The Natural Force of the Toddler

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Water is arguably the most powerful force on the earth. If you pour a glass of water on a surface, you can watch it roll, flood and drip away in an instant. When water meets a steadfast obstacle, it immediately flows another direction with the same intensity. With water there is no thought process, no hesitation and no undo button.

Such is life with a toddler. Strong and fierce, there is no stopping a tiny trotting human. Toddling this way and that, the little human never stops until it has worn so thin, it passes out involuntarily. These still developing humans, leave no cabinet left un-opened, no shelf left un-cleared and no basket left un-dumped.

As you can hear the sound of a rushing flood, the toddler alerts innocent bystanders of advancing attacks with loud, “aaaaaaaaaaa,” and “awwwwww,” alarms. But, beware of the silent battle. When you are least aware, water can damage your cabinets, floors and furniture. The small munchkin also employs her sneak attacks on unsuspecting possessions, doing the most damage when you feel safe and unsuspecting.

Have you ever tried holding water? Water is impossible contain and control without a vessel. Similarly, little people can often (but not not always) be contained in baby wraps, high chairs, swings and strollers. But once a child has been released from safety straps, he or she may quickly turn to fluid, making themselves difficult to detain.

Water is pure, stunningly beautiful to behold, and absolutely vital to life. Likewise, little cherubs are our life’s future, and quite lively themselves. Beautiful though they may be, the power of water, or the tot, is awe inspiring and dreadfully terrifying. If you find yourself in trust of such a force, handle with care and behold the fierce power and beauty with patience, caution and admiration.

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^What even happened to the sheet?

Present to Help

I love to teach children’s classes at church. I would not say I am all that talented for it, but it is a pleasure of mine. I did not regularly go to church until I was 10, but  I had a Beginner’s Bible when I was just learning to read. I remember the stories coming alive. I remember dreaming, hoping and praying that God would call me special like He did Hannah, Samuel and Mary, but especially like Elijah and Jonah with whom I identify with most. Sharing those stories is so much fun for me.

A few stories stuck out to me most, Elijah with the prophets of Baal, Hannah and her encounter with Eli, Jonah and his fish-belly repentance, and a man of palsy who had faithful friends bring him to Jesus through a roof. The last one always baffled me, how those friends were so decisive that they interrupted the teachings of Jesus and opened up the tiles on a roof to lower a lame man down in front of large group of followers, literally putting themselves in the center of attention.

But as I prepared this week’s Sunday School lesson, something entirely new about that last story came to life to me. In Luke 5:17 the story is just beginning, “And it came to pass on a certain day, as  {Jesus} was teaching, that there were Pharisees and doctors of the law sitting by, which were come out of every town of Galilee, and Judaea, and Jerusalem: and the power of the Lord was present to heal them.”

The stage is set for this miracle to occur, and the scene is full of wealthy, well educated, able-bodied people. And the Power of the Lord was present to heal them. These men must have been intimidating in their proper religious robes and meticulous manners. And God Himself came, able to heal them.

What an incredible missed opportunity when they did not seek Him. When the humbled, uninvited lame man and his faithful friends arrived, they stopped Jesus with their act of faith. These men found more than the physical healing they were searching for, but also the forgiveness of their sins over their act of faith.

I found myself in awe over this story from my childhood all over again. God is so merciful, gracious, and kind. He was right there, able and willing to heal those in attendance, but so few sought what God had to offer. I wonder how often Jesus had something for me, but I was too busy, prideful or afraid to seek the possibilities.

 

Tchaikovsky’s Rule for Success

I have learned so much homeschooling my children! I had a friend recommend a phone app that reads literature. So I started one called Days with the Great Composers. I went straight to the Tchaikovsky’s section since we were listening to his music that week. Honestly, it was not particularly interesting thing for the children, but they did learn about his personality, I was able to highlight the facts, and we got some narration accomplished.

Just before I was about to switch it off, the narrator started reading the advice Tchaikovsky gave to young artists. It was inspiring to me, so I had the kids help me simplify. I wrote it on our board, and we simplified it more. Here is what we finished with:

  1. Develop yourself as a craftsman. Practice
  2. Never look back from the plow. Look ahead.
  3. Do not be controlled by your emotions. Work anyway.
  4. Do not be afraid of commissioned work. All work is good work.

The kids were so excited to be artists after this discussion that my son went to building legos, and my daughter to pencil drawing. It has been a few weeks already, and we refer to this when a child is discouraged or motivated. Both my older two expect perfection from themselves, so knowing that all work is practice and even assigned work can be inspired artistry, really has been liberating for them.

Even I was of the mindset that commissioned work, or for profit work was less inspired. I think I learned that after reading literature from authors who started producing like novel factories. But we can’t limit all artwork to non profit status to be considered inspired. And I love that Tchaikovsky says to do your art whether you feel like it or not. It is both liberating and shackling. I love to write, and I have to write. But sometimes, I get blocked, stuck, in a funk and just don’t feel like it. When I get there, I need to press on regardless, and even if I toss it all, I’ve made progress. I’ve recently heard writing as a process. For all forms of art, it is a process. When we hit the fog, putting our hand to that plow and getting work on ‘paper’ is the best to move through it.

 

 

Preschool Issues ~ Distractions

I am a plain person. I have to intentionally choose to wear colors in my wardrobe, my rather boring taste prefers to wear black and white or brown and tan. When it comes to teaching, I would just prefer to dish out facts and let the students memorize them.

That is not how I teach my children for the most part though. I have learned that it is fun to learn while playing.

But………

I am starting to realize that some pre-made flash cards and educational books are more distracting than educational.

