Thursday, January 11, 2007

Focusing on a Theme

I am helping to teach my son's class in Pioneer Clubs at church. He's in the two-three year old Skipper class. The curriculum is great. This month, their memory verse is "God is good to everyone," and throughout the month we learn about how God provides for us. In addition to that, there are very toddler-appropriate tie-ins to each unit. Last week we focused on the fact that God hears us, and also talked about animal sounds, and how God made the animals and God hears the animals. It's a lot of fun, and a good reminder as a mom about what might be interesting or appropriate for him at his age. In order to prepare, I did a search on the online catalog (a great idea when you have to take a toddler to the library with you) on "animal sounds." I wrote down the locations of the books, and selected several when I got there. It's great to see the different presentations of animals and sounds in several different books. I got a basic board book where I just showed them the picture and let them make the sound, and two interesting picture books for a different take: The Cow Who Clucked by Denise Fleming, and Mommies Say Shhh by Patricia Polacco. (When my daughter saw that book, I felt as if I had somehow missed out on something when she shouted out, "That's by Patricia Polacco!!" She ended up telling me that they were doing an author unit at school on her, so she took it to school so she could share the picture book aimed at younger kids.)

Have you ever noticed how once you read or hear or see something about a certain topic, it often seems to be all around you? I often noticing overlapping themes in Bible studies when God is trying to teach me something--I'll read it in one book of the Bible, then a friend will bring it up, or my pastor will preach on it, and then I'll come across it in another context in another book of the Bible. It becomes obvious to me that I need to focus on that area. So then I can actively choose to find out more about that particular topic, by finding some sort of non-fiction book, more scripture readings or Bible studies. When I read a book (either fiction or non-fiction), I often find myself more curious about the time period, style of writing, or something else, so I delve into more works by the author, or other novels written in the same time period, or other books of that genre while my interest is peaked.

This type of topical layering approach adds interest and reinforces my learning as an adult, so it only makes sense that I should use it with my kids. Knowing that my daughter enjoyed reading Molly's American Girl series from World War II, might enable her to get interested in the slightly more historical Dear America books that cover the same time period, or even a non-fiction title.

Toddlers easily accept this saturation theme. If they love Dora, and you can find an animal book with Dora in it, it will facilitate their learning about animals as well. Sherry Early, blogger at Semicolon, has written a book called Picture Book Preschool, which focuses on a different character trait each week and a different subject theme with many picture book classics recommended for that unit of study. I bought this book as a way to help me direct our home interactions, and I think that it would be a great book for anyone looking to try to have some sort of formal teaching at home, as well as for preschool teachers or daycare providers who would like some easy themes. I think that I'm going to select one or two units a month and focus on those. Some of the activities are a bit advanced for a two and a half year old, but I think it's a perfect time to start introducing the themes and character traits. This book would actually be a great guide for Kindergarten homeschooling, I think.

My focus for this year, as in years past, seems to be to make my time count. So, whether that applies in selecting books that I'm reading for myself, or making the most of my time at home, and with my kids, it bears thinking about. Saturday night I was able to focus on playing and reading with my daughter. Setting the focus helped me be open to saying yes. Today I'm supposed to be focusing on laundry and decluttering (because it's beginning to get in the way of my being able to focus on anything else), but in reality, getting this post done and answering emails and phone calls seems to be disrupting that goal. Now that this is done, I can hopefully focus on making some real progress on the theme of having clean clothes to wear and clear surfaces in my home.

My favorite reads and books to be read in 2007


Lauren S. said...

Thanks for the reminder! I had heard about Picture Book Preschool, but I had forgotten about it. I am going to check it out.

Also, I am a new blogger, but I read your post the other day about saying yes. Thanks so much for that post. I have been trying to follow in your footsteps this week, and it is making a difference in my attitude and is certainly more fun for the kids.


Dianne said...

I taught 5-6th grade girls Pioneer Clubs for a few years and absolutely loved the curriculum. You get a medal for taking on preschoolers though!

And you're right about the saturation thing. It's the way we learn and a good way to teach as well.

Katrina said...

Great thoughts. God definitely uses the "layered approach" when teaching me something, and I love your application of that concept to parenting.

Lindsey @ Enjoythejourney said...

Semicolon is one of my favorite blogs; thought about buying that book and now I think I need to for my littler 2! :) Thanks for the review.

and funny you said about things coming in themes all around you---I was just telling my hubby this last night! It seems when I'm talking about a certain topic, God just puts it before my eyes everywhere!