Before having all these babies, I taught for 8 years in four different private schools. I started off teaching Kindergarten in a small Catholic school. That school was closed at the end of the year and I found another K position at a daycare facility. From there, I went to another Catholic school where I taught Literature to grades 6, 7 and 8. I was there for five years but then was not offered another contract after the birth of my first daughter. So I found myself in another Catholic school the following year, teaching English to middle school kids and technology to grades 3-8.
While still working on my masters degree, I was a graduate assistant and tutored undergraduates students, mostly in math, history and English.
So in the grand scheme of things, I have experience teaching at multiple grade levels, and a variety of subjects.
Of course, none of that prepared me for teaching a two-I year old. It’s been quite the learning curve.
To prepare for ‘Evelyn’s School’ as I call it, I started by organizing all the materials that I picked up – art supplies, paper supplies, vinyl numbers and letters, magnets, wall stickers, etc., and setup a corner of the dining room. Next, I determined an approximate schedule, more for my sake to keep track of what ‘subjects’ I wanted to work with her on. I came up with this:
• Art (painting, play-doh, dot markers, crayons, stamps, etc)
• Writing (holding pencils and markers correctly, following a line, etc)
• Letters (recognition and sound)
• Numbers (recognition and counting)
• Colors (identification and sorting/matching)
• Puzzles (fine motor skills, matching)
• Music (singing and dancing, playing with instruments)
I organized these categories into three segments of the day. The morning segment is the largest because that is when the twins are asleep. These five categories usually take us about 20 minutes in total, leaving us plenty of free play and outside time before the girls wake. The afternoon segment is the most difficult so I’ve actually been squeezing a few into the morning. The girls are just super cranky after nap so if I bring Evie into another room, it’s utter chaos. Our playroom is directly off the dining room but it’s been too hot in the afternoons. The evening activities we do after dinner and bath, right before bed. The twins get to participate too.
We are one week in and I’m pleased that Evie is enjoying her activities with mom. When I say, “It’s time for Evie’s school,” she gets really excited and runs to the dining room. It excited me too. I find that I’m more patient with her when we are sitting together doing these activities. A definite good thing.
This is certainly a challenge for me, despite my numerous college degrees and highly qualified teacher status. This is something that I will work at, that I will research and that I will fumble through, a lot. It’s a different ballgame to try and make a toddler understand such abstract notions that marks on a page indicate a sound. Or that those marks on a page are what mommy is saying when she is reading. This week we are working on the letter A. She can now identify Aa in her flash card set, but today, all marks have started to become an A. Other words she is seeing, are all A. So now I know that I need to change my instruction. And when we are working on our activities I will need to show her other letters. Her job now will be to look at all the marks and pick out which one is A. Hopefully this will help her to understand that A isn’t just the only name for the marks on the paper.
I’m not doing all of this because I want her to go to school knowing everything. That’s not my goal. But since she is not in day care, a place where children ARE actively engaged in activities that promote Pre-K readiness, I want to make sure that she is on an even keel. I also want to try and instill in her a little discipline; I want her to understand that there are times when she will have to sit for a few minutes, stay focused on one task at a time, and follow directions. These are all work in progress skills for most toddlers, I would say. I also want to make sure that she is having fun and is able to see early on that learning something new, or doing something new, can be exciting and rewarding.
This also IS NOT the start of homeschooling. Even if someone PAID me to homeschool, I wouldn’t. All the power to those moms and dads that do it. It’s just not something that I would ever want to do, nor is it something I feel compelled to do for personal or religious reasons. While I’m super grateful to be home now, I will be going back to work in a few years. I think it’s important for kids and parents to have their own space once in awhile, especially when the idea duct tape and a closet start creeping into my mind. Kidding. Maybe. Seriously, I’m sure all moms of toddlers thought about that once upon a time.
I know that some days are challenging. She’s not the little angel she appears to be on camera. Everyone with kids knows that a child acts A LOT differently around her mom than other people. If I could send her somewhere just for a day or two a week, I think she would be better off for it. She would learn to follow directions from people she doesn’t quite know and learn essential social skills. It’s just not in the budget right now so I’m trying to plan as many outings as I can where she can get the opportunity to interact with other children at her level.
All in all, I’m excited to start this adventure with her. We will both be learning, I’m sure, and I think we will both be better off for it. That’s not to say we won’t skip school one day to cuddle and watch Winnie the Pooh without the twins. But even four days a week of direct one-on-one learning is better than nothing at all!