Teaching your children should come naturally just do what do. Does it sound too simple? Well, it doesn’t have to be complicated unless that is what you want. Still, it would be plain ridiculous for me to wave that sentence around and end it right at that point. Despite my internal conflict and initial reluctance to admit it to myself, I began as soon as my daughter was born. I glided her to sleep with chants I’d made up and others I’d found online.
I took her to the park to watch squirrels and birds while she piled rocks on top of my head. If she was too fussy, I’d take her outside to see the moon. The choice isn’t whether or not to teach, children learn despite the choice. The decision is whether or not to be actively involved in the learning process instead. Every moment is an opportunity.
As a mother, I felt like my intimate parenting time was devoured by the work-day, chores, school and errands. In 2009, I took my daughter out of daycare, quit my job as an assistant cook and started working in early childhood. My child attended the same care center I’d decided to work at. It wasn’t a complete solution, but the weekends off were great for the extra parenting time I felt that I was missing.
The three years taught me indispensable things concerning child development, planning a basic curriculum, helping children to learn to express themselves creatively, and the effect of the environment on the development of a child. These skills helped me to come up with ways to teach my daughter that would really make learning stick. I came out with these basic understandings: Children want the learning experience to be fun. They need to feel safe if they are going to fully explore. Encouragement helps children to keep going, and mindful parents aid a child’s learning in limitless ways.
FUN LEARNING IS TRICKY
Imagination is vital. As a child, I loved to make up stories. I’d act the stories out as though the front yard was a stage, sometimes in complete costumes. A bunch of bored kids love the prospect of having fun, but if they learn something in the process that is even better. Entire generations used to learn a culture’s history through the art of story-telling. One thing is for sure, the mind responds to creative imagery, music that stirs emotions, colors that capture the eyes, the excited tone of voice a teacher speaks with.
Illiondra’s favorite toy was a small music box with buttons that played tunes from different instruments. To help her learn about the what she was interested in. I sang the name of the instruments while pointing at their pictures on the box. I played a wooden flute and let her try it. We watched little video clips of orchestras online, and when she was a little older I took her to a small community concert.
I really believe children are born to be dramatic, some more than others. While teaching art, one child insisted on drawing his magic candy land morbidly. The cupcakes had sharp teeth and the lollipops had rope-like tongues. Unsuspecting people who tried to eat the candy were gobbled up. Little red drops of blood puddled at the base of the living candy monsters in his expression. He had a ‘matter of fact’ attitude about his candy world. He didn’t want it edited and explained that if those people didn’t try to bite the candy maybe they wouldn’t bite back. Subsequently, I learned he had an issue with biting other children when he became too upset. Dramatic antics are often a desperate attempt to find ways to solve conflicts and I use this to my advantage in teaching.
Illiondra had only finished watching “The Little Princess” and she wanted me to pretend I was Mrs. Mention, the wicked, greedy house mother that put Sara to work as a servant as soon as the money stopped coming. Meanwhile, I’m busy planning dinner, while trying to complete a homework assignment. I became the terrible Mrs. mention. I glanced at the pile of papers on my desk. “No, no this simply won’t do, you’ve racked up quite a debt Mrs. Sara, what shall we do with you?” She followed me to the kitchen. I slapped a dish rag on the floor, “I suppose we will simply have to put you to work, you can begin here with the floors and this bucket. When you’re finished, I’ll take you to your new room.” Illiondra’s eyes got big as she realized I was playing right along with her. Oh and if you’re wondering, she did actually scrub those floors. It came in handy by the time I started teaching her about cleansing and floor washes.
In 2011, I took a job with a company called Young Rembrandt’s. They specialize in helping children to learn about and execute their own artwork using the Montessori Method. This method of teaching was profound. I found that even the youngest children responded to this type of instruction as the individual child is supported within the group setting, they learn how to work in a group while developing their unique skills.
Teaching is simple, you do what you do. I mentally put myself in ‘little shoes’ when I explained things. I didn’t underestimate the mind of a child, they are walking, talking sponges. Teaching through an artistic and analytic lens is the method that has best worked for me through the years. When I encountered children who learned differently, I took a step back to observe them and get to know them. What I learned taught me their likes and dislikes, their way of relating to others, and more. Each ‘tid-bit’ is a helper in your teaching.
I feel teaching is like parenting, it is a life long commitment. It is easy to get overwhelmed when you try to sit and imagine all of the things you would like your child to learn. It helps to have an idea of what you really want out of teaching your child. I didn’t come to teaching goals until my daughter was almost six years old. I decided I wanted her to be able to be completely ready to set off on her own by the time she was 18 years old. For me, this included an understanding of the spiritual world, a working magical knowledge, skills of discipline such as meditation and visualization work, and understanding of rituals and more. Before I could teach any of these things, I had to know answers to some of the following questions.
- What do I believe about the spiritual world and why?
- Do I have a relationship with the divine?
- What is the divine to me?
- How do I personally define myself and why have I come to this?
- Why do I do what I do?
- What kind of values do I want to impart to my child that I feel are absolutely important?
When I began, my most important charge was to know myself. Often, I felt like I’d put signed up for a sadistic, personal dissection. After 17 years, I feel that picking myself apart has been of great service when it comes to teaching. It helps to know our intentions, motivations and how we too were influenced by what we grew up with. I knew that if I didn’t understand what I believed about the world and myself that my efforts to teach would end in a confused and muddled mind. Self-learning is also a lifetime of work but it pays off.
Parents are a little bit of everything; doctor, teacher, cook, house keeper, gardeners, the list could fill more than a page. Looking at it that way made teaching less intimidating and relating to my child even easier. So, just do what you do with love and patience, take the advice you feel that suits you personally, impart the values and knowledge you hold sacred, stir the pot and pass it on. Good luck on your teaching adventures!
TID-BITS TO REMEMBER
- Make it fun by using imagination, playing games, singing songs, doing art projects, taking a fun trip, trying a new recipe…
- Children love to participate, include them in the work.
- Let them do it. It is tempting to ‘help’ them out too much.
- Let them choose. Children feel they are really apart of things when they get to choose.
- Don’t be afraid of a mess, children love to make them.
- Have a ‘re-set’
- Consider what you personally love and show them your passion for it. As they grow, their natural talents and loves will be explored and revealed. When you see it nurture it.
- Be excited, encourage them to question, study, and research as they grow. Let them see how you do it.
- Observe your own reactions and support them as they learn with encouragement.
- Be familiar with child development.
- Coordinate with other Pagan parents, get to know the community if it is possible for you.
- Stay engaged. When they see you interested they get interested too.
- Observe them and what they love to do. Find ways to work their interests into the daily routine.
- Use technology, look up videos and movies and games to support your teaching efforts no matter what topic your covering. Children are growing up with tablets, phones, the internet and more. Help them to see it is a tool that can make learning fun.
References and Links:
- Montessori Method NAMC
- The Montessori Method Audiobook
- Pagan Path, A Guide To Children Interested In A Magikal Path
- Pagan Parenting Resources
- Book: Raising Witches by Ashleen O’Gaea
- The Earth Child’s Handbook by Brigid Ashwood