Welcome back! I took a break- longer than expected- but I needed a few weeks to get some thoughts in order, stoke a few irons in the fire, and zone out on a few seasons of How I Met Your Mother…but more on all that later.
“Education is a natural process carried out by the child and is not acquired by listening to words but by experiences in the environment.” -Maria Montessori
A few months ago, I wrote about fostering your child’s independence, and as I continue to grow and learn with my children, I have thought about my role in doing so because as some forms of teaching my children come naturally, I have had to learn through experiences what the early childhood experience looks like in our home with my two children.
A few evenings ago, we were finishing up dinner. And by we, I mean me and the girls. Our work/ministry/family life lends time favored toward family breakfasts together and then busy afternoons and evenings, so typically, I am on dinner duty solo. My 2-year-old wanted to help me with the dishes. I asked her to go into the living room and play while I put a few things away, then we were headed upstairs for bath and bed. My patience was thin…I was ready for bedtime. But like a roadrunner, she already had her play table chair dragging behind her, headed toward the sink. I had just enough patience to count to some number greater than 4…..and less than 25…..and slightly change course so we could wash the dishes together.
Reflecting on this extra 20 minutes together enlightened me not only of my child’s development, but of myself and my role in her learning. Since having children, I’ve had to re-learn what learning activities looks like. Our time is not always spent in hours of uninterrupted play/work like I was used to experiencing in a quality early childhood classroom. I quickly learned that staying home during this time of my children’s lives also meant I needed to keep up with other things that weren’t necessarily “child’s work”, but there are magnificent opportunities for my children to learn and become extremely independent, while balancing a healthy amount of free-play into most days. But let’s face it, somedays it’s really challenging just to get 5 minutes a day of focused play with each of my girls.
I have always been intrigued by Maria Montessori’s approach to learning. “Little children, from the moment they are weaned, are making their way toward independence.” (Maria Montessori) Her philisophical triad: children – environment – teacher/parent, approach places equal value on all three to foster independence by exploring and learning in an enriching environment where the teacher provides opportunities for advancement based on a child’s “sensitive period” (or window of opportunity) and guides, rather than instructs.
Here’s how I’ve transferred this into parenting my children:
- My home is a rich part of my children’s learning. Some activities include building blocks and painting, but also a lot of laundry, cooking and cleaning.
- Within every activity there is a learning opportunity for my children. We have rich language development in cooking, dishes, etc.; increased early math awareness in cooking, laundry, building blocks and organizing; healthy social-emotional development during play, bath, dinner (both girls sharing time and space) as well as when we are grocery shopping or interacting with others in the community.
- Including my children in home activities takes a lot of time and patience. Allowing my 2-year-old to find her own shoes (that match), put them on her feet and grab her water bottle before leaving the house takes at least 20 more minutes than if I were to direct all of those activities. I’ve learned to plan for that time (most of the time….).
- The pressure to be down on my children’s level, playing with them during “play time” has somewhat lifted because they are receiving guidance from me weaved throughout the day, so their ability to play independently for longer periods of time has significantly increased.
- I need to be aware of our home environment, but most importantly what each of my children are attempting to do next…so I can provide the materials, guidance and encouragement to increase their levels of development and independence!
Since learning some of these truths for myself, I’ve enjoyed the time at home with my girls more. I’m intrigued to know how your days are structured, especially if you have older children home from school for the summer. Do you take a more relaxed approach to the day, are you and your children’s calendar and schedules mapped out through August, and what learning activities/lessons do you prepare and teach, if any? I believe in the fluidity of parenting and teaching, there is no right way, there is always change, and what works for one does not always work for another!