Writing with the younger set
Every now and then I read a message from a mom who has really young kids (maybe they’re like 4, 2, 1 and 6 mos.). She’s made friends with local homeschooling moms and loves what she’s heard and sees. Now that she has a four year old, she’s certain that she can start homeschooling. It’s like there’s this big “Mommy playground” and she’s almost tall enough to get in.
So she’ll go to the homeschooling message boards and ask what curricula she can use with her kids, you know, to get started.
I have one word of advice for moms with truly young kids:
Find a hobby… for yourself.
If you are really excited about homeschool, you really ought to wait. Five and under is the time to snuggle on the couch, go to park days, eat jello straight out of the box, make play-doh, write graffiti on the bedroom walls with crayons, and read library books (go alone, at night, under the cover of darkness without your toddlers and load up… repeat, do not take your toddlers, stroller, baby in sling to the library in the middle of the afternoon when the line runs down the hall, and you have a mere sixty books ready for check out, and the two year old needs to use the potty even though you are first in line finally… don’t ask me how I know this).
In your free moments when you would be researching homeschool and getting excited about it, study something. Anything. Study a period of history. Learn about writing (for yourself). Make a quilt. Read all the Dorothy Sayers mysteries. Watch the Sister Wendy Story of Painting video series. Repaint your bedroom (once you start homeschooling, you won’t paint any rooms of your house for ten years…)
Do something for yourself that enriches you. This is the season when you can grow a little bit as a person so that you nourish your mind while you do lots of care-taking tasks. These deposits will reap amazing rewards in your homeschool later because once you have tasted the power of learning for its own sake (not because someone told you to learn) then you can bring that enthusiasm, empathy, and experience to your children.
This is when most of us begin. Homeschooling parents of this age group want to catalyze the writing bug, or they want to teach their kids to read or spell or hand write. All fine. Just don’t teach them. Create opportunities for these things to be the truly amazing discoveries that they are. Why ruin handwriting with a book that they must fill out every day? You could instead leave that handwriting book on the coffee table and see what happens. Or you can all hand write together (you could learn calligraphy while they learn cursive – why not? You would have instant empathy for your kids’ struggles to form letters, and as a result, you might set a more reasonable time length on the amount of writing they do each day). Or they can trace beautiful quotations (you write the original and they trace it).
Play with letters.
Get a stack of notecards, write the alphabet on them and play games. Concentration is good. But you can also play word assembly games, you can create patterns with letters (any sequence), you can create a new language or nonsense words or show what the English language should have done with its archaic spellings by creating a new phonetics. (My daughter and I do this. We spell the word the way we think it should be spelled. We smile, and admire the sense of that spelling, and then we spell it the “wrong” way – the way it is really spelled and stick out our tongues at it.)
Read aloud all those wonderful picture books from the library.
Watch a lot of TV. (Yes, you read that right.) Television, amazingly enough, is a great resource for growing in language acquisition. I’ve shared this before… Television actors are paid to use language in the most sophisticated, accurate and clever usage. They communicate meaning when they act. The script writers choose their words carefully and the actors deliver them with conviction and creativity. Feel free to pick and choose shows (I’m not advocating watching Seinfeld reruns with your three year old). But don’t be afraid of television for your children. Cartoons like Arthur and many of the shows on Disney channel are actually good for language development.
I don’t recommend freewriting with an eight year old unless that eight year old is already writing on his or her own naturally. At that point, you might not even need freewriting. Wait until nine or ten.
If your younger kids want to get in on the fun of freewriting, have them dictate to you for three minutes. You should sit at the computer and type their thoughts as quickly as you can get them down. You can jot their thoughts down any day of the week, actually. They love this.
I’ll post a bit on what I call “little books” tomorrow. These are fun for a certain type of young child and are something you can do, do, do to feel like you are actually homeschooling, if you need that reassurance and activity.