Thursday, January 16, 2003 in homeschooling

Homeschooling Babies & Toddlers

To be honest, when I first started researching this topic, nigh on almost three years (has it been that long already?), there wasn’t much out there to find. It took me almost as long to formulate in my mind something coherent enough for other people to understand even the concept of homeschooling a child who isn’t normally considered old enough to be “schooled”.

I’m going to tell you now, in the second paragraph, exactly what it is without making you read to the bottom of the page. Ready? It might knock you over.

Homeschooling your baby or toddler means doing those things that you would normally be doing with them anyway, except in a concientious manner.

Got it? Still not sure what I mean? Well, here’s some ideas to incorporate into your day.

1. Read to your child. – I can’t stress this one enough. Reading to them helps them learn how to read on their own. It shows them that information can be found in a book, and not just by asking mommy “Why?” for the zillionth time. Or you could do double-duty and get an older child to read to your younger child. Great for them both!

2. Have materials readily available. – I don’t really mean have everything within an arm’s reach at all times. Sheesh, you’d be doing nothing but clean-up time all day! Rather, things like art supplies and materials should have a special spot that is easy to get to (after asking Mommy), and a nice space to use them in. Paper, used one side even, crayons, markers, paints, safety scissors, glue stick and anything else you can get your hands on are a good start. The kids will think up the rest. Maybe out of those books you read to them!

3. Talk to your child. – I admit, I felt pretty stupid with kid #1 and I alone in the house, and me talking away. I mean, it’s not like he talked back. Not yet. Eventually, he giggled and gurgled and realized this was a new way to communicate with Mommy. I talked about what I was doing, what he was doing, hte clothes I was putting on him, and the things around him. And not just talking, ask your child questions. What do they see out the bus window as you ride downtown? Can they see a car? A tree? How about when you are doing chores? Can they show you a big sock in the laundry basket? How about a small sock? Over dishes, can they pick out the blue plate from the sink and give it to mommy? This is learning and reinforcing concepts in everyday life.

4. Let your child ask questions. And answer them. – Sure, I got pretty tired of the endless “Why?”s myslef, but I did find a way to turn it around. “Why what?” I would asked, encouraging them to expand on what they wanted to ask, to express themselves. Pretty soon they were asking more particular questions. “Why is that bug carrying that leaf?”, so I’d answer briefly. He’s taking it home for food. As the questions got more involved, or beyond a quick one-sentence answer, I went with the child to look it up in a book, showing them how to find the information and reading it out loud to them. Sometimes I had to clarify or condense what was in the book, but you get the idea. I remember a day when one child asked me what was hard inside her arm. We looked up bones and the skeletal system and explained how it helped hold up her body.

5. Be active with your child. – When the big kids were little, everything was a song and dance. When we talked about toes and knees and shoulders and heads, we sang a song. We sing silly songs. We sing hand-clapping songs and laugh. We sing jumping songs, on the bed of course. This includes playing games, even games you think your child might be too young for. (use caution though) Emma (2yrs) has recently learned how to play “Red Light, Green Light” even though she doesn’t really understand most of it. Just try something you remember from your own childhood.

6. Be pro-active in your tv watching. – I’m not going to say tv is bad for kids, especially when my own is on all day, every day. What I am going to suggest is watching tv and participating in what is on the screen, instead of staring slack-jawed and glossy-eyed. If the fuzzy puppets on the screen sing a song and dance, join them. If someone counts, count with them. If someone shows a happy face, be happy. Pull a sad face when they frown. In other words, watch the show with your child. Talk about it. Act on it. You can also encourage the child to tell others about what they saw.

7. Show AND tell. – Sometimes a picture really is worth a thousand big words. If your childlikes her toy car, she may also like big cars, car shows, motorized little cars, transforming cars, going for a car drive, car books, car diagrams and.. well, you get the idea.

8. Keep it simple. – They’re kids, not little adults. You want to have fun while they are still young enough to feel that learning is fun. Most preschoolers are quite happy with learning colors, shapes/sizes, opposites, various animals and sounds, body parts and names, numbers and letters (although I would prefer to teach them the sounds of the letters first if I could), and various names of all kinds of objects. If your child is really interested in something specific, just make sure they have access to more information, like books from the library, videotapes and maybe a related art project. They’ll do the rest and let you know when their brain is full.

In short, you don’t really need any sort of fancy curriculum, or any at all. It depends on your specific needs, your child’s needs, and how much you can afford.

Books I found helpfull:
Slow & Steady Get Me Ready – I actually bought this one since I heard so much about it. It has weekly activities from birth through five years of age. I tend to skip around and pick and choose rather than follow it religiously.
Baby Games – I found this at a yard sale. Twice. Has all the words to the songs you can’t quite remember from when you were a kid. Lots of hand-clapping games and everything! All the crafty recipes you would ever need are here too.
How to multiply your baby’s intelligence – Sounds odd, but this was a real eye-opener for me. I check it out of my local library every few months for a re-read since I get more out of it each time. They have a website too.
What to do When There’s Nothing to Do (out of print, but you can get it used)
Teaching Montessori in the Home – I don’t really use this method, but it has great practical things to make and do so your preschooler will learn the basics from all learning styles.
Baby Signs – I didn’t read the actually book for this, but I did read a lot about it online and looked up a few signs for our baby. A great idea.

Comments

  1. You can find What to do when there’s nothing to do in the second hand section on Amazon.com. I know it’s the US site, but the lowest price one on there was $1.20 with $3.49 shipping, which isn’t too hideous, exchange wise.

  2. I am a Montessori Teacher. I appreciate that you put a “Montessori” book on your list. I just wanted to let you know that the Montessori philosophy is basically what you said in your above ideas. It’s about following the child and letting them be kids, yet giving them the skills to grow to their full potential.

    Thank you,

    Robin from Des Plaines, Illinois