Monday, January 26, 2015

Allowing it to happen

Recently I read an article on how teaching reading in kindergarten can actually be detrimental. My immediate reaction as an early childhood teacher, mother and homeschooler was 'DUH!' But I was somewhat surprised at the reactions by some of my friends when I posted that article. Some were very aggressive in their stance that teaching reading to young children is a life skill and totally necessary.

I do agree that reading is a life skill. What I disagree on is the necessity of a 5 or 6 year old to have that life skill. ONLY in schools do we see this. If you think about your day to day life and try to take school out of the equation, WHY would a 5 or 6 year old (7 or 8 year old for that matter) need to be able to read? THINK about it. They don't need to read their toys, they don't need to read their food labels, they don't need to read road or store signs (although they probably can), they don't need to read to socialize, they don't need to read in karate, gymnastics or baseball. So other than school, there is NO REASON to force a young child to read.

Sure there are many 4 year olds that want to learn to read and are ready. THAT is fine. I was one of them. My oldest daughter was one of them. BUT just because they exist, does not mean that all kids that age should be reading. If a young child starts doing it on their own, it demonstrates readiness. If you have a 6 year old who fights you tooth and nail, they're not ready.

If we look at child development, the muscles in your eyes that are needed for tracking (a necessary skill for reading) are not always fully refined by age 5. Add onto that the amount of time young kids (even babies) are spending on screens! This actually weakens the eye muscles and coordination needed for reading. Plus the amount of time needed to sit and focus in order to read. All of this adds up to a disaster!

My youngest didn't really start reading until last year and she was 7 at the time. So, my oldest was reading Harry Potter at 7 and my youngest was reading Dick and Jane books. Yes, as a former reading teacher and mother, I was stressed by the "late" reading. But I quickly figured out that as homeschoolers, forcing her to read was totally unnecessary. GUESS WHAT? Last year when she saw all of her friends reading and we watched movies with subtitles that she wanted to read, SHE STARTED READING. Yes just like that. No I did not teach her. And she didn't pick up Dick and Jane books, she picked up Junie B and The Magic Treehouse. Right on level with her school peers.

This is true with many other 'school skills.' Did you know that it is developmentally APPROPRIATE for a child to NOT have a hand dominance at age 5? If a child hasn't established hand dominance, how do you expect her to write? But they do in school. Little bodies (all bodies really) are meant to move. Sitting for hours at a time is harmful to health, has been linked to depression and obesity, and poor core strength and balance. You wonder why ADHD is on the rise? It's not. Schools demand things that are developmentally inappropriate and this results in fidgeting, acting out, and inattention.

Honestly, if you are reading this and your child is in school and struggling with reading, I wish I had an answer for you. School makes it absolutely necessary to read at a young age. If you can homeschool, do it. If you do homeschool, do not force reading on your child please! Offer them a literature rich environment. Read to them, make books available to them with no expectations, create books yourselves, go to the library often, read environmental print (street and store signs). They will learn how to read, I promise! And just like potty training, walking and talking, they will do it pretty much on their own in their own time.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Balancing It All

As parents, we often have a hard time taking care of IT ALL. Cleaning the house, feeding the family, running errands, holidays, birthday parties, work, kids playdates, kids activities, time for your spouse, and time for yourself (HA!). It can become exhausting and over-whelming. This is especially true of homeschool parents. We have gone beyond the stay at home status to taking on the 'school' status. Many of us work full or part time too!

So how to we find balance? Is it possible? Is it unrealistic? I don't think so. It takes a conscious effort to NOT get wrapped up in the schedules and 'to-do' lists, but it CAN be done.

#1  Schedule Downtime!

I know this might sound like a contradiction, but sometimes it is necessary. I am the type of person who likes to constantly be on the go. I thrive around lots of people all the time. My youngest is like that as well, but not my oldest. She is an introvert like her Dad. So I've had to adjust our lifestyle and our schedule to respect her need for downtime, alone time, and time to decompress. At first I found it annoying, but now I am so thankful for it! I have a habit of running full steam ahead until I am so drained that I meltdown and pass out. Having to work downtime into our schedule regularly has helped me to become more balanced, less stressed, and more relaxed. So pick 1 day a week or at least a few days a month and say to yourself 'we are scheduling nothing on this day.' Maybe write nothing really big in that square of the calendar or type it into your Google calendar. Whatever it takes.

#2  Take 15 Minutes

This has been one of the best things I have implemented into my daily routine. I wake up everyday, make coffee, stoke the fire in the wood stove and I sit, in quiet, by myself, and breathe. Now granted it doesn't happen everyday. There are days we wake up late, are running around like lunatics, rushing and freaking out. But for the most part, I try to set my alarm early to allow for this. It starts my day off calmly, with reflection, and focus. On the days this cannot happen first thing, I find 15 minutes at some point, to go into my bedroom, close the door, sit in silence and breathe. No iPad, no phones, no kids, no TV. Just silence. I usually leave the lights off. Seems simple, but try it!!

#3  Simple Solutions

If you are like me, you feel like you need a weekend away, a week at a beach resort, or a day at the spa to recharge. Yes those things are great! But they cannot happen on a regular basis. (Well at least for me they can't). So trying to find ways to relax and recharge at home is essential. Do whatever relaxes you. For me, it is taking a bath. You could read a book, sit outside on your deck, in your yard, listen to calming music, exercise, craft, doesn't matter what it is, as long as it is something just FOR YOU, done by yourself. I know, I know. Easier said than done. I am the type to opt for family time over me time. But eventually that catches up with me and it's not good for anyone! So I have to schedule this as well. (Yes I have issues). However, after a while, it becomes part of your life routine and requires less and less scheduling. So find something that you enjoy, that relaxes you and that is FOR you and do it as often as possible!

#4  Learn to say NO

This one has been the hardest for me. I tend to be impulsive and want to do everything, all the time and it is just not possible. Believe me, I've tried. It cannot be done. You have to learn to say no. It is ok to say no. It is healthy to say no. The world will not come to an end if you do not participate in that bake sale, soup kitchen, or ASPCA event. Your kids will be ok if they miss that field trip, open gym, or painting class. Your kids will survive (and thrive) if they cannot do karate, softball, girl scouts, and basketball.  Yes we would love to see our friends and family, but sometimes we have to say no to a birthday party, communion, or barbecue. There will be other birthdays, other open gyms and other bake sales. It is ok if that math work gets pushed off to another day. You do not have to do it all!

So slow down. Take a breath. Dishes can stay dirty today. It's ok. Science can be skipped today. It's ok. You do not have to go to that field trip. It's ok. Order take out. Finding balance is not only important for your health (and sanity), it is important to model this for our children and the future adults they will become.