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When each of my children was born, I was amazed by how perfect they were. Then, they started smiling and cooing — oh! Be still my heart! Soon, the baby babble started. Somehow, I always knew what they were saying. Okay, there were a few times I was stumped, but an older sibling usually helped me decipher the baby babble. Today’s guest post is written by Wendy Turner (bio below), a new homeschooling mom who is starting a little bit early with her son. But, is she really? Don’t we all start teaching them as soon as they are born? Read on to find out what this first-time mom is doing to take her son from baby babble to baby brilliant!
From Baby Babble…
For those of you seasoned parents out there, you might giggle a little over the amount of excitement and sheer astonishment I show from this amazing journey that we are on, but I want you to know I am totally ok with that! I often giggle at myself! Let’s face it… raising this little tiny person that you have been given is the most incredible, mysterious, scary, and fascinating thing we have ever done. I also believe it is the most important job that we have been tasked with on this earth.
My son just turned two years old in May of this year… and I’m sitting here at my computer trying to find the words to accurately describe to you the awesomeness that is my Elijah. The truth is, there are no words. He has shown me in just two years, things that I could never have imagined in my 30 years of life. In what seems like days, he went from this tiny babbling bundle of cute to walking around telling me about numbers, shapes, animals, colors, letters, and so much more.
I knew from the start that God had called me to be a work from home/homeschooling Mom, and now I am starting to see why I was given that desire. Elijah is so smart! I know, I know… every Mom says that about their children, and it truly is awe inspiring to see just how much they can learn in such a short amount of time, but Elijah has surpassed even my wildest dreams for his intelligence and giftedness.
Five Lessons I’ve Learned
My intent in writing this is not to brag on my child (although it is REALLY fun, right?) or to make any parents feel like their child is inadequate or that they are not doing a good enough job. All children learn and develop skills in their own time and in their own way. My intent is to share with you five lessons that I have learned on this journey that I believe have helped to foster Elijah’s eagerness and love of learning. My hope is that you can begin practicing these easy steps with your little ones so that they can begin to bud into the amazing and talented person they were created to be. I pray happiness and abundant blessings over you and your family as we take this leap from baby babble to baby brilliant!
1. No Baby Talk
Ok, this one is hard… especially for the mommies! We see that adorable face smiling up at us, and our speech is transformed into a slur of unintelligible words that we have never, ever uttered before! My husband and I decided (before he was born) that we would not use baby talk with Elijah. When he would point to items and want to know what they were, we told him the precise name. Cute baby nicknames for things were not allowed. I believe that it is in part to this strategy that Elijah has incredible diction when it comes to his speaking. For a (barely) two-year-old he has very clear speech and enunciates with ease.
Confession… I’m not perfect (by any means) and slip up quite often. (Gasp!) What can I say? It’s the emotional female mommy-side of me that just melts my speech with one look at him! But then I correct myself and make sure he repeats me correctly.
2. Let Them Get MESSY!
This one… yeah… if you are an OCD neat-freak like me, this one goes against your very nature! Take them outside and let them dig in the dirt and play in the sand and dump it all in their hair and down their shirt. Let them splash water everywhere and get themselves soaking wet then roll around in the grass. Take them outside in the rain and let them plop down in a mud puddle! (Another confession… I’m physically cringing as I am typing this!) This type of play encourages creativity, independence, and even builds the calculating portion of their growing brain. I still struggle with this as I provide many opportunities for Elijah to make a beautiful, messy masterpiece. As I’m smiling at him and encouraging/praising his exploration and investigations, inside my head, I’m pretending to be Queen Elsa loudly proclaiming the lyrics to “Let It Go”!
Once again, I’m fighting against my internal impulses to bring you this advice. I have a very precise way that I like for chores to be done around the house and my perfectionist nature says each has to be done– well … perfect! Let me just say, when a 1-year-old is trying to help you water plants the result will be lots of water outside the pot and very little water inside the pot. (Cringing once again!) And it is a double whammy if the plants you are watering are inside the house! (Deep breath, Wendy, deep breath.)
But as I let Elijah water the plants and throw the clothes from the washer into the dryer, I see his countenance begin to change. He smiles proudly. His posture straightens. And he gains a sense of confidence, self-importance, and family inclusion as he boldly proclaims, “I help Mommy!” It’s one of the sweetest things I’ve ever witnessed. I learned that he is so important and has something very valuable to contribute to his family.
4. Don’t Short Change Them
So many times I have heard parents say of their toddler, “Oh so-and-so can’t do that. She’s too young/little.” Well, hold on. Let’s reevaluate. If we are talking about a toddler stunt bike riding, then, by all means, don’t just turn the offer down, tuck your child in your arms and run in the opposite direction! But if we are talking about jumping on a trampoline (with adequate safety and supervision, of course), then why not let them try? This is even more true when it comes to learning.
Don’t wait until they are two or three to introduce numbers, letters, shapes, and colors. There are beautifully illustrated flashcards at your local dollar store. There are tons of attention-grabbing videos on the Internet. I started teaching these things to Elijah before he was one year old. Now, at a little over two years old, we have mastered all of those things and are now learning the phonetic sound of each letter and how to do basic mathematics. I have no doubt that your child can be doing the same by this age. It’s all about what we expose them to.
5. Don’t Be a Helicopter Parent
One more time, I am going to teach against my nature. I want to hover SO bad. I want to go everywhere Elijah goes, and I want to help him do everything he does. That’s just my personality, and I will own up to that fact.
We went to our local library one day, and they had a monkey hat craft. You glued the eyes and ears onto the monkey’s face on the hat, and every part of me wanted to dab the glue for him and take his little hand and help him place the eyes exactly where they should go because I wanted his little monkey hat to look the best! The only problem is that he was about eighteen months old. While fighting everything in me, I let him put the eyes WAY to close together, and the ears looked very lopsided. But it was ok because it was HIS monkey and he did it all by himself! It was probably the ugliest monkey in the room, but I could not have been more proud of him.
This week he has been going to a pre-k day camp. For the first time, he has been away from home for four consecutive days, four hours each day. This has devastated my mommy heart. I cried harder than he did the first day I left him there. But today is day four, and it has gotten a lot easier, mostly because I see that he is having the most AMAZING time and learning some awesome things. He’s becoming more independent, and while I totally hate that, isn’t that what we are striving for?
…To Baby Brilliant!
So let’s wrap up these little life lessons. Is it easy? Definitely not for this Mommy! But can I see past my own selfish wants and desires and focus instead on what is best for my child? That would be a great resounding YES! I could not be more proud of Elijah. He is truly the apple of my eye. My miracle baby. And I thank the Lord for answering my prayers and giving me wisdom in this journey of parenting. I have an amazing child. You have an amazing child/children. Let’s help them unlock their potential and not stand in their way. Let’s take them from baby babble to baby brilliant!
Wendy Turner is a “30 and thriving” work at home/homeschooling mom from Decatur, Alabama. She enjoys teaching piano/vocal lessons and academic tutoring from home. She has been married to her talented musician/writer husband, Josh, for four years and they have a two-year-old son, Elijah. The “Turner House” is one filled with music, video gaming, laughter, creative play, and most importantly the Word of the Lord. Wendy wishes she could eat sushi and drink cream soda for every meal, every day, and she vows one day to face her fears and plop into a giant mud puddle in the rain as she flings two handfuls of sand all over herself! Wendy does not currently blog but invites you to follow her husband’s blog on conservative family values.