns.

These are a great way to intrduce puzzles. At only twelve peices they are not too long that the child wants to give up, but not so easy that they get easily bored. And four come in one box! One of my two year olds used to pack this box around every where he went. Then he would sit for two or three hours ptting them together, tearing them apart, putting them back together!

With these wipe off dice you can make up endless games. Just write a letter, number, or dot of color on each side and toss it! Whatever it lands on have the child identify. Super fun!

These blocks are so much fun! They help the child match, and think creatively about spaces. These and other skills they teach, are important for math success later.
As for tracing and writing, I teach cursive first, and have my preschoolers make sandpaper letters. But other options are

The other thing I do for scissor skills  is give them the ads from the grocery store, and have them cut their favorite things out. Or one day we will cut all the red things, another all the blue. We even fold papers in half and glue ( the things we have cut out on to pages labeled with the right color.
One more thing: collect lots of good literature! Good stories and beautifully illustrated books to read them. Have a great time incorporating learning into your Daily Life! Check out our post on favorite bunny books!

Just thought I would share my favorite treat to keep on hand!

Toddler Times!

Do you have a toddler? Then you know what its like to watch your little angel baby turn into an independent, control loving, person full of their own ideas and ambitions, which I might add, seldom line up with your own.  It can be a daunting, frustrating, and even hurtful experience. The intimate and beautiful bond you have shared becomes broken and lost, and it feels like they are just trying to push your buttons. The good new is they are not. They are simply trying to get their needs met in the best way they know how.

All behavior  is communication. When children act out they are trying to tell us something. They may be trying to say they are anxious, or scared. Or perhaps they need teaching or a boundary to feel secure. And of course we all know they need love. The only thing is they ask for it in the most unloving ways!

I do not claim to be a parenting expert, but I have have a passion to share what I have learned through books (lots of them!) and through my eight kids experience, even though I am still learning. So my goal here tonight, is to share my favorite responses to common toddler misbehaviors.  If you have questions, or if I left out the behavior you are struggling with please comment and let me know!

Obedience: Or rather disobedience, right? Toddlers love power. They love to test how much power they have, and how much you have.  So they run from you instead of come when you say. Or just say “No!”. They are wanting to see how you will help them obey. When they see us stand red-faced, angry, and helpless they feel powerful, maybe too powerful. They know they are misbehaving. They essentially don’t feel good about themselves and need our help to feel better. They know we are mad and even if they are laughing, they are scared. They need us to stay calm, cool, and collected while we handle them.

My children will usually cry even if I gently pick them up and bring them back to the place I was when I called them, but that is okay. I usually gently talk to them and say they need to come when mom calls. I can even say I am scared when they don’t come, or take the opportunity to teach that Heavenly Father wants them to learn to be obedient.  Then I take time to train the response I want. After they are done crying, and they are ready to try again I set them up for success by telling them they need to go back to where they were and come this time when I call their name. So they return and I call “Alyssa, come!” This short command is easy to hear and follow. If they come I am overjoyed and openly show them they were successful. A quick celebration with lots of hugs and “high fives” and then I ask then to run back and do it again. We repeat five or seven times.

If they do not come they may need a hand to hold while they walk to where you called them again. And another try. If they obviously know what you want  it can be a signal that they need something besides knowledge. They need motivation. The only motivation that really lasts is attached relationships.  So as soon as possible find five minutes to hold them and read a book. Or play a quick little tug of war over a blanket or pillow. Then as you settle back down, or close the book, ask if they are ready to try coming again. Soon they will come every time on the first call. I can still call my ten year old’s and they come right away.

Attention: It is so frustrating to be ignored. At first I didn’t know how to respond when my child ignored me. Now it is still frustrating, but I go to them, place my hand on them, and say “I need you to look at me when I call your name. Let’s try that again. Alyssa! Oh good job you looked at me. Look over there. Alyssa! Great you remembered!” We repeat in a fun way, looking at different areas about ten times.

Tantrums: These are the times when it can be hard to keep calm while our child melts down, -sometimes even in public!- And we feel a range of emotions ourselves including helplessness.  We cannot make that child stop crying. The thing is that their little brains are overwhelmed with feelings of loss and disapointment.  If we are honest with ourselves we have these moments too (sometimes right as our child is disolving into sobs!) and it takes all our efforts to hold ourselves together too. Realizing this in the moment can be helpful, as thinking helps get our brains in a more relaxed state, instead of in a reactionary one. Think, what do you wish someone would say or do when you feel this way? I would probably like to hear something like “Its okay. I love you. I know you are dissapointed. I know you wanted to stay and play more.  Its so hard to leave when we need to. Do you want to say goodbye? Don’t worry, I will help you out to the car.” And then either carry them or lead them out, while they tell you (through sobbing) exactly how they feel.

Cleaning up after themselves: It is important that Toddlers learn to pick up the toys they use, and the clothes they take off. It helps them feel capable. And when kids feel capable, they behave better. (Just like when we parents feel capable and successful as parents, we find it easier to behave well too!)  Teaching this skill can be as easy as showing them where their dirty clothes go. But with some kids, it takes more practice. More success. So do it over and over until they feel succesful at it!

Most other behaviors can be taught with the same idea of setting them up for success and repeating.  I base my ideas off the methods put forth by Jane Nelson.

If you want more ideas here is two of her books targeting toddlers and preschoolers. Good luck with your toddlers in your daily life!