Tag Archives: parents

readilearn: What parents can do to prepare their children for school

Parents often approach teachers wanting to know what they should teach their children or how to prepare their children for school—should they teach them the letter names or sounds or how far should they teach them to count?

However, for most teachers, these are not of highest priority.

What teachers value most is an ability to:

  • engage in conversation about experiences and ideas
  • get along with others and make friends
  • identify and organise personal belongings

and to have:

  • an interest in books
  • a curiosity about the world, and
  • a willingness to have a go and try new things.

The best way parents can prepare their children for school is by spending time with them, talking with them, playing games with them, reading stories to them and encouraging their curiosity by providing them with opportunities to question, learn and explore.

It is important for parents to see themselves as their children’s first and most important teachers. When their children start school, it is not time for them to relinquish their responsibility. Instead, it is important for them to work in partnership with teachers to ensure the best chance of success for their children.

Last week I shared an article, originally published in The Conversation, in which Kym Simoncini provided parents with suggestions for developing young children’s interest in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics.)

This week, I share a letter to parents of children beginning school, congratulating them on their contribution and requesting their ongoing support.

Dear Parents,

Congratulations on teaching your child to speak!

Continue reading: What parents can do to prepare their children for school? – Readilearn

Better than a trail of breadcrumbs

©Glenn Althor www.http://obscurepieces.com/ Used with permission.

©Glenn Althor  Used with permission.

When I think of children’s stories about being lost, Hansel and Gretel is one of the first that comes to mind. Whether or not this gruesome story is suitable for children, I’ll leave for another discussion. The children were correct in thinking it was important to mark their way into the forest in order to find their way out. They were incorrect in their choice of markers.

Encouraging children to identify features of their environment has benefits beyond encouraging them to question and wonder. It is important for children to learn, from a young age, to identify markers on routes around the neighbourhood, shopping mall and school, as well as strategies to implement if lost or separated. Taking note of seasonal and other changes, both temporary and permanent, in addition to permanent features helps to build knowledge of one’s environment. This knowledge can be developing long before the need to find one’s way alone arises.

One day there will be a need to navigate independently, whether it be to walk to school, go to the shop, visit a friend, catch a bus or drive a car. All of these will be far less daunting for the child, and much less worrisome for the parents, if the ability to find one’s way around has already been demonstrated through discussions or deciding which route will be taken for a journey.

Often the first time children are required to navigate independently is when commencing school. They may need to find their way to the classroom in the morning, or to the gate in the afternoon. They will have to find the way to the playground, the office, the library, and the toilets and back to the classroom. Just as parents show children around the neighbourhood by pointing out landmarks, it is important for teachers to orient children in the school grounds and ensure they know how to find their way around confidently.

A delightful book that can be used by both teachers and parents to discuss the importance of knowing one’s way around and of staying safe is the beautiful Pat Hutchins’ book Rosie’s Walk which tells the story of a hen who goes for a walk around the farmyard and gets back home safely in time for dinner. The story also introduces many positional words.

Rosie's walk

Understanding of positional terms and describing the location of neighbourhood and school landmarks in relation to each other  helps to develop spatial awareness along with language; for example:

  • past the shop
  • across the bridge
  • over the road
  • through the park
  • in the middle
  • beside the lake
  • along the road
  • next to the bakery
  • around the corner
  • behind the fence
  • as well as left and right.

Discussing the placement of landmarks on a mud map of the neighbourhood or school and discussing different paths that could be taken encourages divergent thinking about ways of getting from one place to another. Sometimes it helps children to think of these maps as being from a birds’eye view, or from a plane. Other maps, for example Google Maps and street directories are also useful and children can learn to point out or mark places they have visited.

mud map

There are many opportunities, whether in the car or on foot, to take note of landmarks; for example:

  • house numbers,
  • types of fences
  • the number of streets to cross
  • large trees
  • the shopping centre entry
  • carpark space row and number
  • bridges crossed

While the flash fiction challenge set by Charli Mills at the Carrot Ranch this week was to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about someone or something that’s lost, I have taken the theme of lost and used it to provide strategies that may help children avoid becoming lost. My flash is a rhyme for young children, and an example of the types of things that children can be encouraged to observe in their neighbourhood.

