Around the time Big Brother turned one, Matt and I made the decision to homeschool. With that decision came hours and hours of reading and research (I could not have been happier!). In the midst of this reading, I discovered a book called "Learning All The Time" by John Holt. John Holt was one of the very first homeschooling advocates and he is the father of a homeschooling style called "unschooling." His ideas are incredible and though I have no intention of unschooling our children, there are parts of his philosophy that I am so looking forward to implementing. In his books, Holt talks about how children can teach themselves to read. He states that if you surround them with words and letters, and read to them as often as you can, they will naturally pick up on it and will learn to read. I was skeptical of this idea at first, but over the past eight months, Big Brother has proven all of my worries wrong.
Big Brother has always loved to be read to, so that part has been easy. He won't sit with me while I read every time, but he knows his favorite books and he is thrilled every nap time and bed time when I pull them down to read to him. One of those favorites is actually a favorite of mine from my childhood, "Chicka Chicka Boom Boom." What a better way to learn the alphabet, than with a fun rhyme and colorful pictures.
The next step was to literally surround his world with the alphabet. I began with putting soft bath letters and numbers in the tub for bath time. During his bath times he loves to stick them to the walls while I name them off.
I don't know about everyone else with toddlers, but Big Brother absolutely Loves technology. He especially loves to play with Matt's and my tablets. At first he would just play baby apps where you pop bubbles and such, but then one day, he discovered Angry Birds. He still has yet to quite figure out the game aspect of it, but it didn't take him long at all to find the Angry Birds Toons. Those silly little short toons provide so much more entertainment than you could believe. As I watched him navigate and conquer my tablet it occurred to me that we could use it as a learning tool. This is when I found the app "Alphabet Aquarium." Big Brother loves puzzles and so this app was a dream come true. I even spent the two dollars to buy the full version. It was the Best two dollars spent. I will forever attribute Big Brother's learning his first letter at 18 months old to this app.
Though it would be nice to never have the TV on, being eight months pregnant and very tired, it happens. When it is on, we try to use it as a tool too. One of the ways we do that is with movies that teach the alphabet and numbers. Big Brother loves Mickey Mouse and so we use that to our advantage with Mickey Mouse Clubhouse's "Numbers Roundup." Leap Frog is also an incredibly useful tool in teaching both the alphabet and numbers. I love all of their shows.
The last thing I did to add the alphabet to Big Brother's world was inspired by his love of matching games and puzzles. I bought him a large magnet board and some large wooden alphabet magnets. Then I printed out cards that matched the magnets, laminated them, and added business card magnets to the back of them. Every day we go to his room and match all of the letters to the cards, naming them as we go. As soon as all of the letters are up we sing the ABC's and point to each card.
And now for the big question - Is it working? The answer - Definitely. At 18 months old Big Brother could say the name of and identify the letter "O." Today, at 20 months old, though he doesn't pronounce them perfectly yet, he can name and identify the letters "O," "R," and "F" both uppercase And lowercase. To me, this is huge.
Now don't get me wrong. As we prepare to invite another little boy into our home, I am very aware of how different things could be with him. Big Brother is a very precise and analytical thinker. He has focus beyond anything I have ever seen in a toddler. Learning the alphabet is right in his ballpark. For all we know this new little boy will want nothing to do with it and will instead be all about coloring and make-believe. That is one of the joys of homeschooling to me, finding our children's talents and giving them every opportunity to make them shine.
Teaching Big Brother the alphabet has been a fascinating experience for me. Watching him first come to understand that each of these shapes mean something and that they each have a name, then slowly learning their names, has been incredible. Even though he only knows the names of three letters, he is well on his way to conquering the rest. Already, he refers to all of the other letters as "A," "E," or "I." This has brought a pattern in our alphabet to my attention. I discovered that only 14 of our letters have original sounds. Three of our letters sound like the letter "A," and nine of our letters sound like the letter "E." It only makes sense then, that the first three letters Big Brother has picked up on, have original sounds, and that he would then call the rest "A," "E," or "I" (which sounds a lot like "A"). I am so excited to watch him continue to grow and learn, as well as get to know the learning styles of our children to come. This has done nothing but solidify my decision to be my children's teacher and adviser. The years ahead of us are going to be awesome and I can hardly wait.
Download the ABC cards and ABC matching sheets: