Thursday, July 28, 2011

"Hey, Mizz Nelsen!"

I trumped the given curriculum for the entire school year with the theme of curiosity. DeShawn, my least-involved kindergartner, hovered for weeks on the sidelines of learning. I don't know what triggered the moment he announced in morning news, "Hey, Mizz Nelsen! I'm curious 'bout what we're gonna be curious 'bout today." Then DeShawn cracked up with pride over his own play on words. And I cracked up with him, delighted that we jumpstarted a child's mind with curiosity.

Crawling babies, toddlers, and preschoolers are the epitome of curious learners. You, too, catapult a little one's mind into learning when you 1) childproof your home and 2) never slap her hands.

Maria Montessori, a front runner in early childhood education, believed a child's hands are her tools for exploring. Maria was adamant that slapping or restraining a child's hands smothers the very curiosity that fuels her fire for learning. Imagine what would happen to the ecstatic face of the little one in the above picture if you slapped her hands for touching the diapers, the very things her hands insist she touch.

Oh, yes, you may have to remove your little one from tempting electronic controls, which draw her like a magnet. But repeated removals and redirection are far better than repeated slaps. Tell her, "You may not play with the television, but you may play with these toys." Redirection, substitution, and diversion are the effective tools of discipline for a small child driven to explore.

One well-meaning father told me, "I'll teach my child to mind on the spot. When I say 'don't touch,' I mean don't even think about it!" It is far easier to put away the lovely pottery you bought in Maine than to exhaust yourself protecting the very things your child's hands want to touch.

Some morning announce, "Hey, little one. I'm curious 'bout what we're gonna be curious 'bout today." Maybe you'll crack up together! (Look for my next blog on mere minutes of learning.)

A Colorful Thought: Color your child's curiosity with the warm reds and yellows of encouragement.

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Curiosity Collection

"The wind blew it up," my 4-year-old wailed, pointing to his nose. "And I can't get it out!" Tipping the child's smudgy face upwards, I could see nothing. He'll go to college with a stone up his nose, I thought, rushing him to the car.

The kindly pediatrician brought out the truth. "I just wanted to see if it would fit," the child confessed, eyes wide-open, begging.

The shiny instrument bore an unnerving resemblance to my husband's needle-nose pliers. But I exhaled when the doctor retrieved the small stone. "Aha, one for my curiosity collection," he exclaimed, reaching for a round, red-satin-lined container. The doctor dropped the pebble amongst the popcorn kernels, beans, broken twigs, cheerios, pencil eraser, button battery (scary) and baby tooth!

"It's good you brought him in right away. If soft tissue swells around an object, that means surgery," the pediatrician explained. And to my son, whose apprehension had disappeared into the strange collection, he said, "Time to go home."

What? Off-the hook for deliberate misbehavior? Or what is curiosity? Every child is programmed to learn with his five senses from birth. His developmental clock insists that he touch and drop, push and pull, build and knock over, and find out what fits into tiny spaces!

Curiosity drives sensory learning. Not television. Not computers or flashy tech stuff. Not "learning" toys or expensive reading programs. A child's developmental growth is fueled nonstop by play. Play is the birthplace of hands-on learning.

Your child can create his own curiosity collection. Help him search for colors and smells; patterns (feathers, moth wings); textures (tree bark, pine cones, mud); and the mysteries of water. Will it fit? Spill over? Research scientists at play.

A Colorful Thought: "Satisfaction of one's curiosity is one of the greatest sources of satisfaction." Linus Pauling, Ph.D., recipient of two Nobel Prizes.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Road Well Traveled

It was seven in the morning. I shifted into fire-drill mode. I loved the early morning calls in my brief stint as a substitute teacher. They meant income. But I also dreaded them because of the frenzy that followed. This morning, Buchanan School needed a kindergarten teacher: my favorite grade, a nearby school, and a one-hour countdown. "I can do it," I answered cheerily.

First, the children. "Hurry, please. Mommy has to teach today!" They knew that no-nonsense voice. They dressed as they came to the table. I rushed them through the breakfast-cereal routine while I stuffed bag lunches. My three boys, loving the drama, grabbed their backpacks and took off at a clip for the bus stop. I called the dear grandma down the street to come for my youngest child, bewildered by my flurry of guilt kisses.

Next, the animals. I fed the dogs, cats, guinea pigs, parakeet, and mice in stopwatch time, promising them a treat when I got home. I left the snakes for later.

Last up, me. I had the two-minute routine down pat. I can make it! I pushed open the garage door, and stood there. Paralyzed. How could I forget? We were a one-car family. It was my husband's week to drive car pool!

The school never called again.

Why that story? We all love story; we all learn from story. However, my view of story is through the rear-view mirror, remembering what I learned from parenting a quiver of children on the road you now travel.

The rear-view mirror reminds me of what we have in common on this road well-traveled. Stress. Children. A clock-driven world. Work. Guilt kisses. Rushing little ones. Pushing ourselves. I'm eager to share my insights with you, to give you confidence on your journey. That's what I do best.

A Colorful Thought: Good parenting is like a promising sunrise on the road we travel.