To Grandma’s House

Bub’s buckled in, away we go.

Mum’s going to work, we can’t be slow.

Down the street past the green painted door.

Past the house with big number four.

Stop at the curb and look each way.

Off to Grandma’s, hip-hip-hooray!

Quiet past here so the dogs don’t bark.

Left at the corner and cut through the park.

Up the hill, past the posting box.

Open the gate, give three big knocks.

Hugs for Grandma waiting for us.

Wave to Mum as she boards the bus.

Go inside for milk and toast.

Days with Grandma we like the most.

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.

 

 

 

All aboard the early learning caravan!

school cropped

This week at the Carrot Ranch Charli Mills described a century old schoolhouse which adjoins her property. She is hoping that someone will buy it and make it a meeting place for the community, recognising the role it had to play in the education of generations past as well as its contribution to the history of the area. Her thoughts about the schoolhouse led her to thinking of community engagement and neighbourly relationships which, in turn, inspired her flash fiction challenge for this week, to In 99 words (no more, no less) write a story about nurturing a neighborly relationship.

I would have loved the little schoolhouse at Elmira Pond as the base for the alternative school I hoped to establish at the end of last century. The schoolhouse has a nice community feel to it, unlike many of the large brick, concrete jungle-type schools into which one can almost dissolve in a sea of sameness. Charli’s schoolhouse/community centre would also be a great meeting place for parents with their young children; a friendly early learning centre for both.

8-12-2013 7-38-33 PM

 

Based on my beliefs that:

  • parents are a child’s first and most important teachers;
  • the most important years of a child’s development are the years before school;
  • children who enter school with rich vocabularies, an interest in the world around them, and a love of books are primed to succeed;
  • children without those experiences are disadvantaged in their learning right from the start and face an enormous challenge in catching up;
  • waiting until children enter school is too late;
  • the best way to minimise or eliminate the disadvantage is by educating parents through programs that model effective parenting behaviours and support them in their interactions with their children;
  • parenting programs offering those types of support would be most effective if begun before birth of the children and continued at least until the child enters school, maybe beyond;
  • most parents want to do the best for their children, many just don’t know how to go about it.

There are any number of birthing classes, but not many that aim to support parents in nurturing their child’s development. In my opinion, investing time and money into developing programs such as these would have enormous benefit, not only to individual children and their parents, but to society as a whole.

I am not talking about programs that place children of increasingly (or should that be decreasingly) younger years into structured and formal “teaching and learning” situations. I am not talking about one-off talks or series of lectures to parents.

Many of the parents of children who begin school with the types of disadvantage I have mentioned are themselves products of similar disadvantage. In a previous post I discussed the roles of “nature” and “nurture” in a child’s development. In these cases especially, it can be difficult to tease out the differences. Many of these parents would not have positive feelings towards schools or any other public institution and may feel threatened, or reluctant for other reasons, to attend sessions in public halls or government offices.

What I am talking about is a program that:

  • goes to the parents and children in their neighbourhoods, meeting in a local park or community greenspace, on regular weekly occasions;
  • invites parents to talk with, read to and play with their children using provided books, games and toys;
  • models positive parenting behaviour, explaining to parents the benefits to their children of engaging with them in activities and discussions;
  • provides suggestions for inexpensive and easy activities to do at home;
  • encourages borrowing from a book and toy library.
Guiding parents in play sessions for parents and children.

Guiding parents in play sessions for parents and children.

I envision the program being delivered by an early children trained educator who is sympathetic to the situations and demands of people from diverse backgrounds, who is warm and supportive with good interpersonal skills with both adults and children, who drives a mobile early learning centre fully-equipped with books, toys, games, paper, pens and craft materials, including items for borrowing and distribution for activities to be done at home.

I see the centre as a brightly painted caravan with doors that open wide to display a colourful and engaging assortment of resources to delight the interests and eyes of young children and their parents.  As the caravan travels into each neighbourhood it would play music to signal its arrival (think of the old icecream vans!) inviting parents and children to come, investigate, and join in.

caravan

Thinking about the excitement that such a program may stimulate in a neighbourhood, and the sense of community and belonging it may encourage, led me to write about it for my response to Charli’s prompt.

