My kids love stickers. Being that we have three kids who ignore their mother's pleading to not plaster their stickers on...
- the chalkboard
- the wood floor throughout the house
- the linoleum floor in the bathroom and kitchen
- the chest of drawers their father so beautifully refinished
- in their siblings' hair
- or anywhere else which would make their mother's life difficult
they do it anyway when I'm not looking.
Be this as it may, I have to admit, I give a private chuckle when I see these stickers throughout the house, especially when they appear in strange places. I know how secretive the kids feel they are being when they paste a sticker on the underside of the sink or inside the refrigerator door. They convene in the back room and whisper about the great success of their goal to drive me crazy.
However, stickers can also be a parent's friend.
For example, the other day we were in a bookstore called Half Price Books after a walk to return a DVD to Scarecrow Video. Half Price Books has great deals on books and their clearance books can be purchased for a steal!
While there, we purchased a few homeschooling workbooks from the clearance section ($1 each). One on "Learning To Read" for P and one on "Learning Letters" for C. In the middle were two pages of stickers for some additional learning activities. I told the boys that we'd do the sticker activities after all of the other pages in the books had been completed. We all agreed that this made sense (albeit, after a little bit of whining and complaint).
The catch is, when the boys are "doing homeschooling" with any "homeschooling" books, they need to do them with a parent. They are not allowed to just rush through the book to get to the end. They are allowed to do as many pages as they would like to do in a given day since we do not usually limit them on these types of things. I firmly believe that much of our deepest learning and appreciation for a subject occurs during these times of being completely into what we are doing and having permission to shut off the rest of the world until we are done or have had enough.
Indeed, if there is any overarching problem that we seem to hear about continually in the news and from parent and teacher friends, it is about our children unable to focus on a task, to give it full concentration. But are we, as a society, not feeding our children mixed messages? We say we want our children to learn to focus, but we only permit them a specific amount of delineated time to do so and on tasks that are presented to them externally (think of the prescribed amounts of time for each chosen activity - time for singing, time for playing a game, time for storytime, time for playing outside). I worry that some of our children will lose touch with their own needs and abilities for self-actualization and self-direction, forever waiting for what the next task is, the next external direction telling them what to do.
But I digress...
While we are "doing homeschooling," especially workbooks, if we see that any of the kids are starting to get frustrated, if the material appears to be too difficult, if stopping the activity would be better, then we stop and take a break or move onto something else (often something totally different like going for a walk or running around in the back yard). And we talk to them about this process, help to make them aware of how we react in certain ways when we feel overwhelmed or tired out. Yes, our boys are only 3 and 5 but a discussion on their level in this way can be very insightful for all of us. It is amazing what they will share in terms of the things on their minds. P might share how he feels the same frustration when he can't climb the bars at the park. And C is learning how taking a break feels so good later when coming back to the same task.
So, the other day, when the weather was cold and rainy the boys begged to "do homeschooling" with their "homeschooling" books that they had just got the day before from the bookstore. I figured this was a GREAT idea. I mean, if your child is begging to learn about the letters of the alphabet or to read, who are we to say no, right? ;-)
Five or Six hours later, after breaks for lunch and discussion and the bathroom and playing with the cats and fetching the mail, the boys had each made it through their workbooks. We had talked about each page in each lesson and since the books were not extremely difficult, the boys were able to continue all the way through the books. C made a big jump in his recognition of uppercase and lowercase letters and sounds (he had to read each of the letters of the alphabet on the page in each language before he was "allowed" to color them). I was very impressed since before he had seemed to be fairly disinterested in such a task. He still has a hard time with separating the English and German letters which have similar names: W, V, E, I, A. P's book was a little easy for him but it still helped to reinforce some English vocabulary. To make things a little more difficult, I encouraged him to read the directions to each lesson out loud. It is amazing what a child can read when motivated!
In the evening, the boys delighted in their sticker activities (which, by the way, are simply more reading and letter learning activities.. hee hee). I cut some index cards in half and the boys stuck their stickers on each one to make them into "flash cards" for even more learning fun.
I cherish these days of learning and absolutely love being a part of it. More often than not, the choice of tasks come from the boys themselves. I pay very close attention to where their interests are during any given month and try to incorporate those topics into learning motivation as well. For example, P is still infatuated with dinosaurs and will make every effort to sound out the name of the longest dinosaur name because he is so interested in it. So, the more activities we have around that involve dinosaurs, the more requests come from him to "do homeschooling." And C is in complete awe of his ability to write letters and to create his own words which he demands I pronounce. So, I make sure we have paper and pencils around for him to write, write, write.
I stand in awe of this process and am honored to be able to share in it. For me, homeschooling is a privilege and honor.