Everyday Teaching Opportunities
Teaching within your home does not have to be difficult. There are so many wonderful ways in which small lessons can be taught. Through the years with my six children, I’ve learned much about the different ways they learn. I also learned what they enjoy learning about. I know that one will read anything. Another prefers to experiment. The point is to do what they enjoy. Here are some of my favorites:
- Read to them every day. I try to read to them from difficult books and also those at their level. During one summer, we chose a series that they would like for me to read to them. Last year, we read the first Harry Potter. We have done Little House books. Another summer, it was Hunger Games. Funny thing? They could all read very well by then, but they liked the tradition of mom reading to them.
- Reading cards. Like flash cards with common and most used words. You can make them, but I noticed that Wal-mart had some by their children’s books. Use the cards to make sentences. (There is great book out there called ‘Teach Your Child to Read’. My mother used this book to teach me to read. I used it to teach my children to read. They all read before they started kindergarten.)
- Label items. Refrigerator, stove, door, window, etc. The children get used to the words and start identifying the written word with the item.
- Fractions: The scoop in the sugar to make Kool-Aid is exchanged every couple of days. They have to think it through. ½ -two scoops, ¾ -scoop and a half, etc. We counted just about EVERYTHING!
- Division: Snacks have to be divided out. I throw out a pile of goldfish and then have them divide it equally then we talk about how everyone got 7 of something because there were 35. 35 divided by 5 children makes 7 each. We discuss what we do with the remainders. What would be fair?
- Curriculum books: During the summer, we bought the kids a curriculum book (like a workbook). I find them at Sam’s. I get the one for the grade above them that they will be starting in the fall. They earn rewards if they get to certain milestones within the book. (picnic, special dinner, park, etc)
- Library: Every Tuesday during the summer was a picnic at the park beside the library and then check out books.
- Reading clubs: Check out the libraries. There are many clubs and summer reading programs. Some bookstores offer the same!
- Reading goals: I used to get ‘nasty’ with my older children. (As one of my children told me one day.) I made them read so many fiction, non-fiction about (fill in the blank). They read about 50 books during the summer. It only counted if it was parent approved! (Why? Because I know that I have one that will just read preschool books when he was in third grade just to get the rewards.)
- Questions: ALWAYS I just cannot emphasize it enough, answer the questions. If you don’t know, tell them that you don’t know. If I don’t know an answer, we write the question down and then research it either at the library or on the internet. I try to never say that I don’t have time. I keep post it notes in the kitchen. I scratch down the question there and then we stick it up to be researched. (Many times, I have sat on the kitchen floor and answered the question of why. They find it really cool that we are sitting on the kitchen floor.) Now, with the ability to have access constantly with us, answering questions is simpler!
- Sorting –when they are little they can sort. It is the best way to introduce them to math. I bought three laundry baskets and labeled them ‘whites, lights, darks’. They sorted their own laundry. Even my three year old rarely made a mistake. Try sorting silverware into the right space in the drawer. Stacking Rubbermaid containers inside of each other.
- Music: We did music. It has a lot to do with math. Quarter notes, etc. Piano, flute, and recorder when they were little. When they grew, they chose baritone, trombone, tin whistle, piano (continued on), percussion, etc.
- Ask them questions. How many times do you hear a child say, ‘look at this really cool whatever”? Ask them why it is cool. What makes it do that? You don’t have to have all of the answers and don’t be afraid to say that you just don’t know, but they will then start to ask the questions themselves. Eventually, they even know that they can research it themselves.
- Provide resources: Don’t cater to children or learners. As my children got older, I said, ‘hum, where do you think that you could find the answer to that? Dictionary, encyclopedia, …’ Give them tools to find answers so that they can be lifelong learners.
- Experiment: David, my monster, wanted to know if a light bulb was water tight. We put one in a pitcher of water for a few days to see what would happen. (I do use a lot of wisdom here. My three boys could break a bowling ball and very likely everything that I owned.) One day, we experimented on what would happen if you pour pixie stick candy into 7up. I didn’t know! It becomes like a volcano. It was an incredible experiment and an experience my grown children still remember!
- Gardening: We put plants or seeds in water in a glass so that we could watch the roots grow before we planted it in the ground. They chose something to plant in the garden. It becomes their responsibility. One year, Liam chose carrots and in a rocky part of the yard. In September, we pulled them to find that they were crooked! (“Why Liam?” I asked him. He got to figure it out!)
- Construction/working with tools: We made birdhouses and bird feeders. (Kits are available at your local scout shop.) We watched what birds came.
- Model reading: Let children see you read! I made sure to read from a book daily in front of my children. I also am sure to read a variety of books. My children know that I will read a good novel … sometimes, history, science, scriptures, etc.
- Museums: We had a pass to the museum and did that trip frequently. (Obviously not the art museum when they were little.) We did the History and Science Museum in Denver. Children’s Museum. Zoo. Botanical Gardens. Art Museum – just not a yearly pass to it.
- Camping: We camped a lot and let them think of something that they would like to discover. They planned the menus, did the shopping, organized the schedule, etc. I hate camping. I often tell my children that my idea of camping is a Marriott, but there were experience my children would never have received if I had continued to be a Marriott girl and neglected the camping.
- Journals: All of my children had journals and were encouraged to keep one from the time they could hold a pencil. The first ones of their lives are merely scribbles but they are a delight to ‘read’ now that they are older and grown.
- Paper, pencils and crayons are easily accessible. (NOT glue, scissors or tape.) My rule was that if it is easy to clean it was accessible without parental involvement!
- Creativity: Mostly, just be creative and have fun. There is something in the nature versus nurture issue, but the thing is that they get to be the best that they can be.
- Praise: –lots of it. Treats –little of them. Start something that you can live with. Can you live with them needing sugar as a reward? Stickers? I found that I did best with hugs and kisses. That is really what they seem to want anyway. They prefer lots of attention.
- Rocky roads: Lastly, it doesn’t always go smoothly. Just pick it up and move on. Sometimes, the thing that I prepared the most for is the least successful!
This becomes most addicting! There are so many fun things to do with children -many with little planning.
Most situations can become learning experiences. I tried to do that with my children. I invested a lot of time with them, and some things fell by the wayside. They were and still are the first priority. For example one summer, my father complained about my lawn getting too long. I told him that we didn’t mow weekly. We mowed every 9 -10 days. We were not growing grass. We were growing children. One day, they will be gone and I will have the greenest, cleanest lawn -just like my retired neighbor.
Tracy Atkinson, mother of six, lives in the Midwest with her husband and spirited long-haired miniature dachshunds. She is a teacher, having taught elementary school to higher education, holding degrees in elementary education and a master’s in higher education. Her passion is researching, studying and investigating the attributes related to self-directed learners and learning styles. She has published several titles, including MBTI Learning Styles: A Practical Approach, The Art of Learning Journals, Calais: The Annals of the Hidden, Lemosa: The Annals of the Hidden, Book Two, Rachel’s 8 and Securing Your Tent. She is currently working on a non-fiction text exploring the attributes of self-directed learners: The Five Characteristics of Self-directed Learners.