The Letter A unit went well last week with both kids. There was really only one activity we skipped and one book we didn’t like, so I called that “success”.
I was all ready to go with the letter B on Monday and thankfully, all those activities went well. The best activity wasn’t really an activity at all though. It was a very informal discussion while eating breakfast about the things around the room that started with B (this wasn’t on my official plans for the day). I really had no expectations at all that either of them could tell me anything that started with B, but before Finn could even open his mouth, Lydia shouted, “Babies!” (her current obsession). This led to a very lengthy conversation about other words that started with B, a conversation that continued organically throughout the day (See also: the super simple glitter butterfly craft below, which was a hit).
Then on Tuesday I had planned what I thought would be an easy, fun, and yet meaningful activity. In fact, I was pretty much patting myself on the back for coming up with it on my own. It was sensory. It had cut outs. It was kinesthetic. I officially nominated myself for Homeschool Mom of the Year.
Exactly 2.2 seconds after I introduced said activity, there was zero interest in doing it. If you follow me on Instagram, you know which activity I mean.
I’ve had this happen so many times since we began “official” learning activities last year. I thought I’d moved past my perfect plans needing to be perfectly performed, but I was completely bummed that not only did they not like the activity…not even a little bit…but that they weren’t even curious enough about my description of it to continue.
Because that activity flopped so bad, I started questioning and reevaluating everything: my entire homeschooling philosophy, my curriculum choices, my decision to homeschool, the shirt I was wearing. Where did I go so wrong? *insert dramatic music and me with my arm draped across my forehead.
Then, I had to ask myself: Where did the real learning happen?
In our impromptu, totally spontaneous breakfast discussion. Where does most of my children’s learning take place? In discussions. Over what they see outside, music they hear, books we read. *mind blown*
I’ve been missing the forest for the trees!
And it seems I’m learning something new every week, right along with my kiddos.
It’s not how many crafts we complete. Or how well they can draw a letter in a salt tray. Or even if they like or dislike a book or activity that I think is so great for them.
It’s about them learning how to question the world around them. Learning how to solve problems. Learning how to find the answers their searching for. Learning how to THINK.
If I can teach them how to think, they will become lifelong learners.
Oftentimes, I believe we get so bogged down in the tasks that demonstrate proficiency of a skill that we forget that children can think and communicate those thoughts to us even before they are verbal or reading independently.
We just have to ask the right questions.
It’s a bit ironic that I only came to this conclusion on Tuesday because for the past several weeks, I’ve been planning, researching, and working on a booklist to use for the remainder of this school year. And not just a booklist, but discussion guides to go with many of the titles to help kids do exactly what I’ve been talking about: THINK.
I’ve found that so many of my children’s favorite picture books lend themselves to great discussions about literary elements and can tap into higher level thinking skills. Skills that often get pushed to the back burner until the child is old enough to read to themselves. Why not work on those skills from the get-go (in the pre-reading stage) so that they become second-nature to them before they are launched into letter recognition, phonics, and reading?
My goal is to create an easy-to-use guide for each book that can be utilized with any child from ages 2-7 to help them begin to notice how not only the words of their favorite picture books, but also the illustrations can give us hints as to what’s going on in the story and also help them begin to pick up on the nuances of good writing. Believe it or not, they can do both of these things as early as 2 years old.
I’ve used my own children, 4 and 2, as guinea pigs for this for a few weeks just to see if the questions I’d created prompted the type of short, yet meaningful conversations I hoped for. To my surprise and delight, I found that the simple, open-ended approach of the questions brought out some really interesting answers. From a 4 year old boy, no less!
I wanted to create a resource that you can use if you’re a teacher in a traditional setting, a homeschooling parent, or even just a parent who reads to their children at night before bed.
I’m excited to release the first guide next Wednesday, along with some suggestions for easy ways to use each guide as you read the book with your children. Stop by next week to pick up your free copy of the first guide. The partial booklist will be available as well for you to enjoy. Comment below if there are particular books you’d love to see on the discussion guide list.
Don’t forget that Little Paper Crown is now on Youtube. New videos each Wednesday!