I went into motherhood with a firm conviction that teaching my children would be one of my most important responsibilities, but as my first child started to grow up, I found it very hard to figure out what to teach her, there were so many opinions and ideas, it was overwhelming. Confused about what to do and overwhelmed about doing it, I mostly did nothing. The turning point came when I signed up for a community program designed to teach parents basic parenting skills
As part of this program, a facilitator would come to my home and show me simple learning activities I could do with my kids, as well as some book and song recommendations. I was flabbergasted. They were all simple, inexpensive and took less than 5 minutes. My kids liked them, too. After spending the last 4 years trying to develop a system and wade through the controversies I had found something that worked.
Modeling this idea, I created posts for January and February aimed at helping others find simple activities they could do with their children, but I realize that sharing these seems to have generated a feeling that I sit around teaching my children all day and that I think you should to. Neither of which, are true. So, I’m going to back up a little and share the why, what and how for teaching my children.
I recently came across this quote from John C. Lewis:
“If not us, then who? If not now, then when?
I believe this applies really well to my role as a mother. If I don’t teach them, who do I expect will? Their teachers, coaches, peers, or extended family members? Indeed all those people might play a role and indeed can be very valuable in their growth and development, but then again sometimes not and even if they did teach them exactly what I think they ought to know, I would miss out. I would miss out on the joy that comes with teaching and spending meaningful time with them.
I teach my children because I feel it is important to do so. Beyond bearing them and caring for their basic needs, teaching them is the next most important responsibility I have. I also teach them because I enjoy spending time with them and it gives me a sense of fulfillment and purpose when I pass on what is most important to me to them.
Imagine you have just landed in a foreign land. You don’t know the language or the customs and the food is weird. Would you want someone to wait 5 years before beginning to help you understand what’s going on? Of course not. You would appreciate any and all efforts to help you understand anything.
Our children are in a foreign land of sorts, and whether they say so or not they appreciate any and all efforts to help them understand the world around them. They don’t need complicated activities with hours of set up and exact instructions. They need us to look at them where they are today and think -“What is one thing my child could benefit from learning and how can I help them learn that?” Sometimes, it is modeling play, reading a book or showing them how to hold a pencil. Later, it may be how to sign up for high school classes, save for college and keep their standards intact in a world of changing values. Ultimately, it is up to them, but I believe it is also up to us to give them the real kind of help that they need: knowledge, encouragement and the opportunity to learn.
My priorities in teaching my children are religious and moral education, life skills (cooking, cleaning, manners, getting along with others) and academic skills (writing, reading, math). In that order. Following my priorities and the simple teaching instruction I was given in the community program I mentioned earlier, here is a breakdown of our daily learning goals.
We don’t do anything that takes a lot of time to put together. We use the resources we already have on hand. Occasionally, we do a mommy and me story time where I read 2-3 books based around a specific concept and teach them 3-5 songs. We repeat, repeat, repeat and we spread these activities throughout the day; scripture study at mealtimes, reading at naps and bedtime and learning goals or something they want to do after I’ve ignored them for a sufficient amount of time. We also, keep it short, 5-10 minutes according to the typical attention span of the child.
In full disclosure, I rarely get to all of these learning activities in one day. I read to them the most because that’s what I enjoy doing with them the most, but scripture study probably happens 4 days a week and the rest probably average 2 or 3 times a week. I still believe that trying to do these learning activities daily is a good goal, but life happens.
I want you to know that it is possible to teach your child without spending hours of your free time and multiple trips to the craft store. That you can find joy in doing so and as you pick one or two simple concepts to teach your child that they will make better gains and feel a sense of pride and accomplishment as well. I hope that as I share future posts featuring kids activities that I can be a resource to you in the good work you are already doing.
Write it down in a journal, talk it over with a friend or leave a comment below.