While teaching my son the alphabet a few months ago, I was using flash cards. These flash cards contained both upper and lower case letters and a picture. My son would often see the picture and gladly tell me what the picture was, or make the corresponding animal noise.

We have had similar concentration issues with workbooks my daughter likes to work in and even some ‘educational’ TV programs. Adelle (3) is able to read three letter words, but when her curriculum gave her books full of words she could read, she was overwhelmed. She wanted to guess the words based on the picture (which is a good skill but distracting at this age), and she felt intimidated by the sheer amount of words.

That is not to say that learning should always be plain, boring and straight to the point, but why not sometimes just show them what we would like them to learn without the distractions?

I made Index Card flash cards of the alphabet for my son. He still enjoys playing with them, but we could move through the cards quicker and he learned what we sat down to learn a lot faster.

When I took every word from the three books she can read and put them in flash cards, she was able to read them all. No guessing, no distractions, no talking about a story or character (we read several stories a day, but I prefer to do one task at a time), just joy and satisfaction over every word she managed to read.

I know, its boring to use index cards. It is one-dimensional learning. We learn other things in very creative ways (we’ll have to share more of the fun things!), but is it all bad to sometimes just get straight to the point?

I’m sure my children are not the only distract-able preschoolers! How have you handled distractions? Is there a benefit I am missing?

My Verdict on Sensory Play

I have been torn back and forth between this issue of sensory play. I can honestly say that I do not completely understand the necessity of it for most children. I have not put much effort into making special sensory play for my kids, but wanted to know if I was missing something.

I decided today that I am okay with the experiences I already give my children. I try not to be lazy, and I do my best to teach my children, but I believe that simple is better. At least for me. I do not want to own any special sensory play bins/toys, and I especially do not want to make any extra messes.

That is not to say I disagree with sensory play, I just do it in a more practical way. Here is a list of the sensory things my children have done in the last two weeks, all without any forethought of giving them sensory play.

1. Swimming

2. Playing in the water hose

3. Playing in the rain

4. Playing in the mud (yes I’m serious about this, it took a few mins for my kids to understand that it was allowed, but getting muddy is perfectly safe and healthy….as long as you get clean :)

5. Making biscuits

6. Playing with flour from baking (eating it was not encouraged but somehow it still happened)

7. Making bread

8. Rolling cookie dough

9. Playing with bubbles

10. Playing with snails and frogs, surprisingly my children are not afraid of frogs. I am, but won’t let them know that.

11. Picking tons of flowers (we categorize them like nerds :)

12. Rock hunting

13. Walking barefoot outside

14. Playing with chalk

15. Breaking eggs. This is messy, and highly unsanitary, but its their favorite, so I just clean well afterward.

16. Playing in the sand. Not a sandbox, real, outside sand. We live in FL, so its not hard to come by.

17. Eating with their hands. Usually not encouraged, but it happens, and my son especially thinks textures are entertaining.

18. Eating TONS of different types of food. I rarely make the same meal in a month’s time of being home (which usually takes a whole lot more time than a month for us!)

19. Playing with toys of different textures (they have some weird slimy, squishy toys along with normal toys)

20. Painting with our hands and feet

21. Making our own music with kid made instruments

22. Singing and dancing, we sing songs nightly with hand motions to them.

23. We did fireworks and that definitely peaked visual and hearing senses!

24. Watching construction workers

25. Helped Daddy mow the grass and fix the mower

26. We were eyewitnesses to different flying birds, snails, wasps (one eating an inchworm!), dragon flies, and different bugs in action. We like to just watch nature.

27. Visiting the river. There are lots of things to see, hear and feel at the river.

I have decided that sensory play is great! The only catch is that normal life provides plenty of thrill for the senses already. We talk about how things feel, we notice experiences together. We coin words for new sensations, and we giggle about silly feelings. No extra messes or equipment required.

Do you do sensory play with your children? Has it been helpful or exciting?

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Are We Quenching the Desire?

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Old School_House_ (Photo credit: Total Mayhem)

I had a tiny bout of insomnia and was doing tons of reading on different methods and philosophies on teaching young children. I came across a study done on children who were introduced to a new fancy toy. Half of the children were given some time alone with a toy with many different functions and the other half were given teachers who explained what the toy did and how to play with it.

The second group of children played with the toy exactly the way they were taught, while the first group of children figured out the functions for themselves and discovered several features not taught or enjoyed by the second group.

The moral?

The group taught exactly what to do had no need to figure things out for themselves and were unable to enjoy the full spectrum of the toy.

But this study led me to ask: What effect do our daily actions take on our children’s desire to learn?

Are we feeding our children our children enough information to keep them quiet, or patiently waiting for them to discover the world and the joys of knowledge and understanding?

I personally love learning, and adore children who feel the same. I am also blessed (but sometimes feel cursed!) with a daughter who is just a passionate about knowledge and understanding. As my two children have grown, I am trying to learn the best ways to feed their interest in learning. And it is very evident that every child is different.

But I think that I have learned that the best way for children to learn and love learning is to figure things out for themselves. This is very difficult and takes quite a bit of patience.

It is much easier for me, as a mother, to do things for them, not require any help from them, stop them before they make mistakes (especially messy ones!) and finish things for them when they struggle. But those things frustrate children, and quench the excitement of learning.

Some of the most amazing inspirational and successful people were born out of adversity. They experienced success regardless of social status, economics, prejudice, lack of formal education, physical restrictions, and/or countless other options of hardship.

I am beyond grateful for everything God has blessed my family with and would never want to put my children in any of the above situations. But those who have made history can teach us something. They can teach us that the best lessons are the ones we have to learn for ourselves, that those who become great do not become so because greatness was handed to them.