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It used to bother me, when I was in my teaching program, when teachers and professors talked to us like we knew more about raising children than the parents. I was a 20-something student who had a lot of babysitting experience, but I was not a mom at the time. What did I know about parenting?
Sure, I could create a fun activity for learning letters or identifying shapes, but when it came to teaching values, instilling discipline, I had no experience yet. I tell you this because of the title of this post. I don’t think teachers know more about your children than you do-unless you spend very little quality time with your children.
Most of us stay-at-home moms spend both quality time and a large quantity of time with our kids every day. That can lead to feeling like we don’t have enough to do with our kids to make the bulk of the time the best it can be. Let me tell you a secret. The secret that will help you be a great stay-at-home mom. A secret that was important when I was teaching. What is the secret? Pretty simple.
The Secret to be a Great Stay-at-Home Mom: Think Like a Teacher
As a teacher and caregiver, I was paid to observe, observe, observe. Every child in my care was to be observed, or studied so I had real events to inspire my lessons-tailored to each child’s needs. I had to have objective anecdotes jotted down to prove all of my lesson plans were directly geared to each child. I do that with my children-not the note-taking part, but the observation part. I really study my kids every day. I look for the answers to these questions:
What are they doing well?
What are they struggling with learning?
What behavior is most common (and when is it occurring)?
What do they most want to do with me each day?
What are they really good at doing on their own?
You may not have a background in teaching, but you don’t need to be a teacher to be a great stay-at-home mom. Just watch your child playing, interacting with others. Watch what they notice, listen to, what they talk about while you are playing with them. Build on that. Jot down or just remember-you can take it as far as you want. You will be amazed at what ideas you get for what to do with them next.
Apply What You Learned
If you have a child obsessed with vehicles, use that! Develop activities that involve their favorite toy(s).
- Paint with a toy car.
- Label toy cars with letters for a parking lot game.
- Group cars by color or size.
- Count all the toy cars they have.
- Read books about cars. (affilite links)
NOTE: You do not have to be a Pinterest-parent to be a great SAHM! Don’t even think I would imply that. 🙂 I don’t do that here. Reading books, coloring pictures, playing together with your child’s favorite toy or object is enough. It really is. Spending time together is the key. That instills the love of learning right there. No Pinterest needed, but it is a nice resource if you are a crafty mom.
I think it is perfectly ok to use a developmental checklist to help guide you with learning what your child may be able to accomplish at each age. Just know it is all created to be standardized, which we know every child is not, but it is a good guide. The developmental milestones help you gauge what you can teach them next. For more about each age group, you can view my Crash Course in Child Development for Infants, Crash Course in Child Development for Toddlers, and Crash Course in Child Development for Preschool posts. They will give you an idea of what to expect learning and behavior-wise for each age group.
Going a step further, I know first-hand that you can perform a casual assessment on preschoolers without stressing them out. I will be writing more about this in a later post, but until then, the assessment forms that I used when teaching preschool and kindergarten are the same forms I use with my own preschooler to assess what I need to cover (academically) in our homeschool preschool lessons. We do much more than what is covered in an assessment, but as far as academic preparation for Kindergarten, children need to know certain academic skills. You can find both of my assessment forms for preschool and kindergarten here.
Think like a teacher to make the most of your time as a stay-at-home mom. This isn’t just for homeschoolers, or those who want to homeschool. This is about what you can do as a stay-at-home mom to spend quality time amidst the quantity of time you spend with your child every day. They will be prepared for school whether you will be teacher or you will be sending them to school.
So, when you really sat down, interacted and played, what did you discover?
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Enjoy your time at home!
Thank you for this helpful insight Jaimi! Another thing I remember from my teaching training was the importance of reflection. I really like these questions to help guide me through that process.
Observation was a large component in my student-teaching, and although it was more difficult because of limited time, it also came in handy as a substitute. I think building off of kids' interests is a great way to get them interested in learning. Especially in the classroom, avoiding boredom–and maintaining interest–is a good way to avoid bad behavior!
Jamasina, I agree with you. When my children start to 'act out' it is usually tied to being bored or tired. I like that once I create a learning game/activity it is on the shelf ready for the moments when I need to get my son or daughter focused to engage their brains. I do like them to learn to play independently as well so I am not always entertaining them, but it is definitely a balance-like all things. It is very important for moms to remember that 'mom' is just another word for 'teacher', among other titles that make up the role a mother plays every day. I really appreciate you sharing your thoughts!
That's one thing I am really looking forward to as my son gets older — being able to take advantage of the skills I learned as a teacher as a mother.