Tuesday, November 23, 2010
Remembering back to the first simple beginnings, I remember the overwhelming realization that I was going to be responsible for the training and nurturing of another soul- a person. Early days, before they were born, my children were talked to and read to regularly. Singing seemed to calm them when they were restless and their father's touch always brought active responses.
When they arrived we began a pattern of educating that would grow into home schooling. The Lord impressed upon me that we learn at every age and every learning opportunity should be grasped. With this in my heart I began at day one with three basic precepts: connection, communication, and contentment. Let me explain...
1. Connection. Eye contact, touch; there must be a connection before we can begin. This connection is important in developing our relationship as parent/child, and it is important for educating. I made a point to make eye contact regularly with my infant- to touch them when speaking to them - to develop a connection.
2. Communication. Verbal, or non-verbal. Speaking to our infants develops relationship and stimulates language. This also builds a connection- have you ever seen a baby turn its head at the sound of a parent's voice? There has been communication used to develop a connection. When my babies were near me as I did my home keeping routine, I would speak to them about what I was doing. If we took a walk, I might tell them about something we were seeing. This strengthens the parent/child relationship.
3. Contentment. There also needs to be time when they are allowed to explore their environment on their own. We used folded quilts to make a pallet for tiny ones to lay on..I even had a bouncer for my little ones to sit in safely. As I went about my activities, they could safely be "on their own" so to speak and explore their environment- looking, kicking, cooing- sometimes being rather noisy, sometimes quietly. This builds a trust between parent/child and a contentment in the little one.
In our simple beginnings, I developed a routine with my little ones allowing for "working together", being to ourselves, playing with them, and educating.
When I washed dishes or prepared meals, my little one could be safely in a seat nearby- observing and listening. As they became more active, they may be in their high chair with "utensils" of their own. Early beginnings to introduce that "we work together". Being to ourselves means giving them space to be; to self entertain.
They may be on a blanket with in view or in a baby seat of some sort. They are given time to themselves, and so am I. Maybe I am simply reading or sewing - doing a chore that is unsafe for them to be too close to. I wanted my children to be creative and able to work independently in their future.
Playtime was for us both. Talks and peek-a-boo graduated to blocks and puzzles to coloring and gluing. This was a time for meeting them where they are and working at their pace; doing something they were interested in. This time was used to foster the idea of "we work together/we play together"- once the work is done, we can do something fun together (something they are interested in). It also developed a desire for seeking their own interests and activities.
And yes, educating. Every activity, every conversation is an opportunity for learning. I read my personal devotions aloud while nursing my little ones in the morning, well chosen books were read before naps, and stories from our Bible were read before bed. Even my nursing infants enjoyed the routine and the rhythm of being read to. Fostering a love for our Biblical Patriarchs and for reading came out of these early days.
Now, this is all very "romantic" sounding...what about the bad days? Yes, I had my share. Bad days come, when there is not enough sleep, colic, earaches, teething. I recall my first one getting her days and nights mixed up- oh, how tired I was. When these days come, we comfort as we can. I discovered early on that change is good. When my little ones got out of sorts (at any infant/toddler stage) I would bundle them up and go outside.
We always had a porch swing in our yard (still do today)- I found this a wonderful place to soothe a fussy one. Laying on my lap, facing the sky, the gently sway of the swing- we just breathed in the fresh air- gathered ourselves. Sometimes bundling up in the stroller or the baby carrier (before they were so cute and trendy) we would take a walk either around the block or to the lake. My first house had a lake within walking distance of our home. I gathered a blanket and sat on the banks numerous times with a fussy little one. If the weather was off, we took a car ride- the rhythm of the car can really do the trick for some little ones.
These moments were helpful to the baby and to the mom- we both needed a breath of fresh air and a new perspective. Tough days come, but they do not last; these days are about educating too. Learning to calm down, learning to be patient, learning it will be okay.
I have been praying about sharing some of our home education journey; partly because of the many misconceptions that have confronted me over the years; partly because there are so many families starting the journey or in the middle of the journey who might need to hear it from the ones who have been there. So, bear with me as I write this section week by week. It may not interest you, but it may encourage another.