Mayana loves to learn. She has loved books basically since she’s been alive. She will ask me at least twenty times each day to read her something. She can count to 20 and knows her abc’s almost it seems by osmosis.
Her most recent request has been to learn some Dutch words, and after acquiring a fabulous app she hasn’t looked back. She now will only use the words ‘banan’ for banana, ‘drie’ for three, ‘vier’ for four. She will sit for an hour at a time going through the app, and copying words back to it in Dutch, running to me occasionally to tell me, “Mama! Did you know that blauw is blue?”
Mayana starts prep next year (*insert heart palpitations here*) and I am working hard to find the balance between encouraging her love of and absolute desire to learn, and not letting her go far enough that she will be bored next year. I have no doubt that if she and I worked together she would be reading quite fluently by the time she hits school. As a student who was an early reader and placed in the ‘gifted and talented’ basket early in my school career, I have vivid memories of being bored out of my brains for half of my primary school life. I had a handful of teachers who were able to stretch and challenge me, but many others I’m not sure quite knew what to do with me, and mostly set me a whole lot of ‘busy work’. As a teacher I realise that my teachers had 25-30 other kids, many of whom were struggling, to focus on, and it’s easy to pay less attention to the ones that ‘get it’. As a teacher I’m sooo mindful of those kids in my class, but not all teachers are. I don’t want Mayana bored. By the same token, I don’t want to hold her back, either. And I DO want her to keep loving learning.
I have had many conversations this year with other mothers of children who will be heading to school next year, about what they do or don’t do at home, and even what they’ll be expecting their child to do next year. As someone who has written and administered an entire Prep distance education curriculum, I have a pretty good idea of what to expect, and I know that some of these parents are going to be shocked. I personally believe that while play most certainly has its place in early-years learning, many people grossly underestimate exactly what our young people are capable of when we heighten our expectations of them. It is so exciting to me to see children soaking up learning like sponges, and I truly believe that it is imperative to hook them… engage them in learning now while they’re ready and interested and in Mayana’s case, asking for it.
So this year, at home, we’re easing into things. We’re dabbling in early reading skills, and boy does she blow me away with how quickly she can pick things up. One of the things we do each week is work on our Alphabet Book. We are loosely following the Letterland program, and we’re up to the letter ‘N’. Mayana somehow has picked up most of her letters already though. I did a test that I used on my beginning Year One students last year with her last week, and she was able to not only tell me the names of all 26 letters, but also the sounds that all but 4 make. I was actually quite shocked! If I give her a word, she can easily tell me what letter it begins with, and then will give you a list of other words that start with that letter too. She is becoming proficient in forming most of the letters, and one of her favourite things to do is writing, where she asks me to spell out long words and writes down the letters as I give them.
Here is an example of what we do in our ‘learning time’:
Last week we learned the letter M. Of course, being the beginning of her name this is Mayana’s favourite letter and she already knew quite a lot about it. I allocate four pages for each letter. On the first page I write the upper and lower case forms of the letters in bubble writing. She writes inside of it, and then has a go at forming the letter independently on the page around it. Sometimes (but less often lately) she asks me to ‘do the dots’ for her to trace. We have a memory verse for each letter which we stick on this page. I found them at this website, and I have been so impressed at how well she is able to remember scripture! Next, we brainstorm a bunch of words that start with our letter. When we first started doing this we would look through catalogues or magazines and cut out pictures which started with the letter, but lately Mayana has been more interested in writing the words she thinks of by herself. You can see on this one that I wrote a few of the words for her, but she is getting so good at forming her letters! I try to do little illustrations next to each word to help her remember what they say when she shows her book to her Papa later. Next, I do a ‘find the letter’ activity. I usually have 10 letters of the week for her to find (5 uppercase and 5 lowercase) all mixed in with every letter of the alphabet. I’m going to have to find something more challenging to replace this soon, because she does this activity in about a minute flat. Lastly we do some kind of art activity. I look for inspiration on Pinterest (I compile my ideas on this board) and in teaching resource books that I have. This week she has been bugging me to draw patterns and shapes for her to practice cutting out, so I figured I’d incorporate that interest into this week’s activity, and had her cut out the very tricky and angular M. The Letterland character for M is Munching Mike, a monster, so she turned her M into a monster of course! Once we have done this we use the Australian app ‘Eggy Letters’ on the iPad for some more practice. She selects the letter of the week and completes all of the activities which accompany it. Most of them are to do with forming the letter, and then there are two activities where you have to indicate whether a given word starts with the letter. She loves doing Eggy Letters, and it’s a nice way to finish off our little learning time.
I often will do a numbers activity through the week with Mayana too. She is a good counter, and can count through to 21 with one-to-one correspondence. I think that she could probably go further, but lately that’s as far as she’ll go as my sister just turned 21. We have a few little pre-school math books with simple addition and subtraction, and lots of practice forming numerals. Any kind of learning that’s made available to her, she’ll take it!
Given that I have written Prep curriculum, I’ve had lots of people asking me (and assuming) lately whether I will home school Mayana using the program I wrote. I asked her what she thought of the idea and she looked at me ever so patiently and said, “Mum. I have to go to school.” When I asked her why, she replied, “Because I need to learn to read!” I told her that I could teach her to read and she jumped off the bed and ran out of the room. I asked her what she was doing and she called back, “I’m grabbing some books so you can teach me right now!” The answer for us is no though. As much as it freaks me the heck out that I am sending my baby off to school next year, I know that it will be the right fit for her. She is so incredibly excited about it, and I couldn’t hold that back from her.
So for now, we’ll do our little bits of learning at home, I’ll encourage her in her interests, and challenge and teach her the best I know how. And pray that next year she gets a teacher who will continue to do the same. And that my beautiful and ever-so-clever girl always has the love for learning that she does at four years old.
Do you believe in doing any kind of formal learning at home, or are you happy to leave that for school? Does it make you want to cry when you think about your baby going to school or is that just me!?