09 Feb Creative ways to teach children
When we say the word teaching, we think mostly about teaching as a profession. But, it means much more than that. It is an essential part of our parenting role. To be a parent means to be a teacher to our child – the first and the most influential teacher at its early age. We constantly teach our children by modeling examples for them to follow.: by our behavior, by our reactions to challenging situations, by the mood we set in our home. The subconscious messages that we send to a child through the way we talk, walk, and react have more impact than our words, especially with young children. What WE ARE is much more substantial than what WE TALK. Our words give the theoretical part of the knowledge. Our deeds show how we put it into practice, and children resonate unmistakably with that.
The teaching and learning are not stagnant. Education today mostly insists on presenting information and memorizing it. But it is much more than that. It is a dynamic process of transmitting knowledge and values from one person to another. It forms a reciprocation and relationship between conscious, living beings. Like life itself, teaching is a creative flow that is not always predictable. We haven`t things under control all the time. There are times when we need to be flexible and change our plans and expectations. There are times when some areas of the child`s development require more attention than others. There are times when we need to be patient and wait for the certain skill, understanding, or realization to unfold within the child. And, there are times when we as a teacher have to work on our issues or improvement of our capacities.
As a homeschooling parent, I experience teaching as a continuous flow of exchange between children, me, and the world around us, starting with our immediate family. Many times I feel more like an artist than like a teacher. When you begin to create art – write a book, model a sculpture, or paint a painting – you are not fully sure how the result will come out. Sometimes you change the course of action during the process of creation – some new idea comes up, or you become aware of something that was not clear at the beginning. The same happens with my teaching. I have an initial plan but I change, add up, or remove things as I follow the flow of learning capacities and engagement of my kids. I have been trying over again to find the right spot to connect the needs (and interests) of my children at the given time with my goals, visions, and wishes for them. It is an ongoing process, with ups and downs, but truly rewarding because it helps me grow and mature along with my kids. It requires me to be reliable, personal, patient, attentive, and creative.
My goal is to create an atmosphere where my kids are inspired to learn. There is no group inertia in the home setting – when we homeschool we rely on our own creative forces. True learning happens when we open the door to a creative flow of exchange with the teacher. I can see when I manage to draw children into that flow how their inner creative forces are activated. They become absorbed and alive, their eyes gleam. And this is the place where learning is absorbed by their whole being, not just by intellectual memorization.
This is especially important for young children who have not developed strong intellectual abilities yet. The teacher’s mission is to assist them in developing it, but not by overwhelming them with academic work. I do not agree with the public school system that pushes academic learning too much (and increases that pushing more and more in the last couple of years, at least in our country). It is out of balance, and it suppresses other aspects of the child’s being: emotional, physical, and spiritual. Teaching should be able to address all of these areas in a balanced and personal way. It is difficult to achieve it in a rigid and dogmatic structure. Still, it depends more on the creativity and personality of a teacher than the system itself. I remember how much my Language Arts teacher in primary school had influenced my early adolescence by helping me to navigate through the world of literature with a firm helm of basic moral values. It was her personality and conviction that made a lasting impact on me. There was something in her presentation of the subjects that thrilled me and opened my heart to absorb her words. I was admiring her and taking into account her opinion. She was the only one whose teaching stayed in my memory among all the other teachers during my schooling.
I want to share with you some ideas that you can use in your teaching along with the classical methodology, to make learning more acceptable and exciting for children.
Dramatic arts and imagination
Use it not only to perform a public drama but as an educational tool during the class. Dramatize the story you read or the imagined situation related to the topic you are working on. Do it using acting, pantomime, puppets, or props. Go on an imagined journey to a foreign land (the jungle, a desert, of the North Pole) or the pilgrimage to the holy place.
Use physical activity like hopping, skipping, turning around, hopping on one leg, animal walks to accomplish some tasks like collect the pieces of paper with matching letters, syllables, words, numbers, etc. Do hand-clapping games, bean-bag games, and follow the song with acting movements.
Collect natural items like flowers, leaves, fruits, branches, pinecones, pebbles, nuts, acorns, moss and make nature table as part of the child˙s altar, playscape, or puppet show play scene. Make different kinds of garlands for Deities or decoration with flowers, fruits, leaves, colored branches, nutshells, acorn caps, etc. Work in the garden, pick up healing herbs together. Go to the walk in the forest and write or draw the Research Journal when you come back. Make a tent in the backyard using long branches and a big piece of cloth and do a puppet show there.
Art, craft, and practical work
The possibilities are limitless and we should include some of them daily: painting, drawing, modeling with clay, beeswax, homemade playdough, sand, sewing and embroidery, knitting and crocheting, making dolls out of cloth or paper, wet and dry felting, stringing beads for jewelry, cooking, baking, house cleaning, decorating, gardening, singing and dancing.
All of these activities we can connect with Krishna consciousness directly or indirectly. Krishna is the creator of everything, and all the results of our activities should be offered to Him. If we perform our teaching in this mood, children will absorb it. We should be careful to do it gently and unobtrusively, not forcing it. Little force is always needful, but if becomes prominent it can cause the contra effect. Too much force causes rejection and hardening – it is a simple energy law.
Please feel free to share in the comment your ways of creative teaching and activities with children. I would be happy to hear it!