Ok, so perhaps we can’t really teach Phoebe: the difference between food and not-food is probably something she’ll have to learn for herself, all we can do is keep hazardous materials out of her reach and gently direct her attention towards her Mummy’s bosom and away from her own digits.
Ellie, however, is a whole different kettle of phonetics.
She has work-books which she fills out with a healthy devotion, if not to the acquisition of knowledge then at least to the shiny gold stickers that come with the books, she has big foam letters for the bath and magnetic ones for the fridge, she has educational games (scrabble is particularly popular) both board and computer, she has an abacus, an overflowing bookcase and a much-used library card.
But probably the most effective learning tool she possesses is a Tinkerbell Sticker album.
It’s sparkly, it’s quite offensively girly (I blame Richard for the Tinkerbell obsession) and it’s utterly brilliant.
As far as Ellie’s concerned she gets to put shiny stickers with Disneyfied fairies on into a big glittery book, meanwhile she’s picking up quite a few skills without even noticing:
Number recognition: to put the stickers in the right place she has to find the right page, to do that she has to read the numbers on the sticker. Then once we’ve found the right page she has to find the numbers she’s just read. It’s simple, but it works.
Manual dexterity: stickers are fiddly, sticking stickers in their ordained places is surprisingly tricky for little fingers, the more she sticks the better she gets.
Comprehension: she reads the words*, she looks at the pictures; she tells us what it’s all about. One page even has a quiz.
Patience: sparkly fairy stickers come to those who wait.
I was tempted to add:
Acting: also to those who make big sad eyes at Daddy
But the truth is that even if he was such a soft touch I still wouldn’t let her get away with it.
There’s even a set of character biographies (with accompanying character stickers) that’s convinced her she needs to write her own: My Book About Me sounds like a pretty good way to practise her writing and composition skills.
So, while the big twinkly book of tweeness might irritate me beyond belief, I fear it’s here to stay.
*Ok, some of the words, I don’t think this book was actually aimed at the under-threes.
Home education seems, from what I’ve seen so far, to fit into one of three categories; unschooling, where you just let the kids get on with it on the assumption that children actually want to learn and will, given the chance, happily educate themselves; homeschooling, where you effectively take a classroom approach in your own home; and something in between.
This last is the course we intend to take: directing their studies, but giving them plenty of room to decide, for example, that they’d like to spend a couple of months studying seismology, say, or that actually, they’d rather learn Mandarin than Italian.
Being ridiculously eager, my mind is naturally awash with ideas for long and short-term studies, reading schemes, timetables (maths and English in the mornings, grand multi-disciplinary projects in the afternoons), and excursions.
I’ve signed up to a local home-ed group and we’re collecting educational resources from all manner of sources.
None of this is particularly important at the moment however, given that Ellie is only two and three quarters*, and Phoebe, at less than one month, has yet to learn that her fingers are not a viable source of nourishment.
Structured lesson plans are clearly not a priority at the moment.