Towards the end of our last article I wrote “…They have goals, and these goals include becoming responsible and respectful members of our future community…” I was asked if kids even understand the concept of community: A 9year old answered that community means a group of people who are working together, a 7year old answered it’s people who live by each other, and a 6 year old answered it’s people who like each other. These answers aren’t just great definitions, but also an answer to what they hope their future communities are like. How do we achieve such hopeful goals? According to an 8 year old we try and solve problems by talking and not fighting, according to a 4 year old we need to make friends, and the 2 year old simply answered by sharing his toy with me when asked. It’s that simple: be nice.
Being nice starts with learning how to communicate. Communication skills are learned through behaviors modeled during our earliest years, for others such social skills need to be formally taught. What if we started formally teaching all children how to communicate their wants, needs, thoughts, affections, emotions… Mother Goose Time has a monthly curriculum that helped us do just that! During this months “Friends and Feelings’ unit our one room school house worked on communication. It was the perfect way to start the back 2 school season, but one nice thing is knowing I could have used the unit anytime since the materials are not date sensitive. Mother Goose Time units teach basic skills, but also include character lessons and this month was filled with character building activities. During each unit I ask students what they know, what they wonder about and what they have learned using a KWL chart. Mother Goose Time provides such charts in their teachers guide for each weeks sub-theme. This weeks theme was “talking with friends,” which helped open discussions about communication forms including body language, the telephone, using mail, computers and also being a good listener. Toddlers to 3rd graders enjoyed the activities and were observed using various ways to communicate with all age groups in different environments. We are learning that our community isn’t only within one environment. We are a part of many communities.
As a homeschool family where the dad is a film maker we have opportunities to visit many locations and learn within many communities. One assumption about homeschool families is that they “bubble wrap” their kids and don’t expose them to social situations. We interact with many homeschool kids who are actually more social then students I’ve worked within the school system, as often homeschooled kids are exposed to more environments and more age groups building confidence to communicate with more diverse people than simply their same-aged peers. They learn to communicate with more diverse cultures and people with diverse needs. The topic of body language with a focus on sign language became a focus week long as we remembered when one of ours was labeled with “non verbal autism” at 2o months after losing his speech he had before a year old. He didn’t talk again until he was close to 4 years old and still has a speech delay, but has come a long way since being told he wouldn’t speak. My husband and I believe using signs helped him find his voice again. He was so frustrated not being able to communicate that he couldn’t calm down long enough to relearn verbal communication. Something as simple as him wanting a drink of juice could result in a 45min meltdown when we didn’t know his exact request. Today he is very patient helping determine what the little ones in our daycare want understanding their frustrations. He is great at modeling how to use signs and other body language to express themselves.
Both of our boys love to help the younger students and modeled the lessons playing make-believe as mail-men delivering letters, playing with old phones and toy computers. The week was filled with examples of good communication, including good listening and good observation of others body language and behaviors. We also discussed how the little ones mimic behaviors and how to be a good role model through our actions. After working in special needs programs and watching my own son in such a program I believe that sometimes even purposeful programs with great intentions and great teachers can still be the wrong plan. Often in such programs children learn to mimic undesired behaviors and come home each day acting their label. However, being with “neurotypical peers” in the general education placement doesn’t work either when they are overwhelmed, discouraged and even bullied. Homeschooling was never our plan, but it gave us the results we were looking for – where one could work at their own speed (even speed ahead) and conquer social skill challenges. Homeschooling gives may kids the confidence they need to discover gifts and talents and ways they can contribute to their future communities. Our home-based child care program (ADVENTURE ACADEMY) offers the same encouraging, yet individualized results. All kids have gifts and talents they can offer the world around them and our education through recreation activities helps children discover their strengths. Their strengths are the key to fulfilling futures where they are responsible for themselves and respectful to others. Their strengths are the key to the success of our future communities.
If you’d like more information on how to tap into your child’s strengths and focus on abilities instead of disabilities and focus on development vs delays please email Christi@MiFamilies.com. If you’d like to learn more about ADVENTURE ACADEMY click here. More about MOTHER GOOSE TIME click here. To meet other mothers, fathers and providers network on our FACEBOOK site. Follow us on all our social media sites and subscribe above for updated resources.