So, it's been a little while...ok, a long while since I visited here. Life...you know, the cleaning, training, teaching, never-ending laundry or dishes, laughing, ever-exhausting kind of life that we are living? Sometimes, it takes every second of our time and that's where I've been. However, I've been thinking about you all (or y'all as my southern friends would say) and this blog. A few years back, I wrote an article for an online homeschooling magazine. As a young homeschooling mom, I was learning how different each of my children were and how they expressed and absorbed the world around them so differently.
There is a beautiful design to the minds of our children. Every square inch of them has been intricately woven by the hands of God. Just like Psalm 139 says " For You formed my inward parts; You wove me in my mother's womb. I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made...my frame was not hidden from You when I was made in secret and skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth" (NASB). Does that amaze you? Down to the very depths of their being, our children bear the fingerprints of God in a unique way. There are no cookie-cutter children , just as there are no cookie-cutter adults. No child is exactly like another and as homeschoolers, we can't afford to miss this.
Children are "designed" to reach certain developmental milestones at different ages. Every parent would tell you that trying to potty-train a nine month old would be a lost cause. Little babies don't have the physical or developmental ability to learn this skill. However, wait two or three years and success is much more likely because, of course, the child now has the cognitive and physical abilities to succeed. So, why don't we realize that this same concept applies to the reaching of academic milestones? When it comes to reading many educators, today, say that children should be reading by age 5, or even before! However, if we looked inside the brain of a child, specifically boys, we would see that many of them are not ready to read until the age of eight or nine. In our family, we've had children teach themselves to read before they turned four and others that were still struggling readers at ten.
No matter how hard we try to teach, encourage, plead or demand that our children learn a certain concept, if they are not developmentally ready then we are fighting a losing battle. A battle that will only end in frustration and tears and damage to our child's confidence , ultimately hindering later attempts to teach the same concept. Yet, if we wait until our child is ready to learn, even if that means putting a concept off for several months then we will be much more likely to help our child succeed.
The developing brain of a young child is astonishing. So much is accomplished and solidified in their minds during those early years. A hallmark in the cognitive development of a young child is the absence of abstract thinking. This means that while young children can understand the alphabet, numbers in sequence or musical notes, they often have great difficulty understanding and expressing ideas such as love, justice or honor. So, for the young child this means, presenting concepts in a concrete manner. Eventually your child will be able to think and reason abstractly, but early on they need concrete teaching that gradually moves to the abstract.To give you an example, in teaching my son addition I began by using everyday tasks such as sorting laundry. Our conversation would go something like this" Daniel, I have two white shirts in this basket and I need those other two over there. If you put them in this basket, how many shirts will we have?" It gave him a purpose for learning...and isn't that what we're trying to do? We're trying to teach our children to love learning and show them that it has a purpose! Well, we continued using math in everyday activities until my son seemed more confident. Then we began more formal lessons using manipulatives such as blocks or counters or lego men or skittles (whatever works, right?!). Soon he mastered the ability to show me what two plus two or four plus one looked like with blocks and eventually he no longer needed the manipulatives. He understood what each part of the equation represented because of all the concrete learning that had preceded it.
As a homeschooling mom of six, I have seen this work over and over. I even use concrete learning activities with my older children when they seem to be struggling with a particular concept. Using concrete activities in teaching applies to all subjects. This is the beauty of homeschooling...we can teach writing by making grocery lists or writing letters, we can teach history by creating native american drums or teach science in the creek that runs through our backyard. Each of our children are developing uniquely, reaching their developmental milestones on their own timetables. We can't rush that. It is the beauty of how God created them...how He created all of us. If we can embrace this and teach in a way where they have a purpose for learning we will surely bless and enrich their lives.