Now I have said this before but for those of you here for the first time I will say it again. I am a teacher and a mom, which can be a blessing and a curse! It means I should know everything to do with primary grades, since I teach one, but when it comes to working with my own children all of my knowledge goes out of the window!
It cracks me up when I am working with my kids and they say, "You don't know how to do this!" or "How do you know?" Well my little chickadees, I know this is hard to believe, but mommy has a Master's Degree in education and I just so happen to know a thing or two about what you are doing. No matter what I say, all of my excuses fall on deaf ears....EVERY, SINGLE, TIME! I am mommy to them. Not a teacher, not a source of knowledge, just mommy! This means that I have to get very creative when I work with my own kids.
My number one source of inspiration is (drum roll please) Pinterest! I have boards dedicated to my kids and also a board called "School Cool" that has ideas not only for my own children, but also for my classroom as well. If you would like to you can always follow me on Pinterest at Leah's Mom2Mom.
I have downloaded some of my FAVORITE apps on my children's iPads such as Starfall, ABCya and Teach Your Monster to Read. Apps are a great way to get your children to learn when they don't even know they are doing it! I use this little tactic for times when I am shopping in a store, grocery shopping or eating at a restaurant. If my kids have to wait for a long time and start getting antsy I give them one of their apps to play. One important thing to note is that I always make sure to give them a time limit for screen time. Although it is a valuable tool, it does not replace human interaction and socialization. More on that little nugget in a bit!
Ok, here is the part where it starts to get good! Here is the organic learning part. You have to find what your child likes and use it to your advantage. My daughter likes to be the boss, so guess what? We play teacher. She uses her letter cards to "teach me" the letters and sounds. Little does she know she is practicing them herself! Something else my daughter really likes....snacks! So guess what I did? I stuck a number up on our snack cabinet and she has to read the number each time she wants a snack (see my Instagram story on Leah's Mom2Mom). She also loves Barbies and Princesses so we do things like count them, talk about what colors they are wearing and talk about things she has learned at school through her dolls. This is called organic learning.
When my son was little he was obsessed/possessed with Thomas the Train. That train drove me bonkers sometimes but I'll tell you what.... my son learned his colors and numbers from that damn train! He also learned to notice similarities and differences between the trains as he would sort them by size, shape and color. He took so many basic pre-school skills and learned them through play. Now that he is older he learns things through playing games (we may have taught him Left, Right Center...don't judge) , playing cards , looking at his Pokemon cards and thank goodness, through reading books he loves. We go with his obsessions and we make them organic learning experiences. If it is Pokemon cards we talk to him about the numbers on it and play games like War with him using the numbers on the cards. If he tells us he is scared of something we sit down, show him YouTube videos about what he is scared of and usually he walks away having learned something. (My son has had some pretty irrational fears such as foxes and porcupines.) When we are playing Legos with him we are always asking him what he can do with the Legos to make them in to something new and different? We always try to keep his mind going and introduce him to new facts, vocabulary and concepts.
Honestly, the number one thing parents are falling flat on when helping their children is organic learning. You can have normal every day discussions with your children while helping them learn....that's the organic part. You don't even have to be talking about academics, you don't have to be a teacher yourself, you just have to want to try! So many children are entering kindergarten lacking basic socialization skills and pre-k concepts. They don't know how to express themselves through full sentences, they don't know how to express their feelings, they are not independent, they don't know how to socialize, they can't follow multiple step directions, they just don't know! A large part of this is because parents are spending less time talking to their children and more time sticking them in front of a screen. Children are suffering due this shift in our culture. Please parents if you take anything away from this blog post take this, "TALK TO YOUR CHILDREN!" Have normal, every day discussions with them wherever you are. Go to the grocery store and talk about numbers, items you see (this gives them vocabulary), or the concept of more and less. There is so much they can learn just from a trip to the grocery store. You can literally do this anywhere you go too! Ask your child about their feelings, read to them every night and just encourage them to grow, talk and learn wherever they go. Listen, I know this isn't easy, and as parents we are tired, but we have to want to put the work in. We have to want more for our children. We have to want to help them to be successful because in the end they are our future so why not start setting them up for their future now? Give them the skills they need to be successful not only in school, but in life. Let them fail, let them make mistakes, let them learn!