Sometime ago, I received a letter from a young mother outlining her concern that she was not providing adequate learning opportunities for her young daughter.
Like many young mothers, she was already contemplating home education for her child and wished to provide as firm a foundation as possible.
I'm so encouraged by the dedication and desire of these young women, to create an environment of creativity and exploration. At the same time, it is a good idea to establish a "mission statement" - a concise statement that outlines the ultimate goal of your homeschooling endeavor...and to remember that "play" is education, too.
Here is the letter and my response follows:
My name is Margaret and I have a 22 month old child. I am a new mom and am thinking about home schooling. I see a lot of material for pre K for home schooling, but I don't see a lot for toddlers.
Presently, we spend most of our time reading and talking. She's like a sponge. At this point, my daughter can recognize her numbers and alphabet. She knows her left foot from her right foot and knows her colors. She loves to read and when I say we read, I mean we can read non stop for a hour. She loves it. But I want to make sure I'm living up to my potential as her mom and want to do everything possible to help her. It's like she's craving for more. Do you have any suggestions?
I have a friend who was excited when she heard her say her first sentence, I didn't have the heart to tell her she's been it saying for weeks. I need to know, too, if possible, is she developing at the same rate as other children in her age group?
Any help would be greatly appreciated; sometimes I'm not sure if I'm doing enough.
Margaret (last name withheld)
Your letter was forwarded to me by CCHE Director, (name withheld). Allow me to introduce myself...my name is Kimberly Wasson, Assistant Director of CCHE. I am the mother of nine children and have been homeschooling for an aggregate of seven years. My children range in age from 23 to 20 months. I hope that my experience will bless and encourage you as you seek to provide the best possible environment for your little one.
"Precocious learning" is most common among, though not exclusive to, first children. Your little girl is blessed to have nearly all of her socialization and intellectual stimulation provided by an adult. The fact that you are also attentive to her natural desire and proclivity to learning, will accelerate her latent abilities as well as make evident areas of giftedness. I will give you an example, by using one of my own children! My oldest daughter, Ashley, sounds very much like your little one. Ashley was walking by 8 months, potty trained by 12 months, talking in complete sentences at 18 months and reading by 3 years of age. Yes...this is somewhat unusual. Ashley does have a genius level intellect and is extremely articulate, as well. I must admit, that as a first time mom, I spent an incredible amount of time doing many of the things that you are currently doing - reading, shape, number and letter recognition. For a very long time, I believed that my efforts were the most important part of helping Ashley "be all she could be."
Then I had another child. And another. And another. Amazingly, as my time became more and more compromised, I felt that my other children would suffer as a result (not having the same concentrated effort that Ashley did). This has been proven, for the most part, wrong. All of the children have a variety of gifts and talents, some more than others. I'll contrast one of my children, for example. My oldest son, Zachary, was incredibly different from Ashley. Zachary never spoke a word until he was two years old...and then he spoke in complete sentences, no baby talk! He was not potty trained until he was nearly three, but by 26 months he could name all of the planets in the solar system, recognize simple words in print and completely disassembled the carburetor on his father's roto-tiller. There were times when Zachary was very young, that I worried about his abilities...I did not read to him nearly as often as his three older sisters (he didn't like to sit still for very long), by four he was no longer interested in learning to read and I began to doubt that he would ever read well, despite his early "prodigy like tendencies". Needless to say, those fears were all unfounded and Zachary has a mind like a steel trap! He is now 11 years old, reads at an 8th grade level, is an inventor of sorts, and can take apart and put back together nearly anything he puts his hands on. He has taken the lead in his own development, from a "giftedness" standpoint. His father and I simply provide the necessary tools to encourage him in whatever is his current interest and let him go!
Children are DEFINITELY like sponges!! They soak up everything, good and bad! Ashley's learning continued to remain accelerated throughout her life...and it is certainly a challenge keeping up with a young person whose intellect eventually exceeds yours! I would caution you, however, in your endeavors. Do make sure that your daughter has plenty of time to PLAY!! This is critical...she is more than a computer to be programmed...she must develop in stages, and sometimes the acceleration of the natural learning abilities of the gifted child can lead to difficulties in relationships...the child spends so much time "learning" that she is not "living" and interacting as a child. God created all of His children with a body, mind and soul. It is necessary to balance all of these aspects to meet our full potential. The gifted child will excel and succeed in spite of efforts to restrain her. Just take it one day at a time and remember to love her, hold her, tickle her and enjoy playing with her! It is just as easy for you to burn out as it is for her.
Homeschooling is, without doubt, the best option available for the gifted child and dedicated parent. The child is able to progress at his or her own pace and can even branch off into new interests at the drop of a hat! These options are simply not available to public school children, nor are they available within the various gifted programs offered. There are many programs available to encourage your precocious toddler and will also provide a fun learning environment. Before Five in a Row by Jane Claire Lambert, is an excellent literature based thematic learning program for your 2 to 4 year old. This program is available through Amazon books, Rainbow Resources and nearly every other homeschooling company. The web address is www.fiveinarow.com and has a lot of additional information regarding this program. Since you are currently doing a lot of reading with your daughter, this program would reinforce what you are already doing as well as show you how to implement literature to provide information on a variety of subjects.
Remember to seek fellowship with other moms! They can offer a variety of ideas, support and encouragement. And lest I forget...academic excellence is just one of the "perks" of homeschooling, and is only a small part of why I homeschool. It is an awesome task and tremendous blessing to be able to provide your child with a faith-based education, wholesome fellowship and socialization and build family relationships at the same time. I thank God everyday that I'm able to do this great thing! Please let me know if there is anything else I can do to assist you! I know this is a much longer response than you were probably looking for, but when inspiration strikes...you just go with it ;-D