The right environment can give so much to a developing child. Young children are like sponges and will absorb everything around them (Montessori, n.d.). It is also the age when they are refining their senses which then builds their brain architecture. Have you ever seen a young child explore something? They will literally put it in their mouth, smell it, feel the texture, stare at it and notice all the fine details that an adult is likely to miss. Ever notice their response to the slightest of noise? In comparison, an adult will probably look at something once, filter the information and conclude in a second or not react at all.
You see, a child is literally taking everything in through his/her senses. The developing brain is forming new connections as the child experiences something. It may seem like an insignificant thing but this is the building blocks of the child’s intelligence. As the child repeats an action, those connections become stronger. This is the reason why the right environment is so important to raising a child, homeschooled or not. They don’t need over-stimulating toys with blaring sounds and bright colored lights going on and off at the click of a button. Natural, simple, and beautiful toys are far better than piles of plastic junk. Trade filling your home with stuff for quality time spent outdoors. Let the children indulge in experience and participate in the real world. They don’t need the latest gadgets to learn something. Rather, what they need is you; a cheerful, loving, attentive parent who includes the child in the daily affairs. Talk to them and engage with them. Let them explore your kitchen for it is probably the best science lab for a young child.
Invest in open-ended toys which feed the imagination of the child. By open-ended toys, I mean toys that can be played with in many ways. Supply sufficient raw materials to help them take their play in any direction. Do not restrict or intrude their imaginative play or try to correct them using logic. Limiting screen time is also very important for young children. It may seem like the teaching gets easier when you use media. It may very well do that, but do you want your children to learn in such a passive way with so much stimulation? It does affect their concentration in the long run. There is plenty of research on this, so it’s wise to limit it whenever possible, especially with young children.
Environment also extends to the time spent outdoors. Parks, nature centers, museums, beach, trails, playgrounds, nature walks; any place which naturally lends itself to providing a beautiful environment should be used to our advantage. Supplying good art supplies, different types of paper and child-size materials/furniture/utensils also make the learning of everyday skills easy. This will eventually teach them independence which responds well to their developmental phases. It’s a good idea to teach them morals, establish routines and chores while they are young.
When I was just starting out, I made a lot of mistakes, but I soon understood the concept. I began to just have the kids around me and engage with them. Instead of worrying about finishing all my chores and errands and then doing something with the boys, I started looking at every situation as an opportunity to teach them something. I remember this one time when I was folding laundry with my older son, who was four at the time. It was just natural and easy to teach him how to make pairs with his socks. He even learned odd and even numbers by helping me fold the laundry! I never had to teach him those concepts again.
Another time, I had some errands to run at the post office. Instead of leaving him home, I took him along. It beautifully evolved into an impromptu field trip that showed him how the post office works. We checked out some books about the post office from the library and read about what happens to all the mail in the post office. As a follow up, I made him memorize our address. We then moved on to make a map of our house, street, and city in nesting circles to show where we are in the world. In just one afternoon, we had covered math, social studies, safety, read aloud, and errands. All because I took a different approach.
You see, the opportunities are endless. Especially with a young child, it’s so easy to just follow their interest and utilize your daily life to make the world accessible to them. In fact, you can spark their interest in multiple subjects effortlessly, without any curriculum, if you just choose to be inclusive and engaged. Use your own life, whatever phase of life you are in, to teach something. You don’t have to go out of your way to do anything unnatural or buy lots of curricula. Remember that environment can be made such that learning becomes inevitable. So strive for such an environment while they are still young.
“To assist a child we must provide him with an environment which will enable him to develop freely” – Maria Montessori
“The teacher must adopt the role of a facilitator not content provider” – Lev S. Vygotsky
Click here to read PART 1 of this article.
Part 3 is coming soon in sha Allah.
“The Absorbent Mind” by Maria Montessori
Noor is an Electronics Engineer turned Homeschool Mom of two boys. She is enjoying every moment of her role as a stay-at-home mother/home educator for the past 6 years. She argues that her children are teaching her far more than her years of education and work experience ever did. Having had a successful career in Information Technology, she abandoned it to pursue her children’s education. She loves to learn and apply the best of different educational philosophies/methodologies. Charlotte Mason, Maria Montessori, and John Holt have greatly influenced her homeschooling style. She firmly believes in simplifying education and following the child. More of this can be found on her blog www.simplifyHomeschool.com