I hope you enjoy it.

The caravan

Children waited anxiously at windows and front garden fences.

Mothers and fathers hurried to complete the last of their chores.

Others, already at the park, were unable to wait.

Ears strained, listening for music signalling, “It’s time!

Suddenly “Girls and boys come out to play!” announced the arrival of the brightly painted caravan.

“Come on!” urged children, tugging at skirts, trousers and hairy legs.

“Come on!” chimed parents, downing cloths and brooms. Clasping small hands they whisked them out.

Everyone watched as the doors of the caravan opened; ready for fun: stories, games and much to explore!

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post or flash fiction.

How to teach compassion – and why

During the past few weeks I have been exploring the idea of compassion, along with many others in the blogosphere, in response to the #1000Speak for Compassion project.

In a TED Talk I shared in a previous post Joan Halifax questioned why, if compassion was so important, didn’t we teach it to children.

Man-resigning

That question provided me with a challenge. Indeed I wondered if the question was really fair. The question implied that children were not being taught compassion. And while that assumption may be true for many, it is just as true that many children are being taught to be compassionate – in their homes, in their schools, and in other groups to which they belong. By recognizing the many who do, I in no way wish to indicate that enough is being done. Indeed, much more needs to be done, but let’s not make a sweeping statement that attempts to colour everyone with the same inadequacy in teaching compassion.

I decided to investigate just what ideas were available for teaching children compassion. I had to look no further than one of my blogging friends for evidence that children are being taught compassion through their daily activities. In a number of posts on her own blog Lemon Shark, and in a number of comments on mine, Sarah Brentyn has described practices that she uses to teach her children to be compassionate by involving them in compassionate acts.

Some practices that Sarah recommends for developing compassion include things from as simple as using common courtesies and good manners to volunteering and making personal donations to homeless shelters.

I defy you to read her post 1000 Voices for Compassion without being moved by her generosity and compassion. It tells a beautiful story of compassion in action, a lesson for not only her children, but for all of us.

In her following post entitled Defining Compassion vs. Compassion in Action Sarah described asking her children what the word “compassion” meant. They weren’t sure how to answer her. But when she asked them to describe something compassionate they had no difficulty coming up with examples – from their own lives. Why? Because from the moment they were born Sarah’s children have been living in a compassionate world. They have been treated compassionately and they have not only had compassionate actions modelled for them, they have been involved in those compassionate actions. I congratulate you Sarah, for inspiring us to be compassionate, and for being a role model for us to emulate.

Sarah Brentyn = walk the walk

Looking beyond Sarah’s examples for further suggestions, I came across a number of other articles. Each seemed to reiterate what Sarah had already shared.

In an article for the Huffington Post Signe Whitson, author and child and adolescent therapist, says that “experts agree that fostering compassion in young people is among the best ways to prevent verbal, physical, and emotional aggression” and shares 8 Ways to Teach Compassion to Kids:

  1. Walk the walk

“Show young people that anytime is the right time to engage in acts of service and compassion for others.”

  1. Put the Child on the Receiving End of Compassion

“tending to a child when he is feeling down or under the weather is the best way to teach him how to show compassion to others.”

  1. Talk the Talk

“talk explicitly about acts of compassion . . . communicate its importance as a prized family value”

  1. Volunteer Your Time

“When children become actively involved I acts of showing compassion to others, they learn about his value in a very deep and enduring way”

  1. Care for a Pet

“Children who care for pets learn important values such as responsibility, unconditional love, empathy, and compassion for all living things”

baby bird

  1. Read All About It

“Children’s books are great for providing a window into the experiences of others.”

Whoever you are

  1. Compassion It TM

Wear a Compassion It band as a daily and “personal reminder to act compassionately towards someone else”

  1. Make a Wish

The “Make-a-Wish Foundation provides hope, strength, and joy to children with life-threatening medical conditions . . . can have a truly impactful experience of being able to provide tangible help and joy to a peer”

Other than the references to the specific organizations, Compassion it and Make a Wish Foundation, the suggestions are things that have been discussed before in various posts about compassion, including Sarah’s.

