After several weeks of talking about issues concerning teens, it’s time to look at home schooling our littlest ones. Just what are the foundational principles for getting our children ready to learn? Here are a few strategies.

Note how inexpensive these are to pull off:

Language-rich environment

The most important thing you can do with your young children is to talk with them. Engage your preschoolers in conversation throughout your daily routine. As you are running errands, point out activities going on about the town, help them to recognize and discuss important community centers such as the post office, library, churches, or recreational park. And don’t use a dumb-downed vocabulary; rather, help them expand their own vocabulary by using precise word choices. If you don’t know the specific word for, say, a piece of road equipment yourself, then ask someone who does. It is equally important for our young ones to see that we are lifelong learners, intensely inquisitive about the world around us and equipped with a skill set that helps us get the information we need, i.e. we ask questions, we read books, we use the Internet, or we find an expert.

It is important to note that researchers have found the amount of “live” conversation going on in a child’s environment is the key to language-development. However, “passive” language, i.e. the television, video or radio, doesn’t make a dent.

Print-rich environment
The next priority is the world of print – long before you begin formal reading instruction with a child, he needs to be at home in the world of books. This means, from his earliest impressions, he has seen the adults and older siblings in his life reading and writing. Further, he is read to often, and there is an over-abundance of books, magazines, newspapers, and writing implements about. Books and the world they contain are obviously valued by his mentors – they are given as gifts, proudly displayed on bookcases, and readily available for his exploration.

Picture books are important bridges to reading, so select those by award-winning illustrators. These are feted because of the depth of feeling and action conveyed through the drawings.

Your child’s own initial efforts at written communications will be through the pictures she draws – treat these as such – ask questions about the pictures, draw out the storyline from your child, help her to become accustomed to thinking about her audiences’ need for clear understanding.

Make reading aloud a special event for your child. I know my kids have very fond memories of Daddy reading to them at bedtime most evenings. Our boxed set of the Chronicles of Narnia are equivalent to a favorite stuffed animal in their memories because of this nightly ritual. Narnia is equally an excellent choice because of the literary skill of C.S. Lewis. He, as well as, Beatrice Potter and E.B. White, wrote their classics long before the notion of a controlled-vocabulary overtook the dumb-downed world of children’s books. Dr. Seuss is the only modern author of note whose creative genius could still wring a storyline of merit out of a handful of words.

Next time, I’ll give you some ideas for your Christmas list that will also help your young ones get ready to learn.

In His Sovereign Grace,