Math book-check. Grammar-check. Science experiment-check. We’ve spent the time and money to research the “best” curriculum. We’ve been inspired by our homeschool conference and we’re ready to tackle the “best school year” ever.
Easy to Miss Tool
If you are that mom, let me remind you of one important educational tool that is so easy to miss: The power of CONVERSATION.
Conversation is the “skeleton” onto which an education can grow flesh. It’s where the rote information comes alive. Without it, much of our efforts are wasted.
From the time our children are little, our conversations teach them. (The question, “when does she start school” really reveals our misunderstanding about education. If “school” is learning, they never start or stop.) This is why I think it’s so crucial that toddlers grow up in homes where attention can be given to their early, natural development through conversation.
Children are not only learning a language from birth, but they are gaining insight into the world around them and we can greatly facilitate this education with a little careful attention.
Often, and I am guilty, we let our little one’s curiosity disturb us and we squelch important opportunities rather than embrace them. A child who is curious about what is in front of him will be more likely to retain the information you give him in that moment than if he is just asked to read about it at a time when his curiosity isn’t piqued.
I challenge you, as I challenge myself, to be more deliberate about our conversations. Here are 4 tips/insights on making the best use of conversation in educating children:
Answer in detail
As best you can, answer your children’s questions with details, looking for learning opportunities in the simplest of questions. If necessary, tell them you don’t know the answer and invite them to help you look it up.
Expand their vocabulary
Mom, this flower is pretty.” “Yes, it is….it’s remarkable. I love the colors…they’re so bright and vibrant! Do you know what ‘vibrant’ means? It’s just another word for ‘bright’.”
Reinforce their learning/reading.
Charlotte Mason emphasized the importance of “narration”, a retelling of an event or something the child read. Having a child repeat things back to you is a powerful tool for solidifying what he has read, seen or experienced. It also opens the doors for further discussion.
A most important part of education is teaching a child to think, observe and analyze. This is best done through questioning in conversation. From the time they are little through adulthood, get your children in the habit of being able to answer “why” or “how”. I like to ask them, “What do you think about that?”
Of course, don’t miss the best part…conversation draws us closer together. In a society where electronic gadgets have drawn our faces and minds away from each other, let’s be so vigilant to guard this area and preserve the relationship-building conversation that used to be the most essential family experience!
For more about a “lifestyle of learning”, you will want to read my ebook, “Think Outside the Classroom: A Practical Approach to Relaxed Homeschooling.”
“Kelly, About your ebook…I can’t tell you the amazing peace God filled my soul with after reading it, voraciously! We had been in a place of constant transition for several years and had moved a ton. I felt like a complete failure in the education of my children. After reading your book I realized that we had been doing a lot more ’school’ than I gave us credit for.” -Amy B.