Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Growing Our Children: Teaching More Than Just ABCs, Or What We're Doing This Summer

After the third breakdown, when I finally accepted the fact that Mother's Day Out was breaking for the summer and our very active daughter would need a new routine with plenty of structure, I got to work.

First, I scoured the internet--mommy blogs, homeschool websites, educational resources, you-name-it-I-looked-at-it--in search of ideas for activities to do each day with our 2 1/2 year old fireball. Well, what did I find? There are a lot of fun, creative, and craftsy people out there. And I am NOT one of them! My poor girls got the boring mom.

But, fortunately, I am a hard-working mom who understands and accepts the concept that sometimes you just gotta do what you gotta do. So, with ideas whirling around in my pea brain and my notebooks and calendars at the ready, I began to plan a quasi-curriculum for the summer. Call me crazy; I know it's summer time, a time for fun and relaxation, but in the absence of the structure provided by Mother's Day Out and Community Bible Study, I knew we were going to require a new routine and some additional structure in our day-to-day life or someone was going to get hurt.

So, I started brainstorming different concepts, Bible stories, life skills, and Christian qualities I want to at least introduce to Kate, our oldest, the fireball.

It is really important to us that our children learn more than their ABCs and numbers. We really want them to know about Christ and how to live like Him.

So, when I came across Heavenly Homemakers' curriculum--"Learn Your Letters...Learn to Serve"--I was tickled pink! Here was someone doing EXACTLY what I want to do with my children. And, yes, I confess, I glanced over her ideas and "stole" a few, so if you like what you read, don't praise me; praise Laura. That woman is a genius! Check out her website for more information.

Here is how we are growing at our house. Don't judge; I know it seems somewhat regimented, but Kate thrives on routine and loves knowing exactly what to expect. Just like her Mama!

During the week we do "school" in the mornings while baby naps. In the afternoons, we play together, read books, have tea parties, garden, take nature walks, etc. It's important to incorporate a good amount of play into the day because kids learn so much about life in their play. Plus, I want our children to enjoy life and be kids while they can.

On Mondays, I introduce the week's (1) letter of the alphabet, (2) Bible story, and (3) memory verse, which begins with the letter of the week. We make a poster of the memory verse that Kate decorates with stickers every time she completes an activity. Toddlers live for stickers!

Every day we begin by reading the Bible story and reviewing the letter of the week and memory verse. Repetition is your friend. It is amazing how easily children retain information if you repeat it over and over again. Sometimes I will make the memory verse into a song just to make it more fun and easier to remember. For example, last week we studied Genesis 1:1, and we set the verse to "Are You Sleeping?" I love hearing Kate sing that song to herself and knowing that she is learning God's Word.

On Tuesdays, in addition to the Bible story and memory verse, we work on numbers. Right now, we are working on the numbers 10-20. We count beans, stickers, coins, whatever I can find. Again, repetition is key. There are just some things we have to memorize.

On Wednesdays, after the Bible story and memory verse, we turn to phonics. This is a work in progress for me because I have never taught phonics before. So a very basic activity we do is to put our letter of the week on a poster board and talk about the sounds that letter makes. Then, we come up with a list of words and Kate hunts in magazines for pictures of those words to cut out and glue to the paper. This is VERY HARD for a 2 1/2-year-old, so I need to find another idea. I try to draw some pictures, but, remember, I can't draw. Still, she is beginning to learn that each letter makes a different sound.

On Thursdays, we discuss a quality or attribute--both good and bad--that begins with the letter of the week. Sometimes we read a story about a character in the Bible who possessed that attribute; sometimes we look for a book at the library. For example, this week--letter G--we will talk about "giving" and read the Bible story of the little boy who gave his lunch to Jesus to feed the multitudes.

Fridays are field trip days. These are the days we visit and serve a family member, friend, or someone in need whose name begins with the letter of the week. For example, last week when we studied the letter I, we visited Miss Ida, an elderly church friend, and took her some ice cream from McDonald's. What a trip! She got such a kick out of us bringing her ice cream, and Kate had a BLAST feeding her goats.

The service project is probably my favorite part of what we do each week, but I can already tell Kate is growing and learning so much. She knows 8 Bible verses already! Plus, the daily structure has eliminated the "What are we going to do today?" question. But, most importantly, Kate is learning God's Word and how to grow in Him, and that is the best education we can give her.

What are you and your kids doing this summer?

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