Monday, August 20, 2012

Don't Buy That Early Education Curriculum!

If I ever wrote a column about this topic, I can't seem to locate it now. But I gave the tips over and over again in the thousands (really don't think I am exaggerating here!) of phone calls over the almost 9 years I served as a FPEA District Director. So that must be why I feel I wrote this.

Young children are natural learning machines! You can't keep them from learning. So much of what they need to learn at these ages is accessible to you in your home and surroundings. I encouraged parents to save their money and use it for museum memberships (highly recommend The Tallahassee Museum of History and Science, formerly Junior Museum), field trips, art supplies and extracurricular activites.

First of all, use the local library. There are a variety of fictional books to inspire love of reading. There are a ton of nonfictional books too. You can check out biographies, science books, science books with experiments and on and on. One thing I stumbled into that I absolutely loved was that you can also check out magazines! So, since the budget was so tight and we couldn't afford subscriptions to Ranger Rick, Highlights, National Geographic, etc., all we had to do was wait a month and we could check the magazine out!

For the very young elementary, continue focusing on reading, writing, etc. Have an old wind up clock on hand to teach how to tell time ( in spite of the digital age, kids still need to be able to read a wind up clock!). Keep monopoly money around to teach them to count money. Play store in your house! Our kids loved it! Have them help measure ingredients while you're baking. Keep a thermometer outside the window and have them read the temperature every day, draw a picture of the weather outside and how the temperature correlates to the weather.

Have them help weigh fruit and vegetables at the grocery store.  Let them write the grocery list and group food groups together. Encourage them to plan a meal, help buy it, help prepare it and write a report on the food. Expand that by choosing meals from different countries and having them report to the whole family. They can also learn more about that country or culture to report upon.

Teach them to keep a daily journal. Correct the misspelled words and use them for spelling words. Have them write down words they don't know as they are reading their fun books so they can include them for spelling and vocabulary.

Use objects for math lessons. Young children are not abstract thinkers and therefore need concrete objects to associate with math operations. You can make it fun by using gummi candies or M&M's.

Encourage the children to make a list of what they want to learn about during the year and work off of that list. These subjects can then be written about in the journal  and orally reported on. Teaching your children to speak publicly at an early age is a great advantage. I will never forget the girl in high school speech class who burst into tears and ran out of the room.

Don't forget games! Children can learn so much from games. They are having fun and don't even realize they are learning. Those old standbys of Monopoly and Scrabble are priceless! I made a point of buying a number of educational games for our children. Those were especially helpful on my sick days!  Homeschooling parents rarely have a substitute teacher they can call in. : ((

Enlist them in publishing a family newspaper and send it to long distance relatives. I had a source years ago that sold large blank newspaper that the kids could write in.

Of course there is modern day technology! I saved this for last because I strongly feel it has a place in all this, but that kids still need hand on, touching, feeling learning too.

Sometimes we run for curriculum to reassure our own fears, but you are capable of using all that is around you, structuring the learning environment and schedule (somewhat) and saving your money for other areas in order to assist your children in being well-rounded.

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