One night I gathered my family around to read scriptures, a scene that takes place almost nightly in our home. My children were all young, my oldest was in third grade at the time. I had a wonderful scripture story to share with them. I had studied it, I had my scriptures in hand, and I thought I was more prepared than ever. I began my lesson by asking them to all sit still, zip those lips and pay attention to Mom.
Within two minutes, two of my children were rolling on the living room floor, one child was whining about how long it was taking and the eldest was playing with a bouncy ball he had in his pocket. I sighed a breath of defeat and tried desperately to redirect them. I added animation to my voice and tried ignoring the distracting behavior. Soon I realized that the volume of my voice simply got louder and louder to rise above their noise. In five short minutes what I had planned to be an enlightening evening learning of God had turned into utter chaos. I wanted to give up. I felt frustrated and knew I deserved more respect from my young children. Then a small voice whispered to me, “Angie, there is a better way.” I was immediately reminded how silly my expectations were for them, especially at the end of the day when they were all tired and I was too. Never again, I told myself, never again.
Today I am sharing five simple tips you can apply in the home to create a positive atmosphere for home centered learning.
I hope these tools spare you the feelings of overwhelm and frustration I had. I know implementing these can help you avoid (or at least minimize) the amount of nights you gather your family around hoping to have yummy spiritual moments and chaos ensues shortly after.
5 Tips to Create a Positive Home Centered Learning
Home Centered Learning Tip #1: Be Mindful of when you are having at Home Study.
As an elementary educator we always arrange our academic day to teach the hardest content at the beginning of the school day when children are fresh, their minds are bright and their body is well rested. For a classroom teacher this results in less behavior issues and higher academic achievement. Be sure that teaching happens at your child’s happiest time of the day. Don’t save tasks that require large amounts of attention span, brain power or use of a new skills for the end of the day. This is typically when children are tired and irritable. Consider their physical state of being before diving into church at home. Ask yourself, ” HAF? Are they happy? Are they awake? Are they full?” If so, teach away! Using this abbreviation for a quick mental check will help you as the parent take advantage of “green moments” which refers to times when a child’s behavior is the best!
Home Centered Learning Tip #2: Be Aware of What an Acceptable Attention Span is for your Child’s Age.
As an educator I am reminded of research that teaches us a child’s attention span is 2-5 minutes for every year they are old. That means your two year old can focus on one activity that is age appropriate for about four minutes, maybe a bit more if they are nearing three or very advanced developmentally. A five year old child’s max attention span on one activity, again age appropriate, would be ten minutes tops! Seems shocking when we reflect upon what we are asking of our children with in home learning. Now I realize from my above experience that I was asking my children to sit and listen far beyond what their development would even allow. Adjust folks it is that simple.
Would you believe me if I told you now in our home each week we happily teach an hour long Come Follow Me lesson with our four young children? Truth! The trick? Switch it up often within your lesson. Read scriptures, then act out a verse, complete a coloring page, sing a song, add actions to it for movement, watch a short video clip, have a discussion and end with a prayer. It will change your home centered learning experience in the best ways!
Home Centered Learning Tip #3: Use Engaging Materials that Appeal to Children and Make it Fun!
I remember a classroom teacher that I especially enjoyed learning from as a third grader. His name was Mr. White. Ironically he had black hair. I couldn’t wait to go to school every day and sit in that classroom. I remember doing cool science projects, math timings with a large sand timer up front, some behavior/reward system with bananas and monkey’s, lots of writing and art and he read aloud to us every day. It was the happiest school year of my life! I can honestly say I don’t recall or remember a teacher who chose not to use engaging materials to educate children. Nope, not a one. Why? Because children learn in a variety of ways. Therefore, as adults we need to teach them using a variety of mediums and activities. This will reach more children and ultimately keep them interested in the topics discussed. I share more about learning styles in the first issue of Seek Learning Home magazine.
Make learning the gospel joyful! Just like you would teach an academic subject like phases of the moon using Oreo’s revealing the cream inside to create a full, half, and waxing crescent moon; you should use oil lamps and drops of oil to teach about the 10 virgins. Make Come Follow Me applicable and hands on for children. They will not only enjoy learning about Christ but they will retain more of what is taught. This leads me into our next tip.
Home Centered Learning Tip #5: Prepare, Prepare, Prepare
Take time to print your materials from your subscription in advance so you have time to look them over. Carefully decide what you want to use in your home. What need does your family have at the time? For each family this will be different each week. Read the assigned verses for the week. Pray about what to share and integrate materials that will supplement and enhance your in home study. When I set aside time in my week to prepare materials, study the scripture verses and pray about what we need to focus on that week everything runs smoother than when I forget to prepare.
Home Centered Learning Tip #5: Recognize the Good in your Home and in your Children.
Research shows that in a positive classroom and a positive home where children respond well to the adult, there is order and learning the adult has four positives to every one negative or redirect statement. When it comes to having a positive home experience this is important, especially during Come Follow Me study. This week give each child four praise statements to every one redirect. Their attitudes will change, their focus will persist, their efforts will multiply and you will all be happier. Point out the good and ignore the bad behaviors. Notice the child who is participating so he brings the distracted kiddos up. A simple, “Thanks Nathan for coloring your picture.” Or “Wow, Eliza I love how you shared that story from school about helping a friend.” My favorite of all is, “I am so glad you are here with us, you matter and I love you!” That is all it takes. In the education world we call it positive reinforcement. The behaviors we want to keep seeing we give positive reinforcement to. Be sure you are encouraging those behaviors and not the negative behaviors in your home.
- Be mindful of when you are having at home study!
- Be aware of what an acceptable attention span is for your child!
- Use engaging materials that appeal to children and make it fun!
- Prepare, prepare, prepare!
- Recognize the good in your home and children!
During this time as members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter day Saints it is vitally important for us to have home centered learning. I hope and pray that these five tips will change your home Come Follow Me study for the better when implemented.
Come Follow Me FHE Team
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