I was talking with my friend and mentor Sally about homeschooling this morning and what my days look like. I told her that I recently realized I have been overwhelming my six year old, and we aren’t even doing that much. When I explained that we just do some reading and math and tidbits here and there, but that Ella always seemed to be complaining about it, my friend said, “No! Little ones should not be sitting and learning, you should be reading to them and creating beauty and letting them explore. Make their souls alive! If you make them sit and do work now and they are miserable, they will hate it later. Make your home inviting, give them rewards at the end of the week for reading time each day (you reading to them), cuddle, make it fun. No book work.”
How is it possible that Sally is my mentor and friend, I have read her books, and I still didn’t get it?! I’ll tell you the biggest reason, I was reading other homeschooling posts and comparing my kids to their kids. I read about four year olds being able to read, and two hours of school a day, etc, and I think, “I’m supposed to be doing that, I’m behind, and I’m failing my kids.”
Fortunately, I not only have an experienced mentor, I also have a good friend who homeschools and she has given me some wonderful practical advice. For example, she explained that with Ella complaining everytime we went to do school work, I needed to figure out if it was an attitude problem or if she was just overwhelmed. Here’s what I did (based on her suggestion):
I set a timer for 20 minutes and gave her something focused to do that she enjoyed-mazes, drawing, whatever. When 20 minutes was up, we were done. We did this for one week with no other work, and there was no complaining!
This coming week my friend encouraged me to set the timer for 10 minutes of fun work, and 10 minutes of school work and see how Ella reacts, so that’s the plan. Her school work should not be frustrating or hard at this age or it will just discourage her. There will be a time when she’s ready for more, and I’ll know when that is.
Here is some of Sally’s practical advice:
“I started teaching my children to read when they seemed interested and ready and it differed a little with each one, but I didn’t require them to do any work alone reading and struggling with words until they were seven. I read their work right by their sides and mostly read out loud and didn’t require them to even begin text books or curriculum until they were seven and they had some time to practice their reading skills well. I cooperated with their little hearts and personalities, but I was engaged in their little lives pretty much all day long.”
Set a timer for 15 minutes to read to your children everyday. Let them know that if we do our reading everyday, at the end of the week they get a reward (a dollar store toy or something). The goal is to build to 30 minutes to an hour and a half of reading a day by the elementary years. For her children that could read, she made them each reading baskets with new and exciting books or picture books for quiet times, and if they they read each day, they would get a star and a certain amount of stars could then could earn them something they’ve wanted.
Also, if you’re kids are miserable learning to read, they’re not ready. One veteran homeschool mama didn’t teach her son to read until he was eight, and now he is a double major in college and bright young man. Sally says that reading to her children everyday at a young age is what made her now grown children brilliant. :)
I’m taking Sally and my friends advice! My focus is going to be on creating beauty in my home, making it inviting, and setting up exploratory areas for the babes.
One more thing I want to mention. I now view T.V./movies and video/computer games as something like a Pandora’s box-once opened, it is very difficult to put back. If you have not yet begun letting your babes watch animated T.V. or play video/computer games, consider keeping that box closed. I wish I would have done that; letting my children watch too much cartoonish twaddle (as Sally calls it) dulled their desire for reading. The good news is that my babes are still young enough that I think I can stuff some back in. If I could go back, I would only let them watch real movies or educational ones, like Pollyanna, Anne of Green Gables, Lassie (original), Curious George, etc., and those for special times.
For more encouragement, read Sally’s blog, I Take Joy. She’s beautiful and encouraging and is a gift to us young mamas.
See you in a month (unless I interrupt again)!