Monday, February 22, 2010

Classical Toddlerhood

Babe's gestating nicely... plans to VBAC as peacefully as possible are percolating...

And there is a short, intelligent little person who always wants to know more! After looking through different options and reading books and links, we've decided that the Classical, Latin-Based Curriculum looks like it will fit our style and Gianna's learning style beautifully! The very best part of this style of curriculum, I think, is the central concept of "Multum non multa." A broad amount of learning without extraneous "stuff." Much, not many.

Applying some principals of "multum non multa" to early childhood education is kind of fun and pliable- there really is not a lot recommended at this age outside of some fun and joyful childhood experiences- reading language-rich books that have a deeper meaning (such as, rather than "Dora The Explorer Saves the Day," read "The Hungry Caterpillar.") Explore the great outdoors, as much as possible, and with as much narration and child- originated activities. Bake together, explore art materials together, et cetera.

I had to "un-school" myself, to a certain degree, to get beyond the typical state-educated, teacher-trained mindset. Granted, I had already done this during my time teaching kindergarten at the Chicagoland public school. My class was comprised of students who were not the "typical" children towards which the curriculum was geared. So, a lot of times, the Houghton-Mifflin and Harcourt needed to be tossed aside. Working at the cult only exacerbated my extreme need to patchwork various types of curriculum together for a more precise tool.

While I have ideas about what I will use when it is time to use a more formal format for Gianna, here is just a bit of what we typically do together on a daily or weekly basis:

- Calendar time: Very loosely done, usually lasting no longer than five minutes per day. I have a pocket calendar and all of the stuff that goes along with it- right now we're mostly focusing on the month, day, date, and year. So it usually goes like this:
"What is the month? It starts with Ffff-" G- "February!" "Right! And yesterday was Sunday, so today is Monday! Tomorrow will be Tuesday." Then we say the whole date ("Today is Monday, February 22nd, 2010.") And then Gianna picks out a card depicting the day's weather- today the snowflake will represent the wet and heavy snow that is falling.

- Games: Hullabaloo, Memory, and Elefun do the trick for now, as well as a homemade ladybug spot-counting game that she enjoys. I think this blog would be much better with photos- I'll have to scrape up enough memory to take some photos and add them later!

- Baking: This is half necessity (heat up the downstairs and avoid buying bread at the store) and half fun. Just because Gianna doesn't understand the concept of "half" or "quarter" or "teaspoon" right now doesn't mean she can't be exposed to the sounds of the words, or to using the tools! Measuring and mixing and even some small amount of heavily-supervised cutting go into this. Math, sensory experiences, and language all fall nicely into place- as well as the social cooperation of working together and the natural rewards of following directions.

- Art: What don't we do?!? Gianna gets the full advantage of having two artistic parents who have a TON of materials around. Yarn, fabrics, various markers-crayons-pastels-pencils, paper of different types, watercolors and poster paint... it goes on and on. She first put marker to paper in June of 2008, shortly before turning one, and she's made it a point to do something creative ever since.

- Books: Mr Clarateaches has read to Gianna almost nightly since she was a little gestating belly babe. Currently, they either read three stories a night, or one chapter from the old, classic Winnie the Pooh book. During the day, she finds all kinds of favorites to bring to me to read. We also do a lot of environmental reading- she "reads" the cookbook (points out numbers and letters she knows, finds numbers in the junk mail we receive, and interprets road signs while driving).

- Recitation and Memorization: Perhaps controversial, but nothing I do is aimed at making people feel all warm and cozy about my decisions! We recite various Psalms and prayers at night as part of her bedtime routine. Soon, I will be adding classical nursery rhymes to her morning school time. I do this NOT so that she'll entertain other adults in social settings (because she probably wouldn't, anyway) but mostly because I want to grab her little brain while it's still forming connections and processes, and get some goodies crammed in there. The language and beauty of the content will add to her vocabulary and incidental understanding of the English language.

- Reading, 'Riting, and 'Rithmatic: Mostly still environmental, but I do plan on making her a chart loosely based on the Sing, Spell, Read & Write letter-sound song. SSR&W is a decent curriculum up to a certain point, where it sort of takes off in a direction that I wasn't totally fond of when I used it while teaching kindergarten at the cult. Calendar and other number cards on her wall have helped with linking numerals to their names, and counting to brush teeth have helped with rote counting. One-to-one correspondence has naturally followed a lot of what we do throughout the day.

Something we are working on is forming a bigger social circle, so that Gianna is exposed to different children. I'm enjoying the ebb and flow of her learning style- she likes to have a lot of materials, and hear what things are and how to do it... and then she wants me to back off while she absorbs it. And then wants to move on to something else, and just when I've resigned myself to the idea that she won't be picking up on that particular concept, she just starts using it or demonstrating it one day.

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