Like Sarah, Whitson believes that it is the accumulation of little everyday actions that make a difference. She states that, as a bullying prevention trainer, she considers “big” solutions — such as policies, procedures, and trainings are trumped each and every day by the seemingly little, yet extraordinarily powerful, acts of compassion and kindness that adults show to the young people in their lives.”

In her article about How to Instill Compassion in Children Marilyn Price-Mitchell agreed about the importance of teaching compassion, saying that  “children who participate in programs that teach kindness, respect, empathy, and compassion and who have families that reinforce those strengths at home develop the muscles they need to become civically-engaged adolescents and adults.”

Price-Mitchell suggested that parents could help teach their children compassion by providing opportunities to practice compassion, by helping children understand and cope with anger, and by teaching  children to self-regulate.

Jane Meredith Adams, in her article Raising a Compassionate Child says that “children have an inborn capacity for compassion … they naturally identify with stuffed animals, other kids, pets, and underdogs. The tricky part is that their empathy must compete with other developmental forces, including limited impulse control – which makes them pull the cat’s tail – and their belief that their needs absolutely must come first – which makes it hard for them to let their cousin push the col fire truck.”

Adams says that teaching compassion is “part of day-to-day life: how you answer your child’s questions, how you solve conflict at the park, how you nudge his or her growing capacity to understand and think about other people.” Adams suggests to Promote sweetness” every day by showing children how to be gentle to others, by speaking to them softly, by rejecting rudeness, and by saying sorry when you have made a mistake. I think Sarah would agree with all of those.

Similar ideas are proposed by  Kim McConnell, and Leticia of techsavvymama who sums it all up nicely with these suggestions:

  • Model the kinds of behaviour we expect
  • Exercise patience
  • Listen to our kids
  • Teach resiliency by providing strategies, and
  • Use quality educational content to reinforce the concept (e.g. books, DVDs and downloadable material)

I’m sure that many of these suggestions are familiar to you through your own personal experiences, either when growing up or as an adult. I think what my exploration of this topic shows me is that, while it may be useful to teach about compassion in schools, children really only learn to be compassionate if they are treated compassionately and have compassion modeled for them, if it is an integral part of their everyday lives.

What do you think?

Thank you

Thank you for reading. I appreciate your feedback. Please share your thoughts about any aspect of this post.

 

 

The magic effect – why children need books

Nor and Bec reading

 

 

Children can be read to from the moment they are born, if not earlier. Preferably earlier!

One of my favourite picture book authors and passionate advocate for reading to children is Mem Fox. I own, and have given as gifts, many of her wonderful books. I have attended her seminars and been mesmerised by her reading from her selection of stories. “Read more!” the adults beg. There are no children at these literacy seminars. This time it is a treat for only us: parents and teachers, literacy educators all.

Currently Prince William, Kate and baby Prince George are visiting Australia. I was delighted to hear that they were given a gift of books by Australian authors, including some by Mem Fox. Over the years I have given many of Mem’s books as gifts; and kept just as many for myself!

 Reading magic

One that I have given to many new or expectant parents, as I consider it a “must read”, is Mem’s book “Reading Magic – Why Reading Aloud to Our Children Will Change Their Lives Forever”.

I would love to quote the entire book for you, but it is better you read it for yourself. I will provide you with this quote from the foreword as a taster for the richness to be found inside.

“It stands to reason that if we’re able to raise happier, brighter children by reading aloud to them, the well-being of the entire country will ramp up a notch. Children who realize in their first few weeks and months of life that listening to stories is the purest heaven; who understand that books are filled with delights, facts, fun, and food for thought; who fall in love with their parents, and their parents with them, while stores are being shared; and who are read aloud to for ten minutes a day in their first five years, usually learn to read quickly, happily and easily. And a whole lot of goodness follows for the entire community.”

Mem's website

 

Mem’s website, too, is a treasure trove just waiting to be explored by writers, teachers, parents, children and children-at-heart.

