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Mommy Nature's Philosophy on Child-rearing

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From birth, and even before, children learn easily (and best) by natural means.  (Don't get me wrong.  I don't advocate henna tattoos, burning incense, and a bath strike, in an effort to "be natural".)  By natural, I mean that the young mind, biologically wired with curiosity, contains a desire to learn which automatically encourages the child's mental and physical growth.  

For instance, any semi-aware parent knows that infants do not learn to walk through rigid classes and rote practice of "put-one-foot-in-front-of-the-other" skills.  At a certain point in their development, as their bodies grow stronger, they learn that they can make certain things happen.  "When I pull to a stand and move my feet, I can move around."  This leads to more, and similar, discoveries and the "I wonder-if-I-can-do-this-too" attitude develops. The achievement of each little skill, or baby step (pun intended), begins a cycle that encourages even more practice and excitement within the child, motivating him/her to achieve innumerable skills.  

This intrinsic motivation far outlasts the extrinsic motivation that we might try to instill in a child by offering treats, overzealous praise, or even spanking (which is a form of motivation, although negative).  No worries, being a member of the human race, I am not void of emotion and I certainly do believe in praising a child's positive qualities, providing incentives for appropriate behavior, and letting a child know when his/her behavior borders on unacceptable.  However,
physical discipline of your child rests in your hands, not mine.  I simply try to follow a child's natural inclination to learn and grow, emotionally, socially, mentally, and physically and encourage him/her along the unstoppable path of learning.

This natural inclination to learn can be illustrated in a unit I completed in a Kindergarten class.  To open a unit on outer space, I created a "view of space" on the bulletin board complete with constellations, rockets, and planets against a dark background.  When the children entered the room the following day, their questions shot at me faster than I could answer as they expressed their new-found thirst for knowledge about outer space.  This method of turning the task of introducing the unit to the children instilled a feeling of ownership in their learning and freed me from working to gain their attention and trying to
make them learn.  By pacing the objectives at the children's level, this ownership not only helped them learn more about the subject than I am sure they would have otherwise, they felt a certain worthiness in that I cared enough to involve them in things that interested them.  Using this subject as a jumping board, we integrated letter recognition, various reading/writing readiness skills, math skills, and certainly science and critical thinking skills.  Even with just this one example, you see how the concept of working with, and not against, a child's undying curiosity is beneficial in helping them blossom.  

Working with children in a home environment, versus the classroom situation above, the atmosphere relaxes and feels more family-like.  This is more conducive to a young child than the more inflexible group care offered in a larger setting or in a school.  The young child still looks to a loving adult for guidance and acceptance and he/she generally feels more comfortable in a home-setting because, to put it simply, that's what they are used to!  Young children can learn the same things in a relaxed environment as in a more rigid school-type setting.  For instance, children learn one-to-one correspondence and counting (both important Kindergarten math skills) when setting the table for others or handing out cookies.  "One plate and napkin for each person."  Reading readiness takes on a life of its own as children thrive in the presence of a loving caregiver sharing an imaginative storybook as his/her finger follows the words and a lively discussion (including story setting, theme, characters, plot) follows, usually led by the excited child.  Critical thinking and science "bloom" when making play dough (and playing with it), during water play, planting and charting the growth of plants, watching animals and on and on and on.  Obviously a child's learning path continues as long as they show interest!

Like the wise mother in
My Big, Fat, Greek Wedding told her daughter, "We must make him (the father) think this is his idea!" and he took off with it.  Along the same line, I like to think that I open the children's worlds by giving them more ideas to consider that they may not have thought to think of!  (I think I said that right!)  ;-)


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