As an educator my philosophy for teaching was personalised learning. I always wanted to create an arena for children to celebrate their strengths + work on their weaknesses in a loving + nurturing environment. Open ended tasks that allow children to navigate their learning using creativity + imagination as key forces. An environment which encourages individualism whilst embracing a family community. Activities that are related to the real world + learnt for a purpose. Every activity must have a purpose! As a mother, I want nothing less for my children. Montessori is one learning tool I particularly encouraged and am designing my children's playroom based on these principles (blog post to come on this soon).
When Hunter was about 6 months old, my routine (still now) is flexible yet structured. Again, he leads the way, I help him navigate it. This is really important for self esteem and social + emotional development. From an early age this is really important. There is an abundance of research on children who are stressed or anxious resulting in learning delays, even if they are gifted. High levels of stress affect a person's ability to fully reach their potential. When a child feels comfortable, respected, and safe they have the opportunity to tap into their talents.
Pre-baby I heard a lot of parents say, my 18 month old can count or she can count to 30 before starting school. Whilst number recall is great, this is such a common error for parents, as they focus on teaching their children to learn through memory rather than number recognition and working mathematically (numbers with purpose). Their children skid through kindergarten then around year 2, they are starting to see cracks in their children's learning and education. When we focus on memory based learning, children have no connection to it. So when you ask a child to start counting from 11 or backwards from 15, they are very confused. This is just a small example of children not connecting with their learning. Later on, learning becomes a chore + the love is gone.
Learning needs to be fun, whilst having a purpose. I love adventure days. So for H, we try and break our week up, so can get my things done without feeling that Mama guilt. We have a day we leave for appointments, a day for cleaning + groceries, a day for structured learning, an adventure day + a nothing day (in which we do just that and no guilt is endured!). I will talk about each day later on. Some weeks we double on appointments or 'nothing' days (just depends what is happening).
Today I want to talk about adventure days. This is where you get out of the house + allow your child to explore. I start by writing three lists every 6 months.
Adventure days for
My hubby loves to cook so on the weekends, he likes to take charge. This is something he likes doing with Hunter for mummy. Sometimes we will have breakfast out or they will cook. They spend time, making the plate look nice, setting the table and choosing something different to cook each week. This is teaching your child, to think of others, selflessness, of course the endless learning opportunities that come with cooking and organisation. They really take the time to make it presented nicely, which has endless creative learning opportunities.
Church / gratitude
We start most Sundays with going to Mass. We are Catholic and pray as a family all the time. But if you aren't religious, you can always start with sitting around in a circle in the backyard and saying what you are all grateful for. You could each get a leaf and as you place your leaves on top of each other in a circle state what you are grateful for. You can do this with baby, we always pray on behalf of Hunter, they are learning ritual, calmness, community, language development, taking turns, respecting others, and in time, gratitude.
We then went to my uncle's farm. Endless learning adventures here and will change as Hunter grows up but in this particular day we focused on 3 things. Animals, fruit + veg and leaves. We walked around the animals and let him hear their sounds. We counted the rabbits together. He held the rabbits. He felt their soft fur and rough feet. Textures are very important for infants. We pointed out their body parts and how they are the same/different to Hunter's. We let him play.
We picked the lemons, oranges and the pumpkins from the vines. We felt the textures, and smelt the different aromas. Hunter was getting recognition that food doesn't just come from a supermarket. We ate the orange straight away. We talked about the colours and different sizes. For Hunter it is about experience + language development. They are learning more than you realise. Don't ever 'dumb' down your language for a child. I never stop talking to Hunter. from the moment he was born, I explain everything to him and describe it in detail. I think this has had a huge affect on his language development as he said his first word at 5 months and by 12 months was saying 10 words and putting words together.
We played in the leaves and collected them off the floor. I put the leaves next to my hand and compared the veins. Here it is showing how they are a living thing. We took some leaves for our craft for during the week.
Food is such an important part to our family. Whether it is growing it, cooking together or eating a family meal together. Sunday lunch is important. We like to eat at home but also like to try new places. We don't choose kid friendly places, we are teaching that we can all eat together, and if Mum + Dad are enjoying themselves so will baby. I really wanted to try the Shaggy Cow in Mittagong (Southern Highlands, NSW). It recently won cafe of the year. Taking children out to a cafe has endless learning opportunities. Decisiveness (what to choose to eat), talking about ingredients and where the food came from, adding the total of the bill, table manners (manners in general when ordering or receiving a meal). The list goes on. For Hunter, we always try and get him something new to try or give me some of our meal too (just to ensure he is always adventurous with food). We than make sure we repeat thank you when food is delivered. I will write about manners in a different post (so many people 'blame' children for not having manners. This is a parent's responsibility + a learnt behaviour). We then talked about the cows in the pictures and try focusing on anything that is a little different.
Picnic in the lounge room
When we got home we made a bed up in the lounge room and the three of us cuddled and had dinner on the rug. I recently read an article on affection. Their research had summarised that affection is innately part of a person. However, if a child was not shown affection during childhood they are more likely to not be affectionate with others or their own children regardless if they are innately affectionate. If a child isn't affectionate by nature but is showered with affection growing up, they will show affection to others and their children. Therefore, it is a learnt behaviour. What a beautiful gift you can give your child, from the moment they are born.
Adventure days set up our learning for the next week. For this particular adventure day we focused on drawing/painting leaves, cooking with pumpkins, lemons + oranges, and reading books on animals. Adventure days are to be looked forward to and something special. As children get older they can help plan the day and even run it. Another important point is, if you feel your child needs to work on a particular area (eg. social skills or gross motor) incorporate this into your day, so they always have an opportunity to practise these skills in differing environments. Have fun, do things you enjoy, your children learn from you as their first teacher.