You can listen to Mem read from her selection of books on the Current Read Aloud page. She reads three different books each month. Currently the books are Possum Magic, Harriet, You’ll Drive Me Wild! and Goodnight, Sleep Tight. Be quick to listen to these, though, as they will change at the end of the month. But never mind, there’ll be another three to enjoy next month!

Mem even gives a read-aloud lesson! Now there’s no excuse! As she says,

“. . . let’s get on and change the world, one page at a time.”

Yes, Mem, let’s!

 

What are your favourite read-aloud books? What did you enjoy as a child? What do you enjoy now?

A positive start – back to school

school cropped

At this time of the year children, parents and teachers in Australia are thinking about the return to school which is approaching with haste. For some those thoughts are of excitement and expectation. For others they are of anxiety and dread.

While children have enjoyed the break from imposed structure and the pressure of school days and homework, many look forward to seeing their friends again and the routine of having something to do after long, lazy summer days. Others may feel anxious about being in a new class with a new teacher and new yet-to-be-made friends. For those starting at a new school, or school for the first time, there may be a confusion of feelings and vacillation between excitement and fear.

Parents, too, have mixed feelings about their children starting or returning to school. They may look forward to a return to routine and a relief from the pressure of providing full-time entertainment or alternative care arrangements. They may also experience feelings of loss when they hand their children over to the care of a stranger for most of the day. However, I think what parents most want for their children when they return to school, or indeed at any time, is for them to be happy.
Teachers experience a similar range and vacillation of feelings from excitement and expectation through to anxiety and dread. Even now many of those teachers are out fossicking through the cheap shops, scouring stationery and educational supply stores, looking for items for use in their classrooms. Others will be at home trawling the internet looking for resources, or making their own resources in preparation for the new school year.
One thing that is important to all is to begin the year positively and happily.

http://openclipart.org/image/800px/svg_to_png/101707/happy_pencil.png

Strategies for parents

Some strategies parents can use to ensure their children begin the school year happily include:

  • Talk to children in positive and supportive ways that will strengthen their optimism about returning to school, allay any fears and settle anxieties.
  • Ensure children are aware of how they will travel to and from school, and of any arrangements that have been made for before or after school care.
  • Familiarize children with the route to and from school by travelling it as they will be expected to, whether by foot, cycle, bus or car. If necessary, point out landmarks along the way.
  • Make sure children know their first and last names, address and parents’ phone number/s.
  • Have children’s equipment ready with books covered and every item identified with the child’s name.
  • If possible, take the child to school on the first day and meet the teacher.

liftarn_Adult_and_child

The positive feelings can be continued throughout the year by:

  • Daily conversations about the school day: learning, events and friends.
  • Volunteering in the class or school, or being involved with after school activities.
  • Maintaining open and positive communication with the class teacher.

Strategies for teachers

Some strategies teachers can utilize to ensure that children (and parents) begin the school year happily include:

  • Create a welcoming classroom with signs, posters, items of interest and inviting reading corners and activity nooks.
  • Greet children and parents with a friendly smile.
  • Engage children in activities that help you get to know them, and them to get to know each other.
  • Display children’s work to give them a sense of ownership and belonging.
  • Explain management and behaviour expectations and include children in composing a classroom management and behaviour plan.
  • Ensure children know the school timetable; when the breaks will occur and any lessons to be taken by specialist or other teachers.
  • Explain playground behaviour expectations, including showing areas where they may / may not play.
  • Take them on a walk around the school to show them the library, office, bathrooms and any other areas they may need to know.
  • Include singing during the day and send them home with a song and a reminder of what has been learned or engaged with during the day. (In a previous post Happy being me I wrote about Anne Infante’s songs of affirmation. Any of these are great ones to sing and help to create a positive environment.)

What other suggestions can you make?
What helped you as a child, parent or teacher prepare for the new school year?
Teachers, check out my new products on TEACHERSpayTEACHERS to help you set up your classroom and greet your new students with a Busy Bee theme. There are many resources to get you started, ready to download and print out.

bee 1

Bee courtesy of Bernadette Drent, used with permission.

Other clipart courtesy of http://www.openclipart.org.