A Repetition Of Principles

by Mary Ann on May 20, 2010

I want to share something that I received from a mom I am working with. “I did have a hectic day last week in which the three year old was napping, it was “spark station” time, the ten year old was doing it and I was trying to cook dinner (plus I had a headache and wasn’t terribly engaged, even if I was present). The ten year old told me it was more fun when I played with them, so if an emergency comes up, I put off The Spark Station [time].”

When I asked this mom what her greatest mental hurdle to using The Spark Station effectively was she replied that she didn’t have any mental hurdles. However, her email told me otherwise. She had some difficulty understanding some of the key elements to success in working with The Spark Station as an educational tool.

Let’s look at the elements in her email and talk about each one. First she had chosen a time when her three year old was napping to have “structured family learning time”. I feel that it is important to start this culture of family learning from the time children are born. They need to see you learning and being excited about learning new things. They can watch that process in your family learning time. Even though you spend significant time helping them, if you are excited about what you are doing and what is being learned they will be too. It is also very valuable for them to observe older siblings learning and I can’t say enough about older siblings assisting and teaching younger ones.

I feel that it is beneficial for the family, as much as is possible with dad’s being gone to work, to study, play and learn together. There isn’t a time when we finally introduce our children to this process. That is what happens on the conveyor belt at about 5. Learning as a family should be part of what they have always done.

I know that it is a challenge for mom’s to have a number of children of different ages all together in the same space. Helping each one has its difficult moments. But I can assure you that this effort pays huge dividends in happiness, and a warm and inviting family culture.

Three is a magical age. You’ll notice that it is at three that preschools start and churches provide Sunday School classes. That isbecause three is ready to participate and not get in everything. They observe and are anxious to learn. They want to be a part of what is going on.

I will also mention here that if you have some little ones under thee then it can be a challenge for them to be involved without  making it difficult for older siblings because they grab and chew and tear…..  If they nap it isn’t a disaster. If you have them during your structured time then you have to be really present for them. They will need your attention.

Second, she mentioned that she wasn’t engaged even though she was present. She really wasn’t present.  Being present is one of the five essential keys to the success of The Spark Station and doesn’t refer to being there physically. It refers to a state of mind, a way of being. I ask parents to be present in the truest sense, to be focused on their child, what they are doing or to be doing their own studying, if they are not needed by the child. That means that you aren’t talking on the phone, getting the mail, looking at the computer, doing dishes, picking up or cooking dinner. That means that you don’t put in a load of washing and then just take a minute to throw it into the dryer. What it does mean is that you and your children enter a space and time where you help one another, laugh together, learn together and have fun together.

Third, she said “The ten year old told me it was more fun when I played with them, so if an emergency comes up, I put off the closet [time].” In other words if something comes up and she can’t be present then she just moves learning time back or lets it go for the day. One of the major keys to success is to set a structured time and be consistent. Keep it almost sacred time. Whether we are talking about The Spark Station or some other part of family life, what your children want and need are structure and consistency and you!

So set the time whether it is 1, 2, or 3 hours or more, depending on your family. Then avoid the temptation to allow things to come up. Don’t schedule doctor appointments unless it is truly an emergency. Don’t have meetings or talk to someone who comes to the door. If a neighbor or friend comes unannounced tell them you are having family time and to come back later. If the phone rings don’t answer. You get my point I am sure. It is a choice to be consistent and present.

I want you all to know that this email is typical of what I receive from moms and dads. This is an average parent learning to use a new tool, learning to think and function in a new way, learning to get off the conveyor belt and learning to self educate. It all takes time and practice and repetition of principles.

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