When I taught fifth and sixth grades, my students and I used to get together with younger children for cross-age activities. I always prepped my students by reminding them that the younger students looked up to them and watched them closely all the time.
“Remember, they are learning from everything you do – even when you don’t want them to,” was my mantra, and more than once one of my students learned the hard way that their preschool buddies were eager to copy all their behaviors, not just the positive ones.
As a beginning teacher in my mid-twenties, I learned that this is the case for older children too. One of my close friends had a younger sister who was a student in my fifth grade class. Their family had a home daycare and took care of several preschool aged children. My friend told me with great joy one day that her sister’s favorite activity was to play school with the children in the daycare, and that she always played the teacher – ME!
To my great embarrassment, when we got together with our friends, my friend loved to share how I sounded as a teacher – as played by her sister. It was flattering to know that she wanted to be like me. And some of the things that came through in her play were just how I hoped I came across as a teacher. But some of it made me cringe – she indeed sounded just like me, even at my most unflattering!
I share that not to make us even more self-conscious than we already are as parents. All of us have had that jarring experience of hearing how we sound or seeing our gestures and expressions through our children. But as conscientious parents who care about their children’s learning, it is a good reminder that while trips to museums and educational toys are wonderful gifts we give our children, we can also rest assured that the times when we are just “hanging out” as a family are valuable learning experiences as well.
Seabury is blessed with parents who value learning and who support their children’s education each and every day. Teachers at Seabury know that when papers go home, parents will look at them and talk with their children about what they are learning. They take their children to interesting places and recognize learning doesn’t just happen at school. They want to make use of each and every moment – to do parenting “right.”
As we approach a long Thanksgiving weekend, I encourage parents to consider how much your children are learning from the everyday moments when you are just hanging out or doing “regular” things. From seeing a working mom or dad take time to slow down and read a book or take a bubble bath. From spending time watching a fun movie or playing a game together. From going grocery shopping and trying to figure out how much pumpkin pie Grandpa is going to eat this year. From watching you orchestrate how to get the turkey and the potatoes to be done at the same time.
In our children’s lives, whether they are in preschool or middle school, each moment is a learning moment – not just those we plan to be intentionally educational. As parents who care deeply about our children’s learning, we sometimes put a great deal of pressure on ourselves to plan educational activities for our children and feel guilty when we aren’t doing something “valuable” with their time. While those moments are wonderful and important, we can give ourselves permission to just be with our children as well.
Have a wonderful Thanksgiving weekend! Enjoy time with your children. And take time to read a good book - your children will benefit and so will you!
- Sandi Wollum
- Sandi Wollum