Saturday, January 14, 2012

ABCs, 123s and more!

My grandson, Sae, can point out the letters that spell his name on this poster.
Next, we are going to work on all the letter sounds!

I think I have already documented my frantic stockpiling of educational toys and games that commenced the second my twin grandsons opened their eyes outside of the womb. I so much wanted to be part of their early-year learning and I attacked that goal with bull-in-a-china-shop fervor! Yikes! Sometimes I even scare myself! Nobody needs to warehouse a "teacher's store" in their own home....not even a teacher! Because, for example, a certain once-significant celestial planet could even be "demoted" in the interim between the purchase of study cards for a two day old infant and, say, his second grade year when he is realistically ready to grasp the concept of a heavenly universe! Imagine that happening to someone! Tsk, tsk! (Who? Me?)

Indeed! There are better, easier and saner ways to accomplish being an educationally involved, supportive grandma, and so today I turn to my friends for two stellar examples of how to correctly model that behavior!

My friend and in-law, Sharon, is a happy grandma of three. Like me, she babysits often, and it is evident that she enriches the lives of those children with her exceptional artistic creativity. At a family baby shower several years ago, her pretty little granddaughter, Brianna, approached me and asked if I would like to accompany her to the playroom to "paint some animals." Awwww! That just melted my heart. Not only to witness how poised and at ease with adults she was at such a young age, but because of an  immediate flashback to years past when I served as a parent volunteer in the elementary classrooms of my daughters. I remember being advised to expect some children to be "afraid" to paint. What?! Kids afraid to paint? No way! Oh yes, I was assured. All because of at-home admonishment against making "a mess!" How sad for those anxious little souls who weren't allowed to experience the joyful sweep of a rainbow of color on a huge sheet of clean white paper! In obvious contrast, Brianna's family has always been wise enough to value uninhibited artistic self-expression from their little girl - and save cleaning up "the mess" for later on. Their reward has been a very happy, confident child, proud of her accomplishments!

Sharon posted on Facebook in mid December that she was taking Brianna to see "Nutcracker," and then home for cookie baking and crafting! Again....awww! I haven't had a chance to ask Sharon about this, but my guess is that she offers a crafting workshop to her grandchildren for each and every holiday! Sure makes me wish I was one of those kids! Imagine the fun and bonding with grandma, as well as the spark igniting critical thinking skills that those children will bring with them to school and continue to own for a lifetime. But most significantly, they will always remember.......                            
            "Our grandma taught us how to make all these things!"

My good friend, Judy, is a retired elementary reading teacher and a grandmother of four. I was so impressed the first time I saw her interact with her oldest granddaughter, Tava. Matter-of-factly, she would hand her an item, say the word, and ask for the letter sound. Tava didn't hesitate because, before age four, she knew them all! Judy has made that learning as routine between them as speaking! We grandmothers, however, did enjoy a little chuckle over a candid, precocious comment Tava made one day. "Grandma, you don't have to worry about all these things. When I am five years old and in school, my teacher will teach them to me." I think Judy and I both know, that one day, when Tava is five and in school, her teacher will pull out a phonics chart. While other classmates stare at it in bewilderment, Tava may well toss her long silky blond hair, flash her sky-blue eyes, and raise her hand to say, "Teacher, you don't have to worry about my learning all of these things, because........
                        My grandmother already taught them to me"!

Today, I try to contribute what I can to the early learning of my grandchildren but I stop far short of yanking them out of their cribs by the scruffs of their 0-6-month sleepers, snatching Elmo rattles out of their tiny fists, and replacing them with a stylus from an electronic alphabet board. I think Sharon and Judy have the right idea. Teach what you know, but do it gently!

The twins and I do "projects" whenever I babysit. When I walk in with my big old "grandma bag" bursting with markers, stickers, crayons and stamp pads, the boys follow me around with requests before I can even put it down! A few months ago I brought over a great kid's map of the United States. This week, I added an alphabet poster. Both parents work with the boys on numbers, letters, matching and other pre-school skills, but I thought a big 24" x 36" ever-present chart hanging in their playroom would aid visual learning perhaps a bit better than smaller cards and workbooks. It's fun, too, to pass by the poster and spontaneously ask, "Where's the B?" and, "What does it say?" The boys simply beam with delight when they get the answers right!

Which reminds me of the day I hung the map and showed the boys where they live. When mommy came home, they escorted her directly to it, pointed to our home state, exclaimed, "we live HERE!"....and then added.......
"Grandma taught us that!"

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