Final Thoughts: Home Life and Early Childhood Education

August was a fun and interesting month.

I did a lot of heavy lifting this month with my writing: talking about toxic friendships and how I dealt with them, and the importance of teaching toddler’s life lessons. I am ready for a three day weekend after all this writing!

I enjoyed the research I did for literacy and reading Peter Gray’s book Free to LearnI hope if you haven’t had a chance to yet, that you can check out the printables I made for cleaning and scheduling. I still need to make some tweaks to my daily schedule, but I am almost to a great place in my personal productivity.

I hope everyone has a safe and wonderful weekend and here’s to the first month of the fall, September! Can you smell the pumpkin spice already?


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Featured illustration credit: Michelle Melton Photography

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Book Review: Free to Learn

As Jai grew more active, figuring out how to teach him effectively and prepare him for preschool became increasingly important as a parent. How to teach him was the trick…do I sit down with flashcards or do I let the learning happen more naturally based on his desires and interest?

First disclosure: I decided to do the unscientific thing and go with my gut over how I thought best to teach him: through play.

Parenting on instinct is important because no one knows their children better than a parent, but it can be problematic if not done responsibly. I rationalize that teaching a child through play will at best give him the tools he needs to learn complex concepts and at worst delays him for a year on milestone concepts, but nothing that can’t be made up with some rigor.

That said, if I was going to take this tactic of teaching style, I would need to find advice and experts to back it up. Second disclosure: I engaged in confirmation bias as I looked for tools to justify allowing my child to play all day without creating strict structure.

That’s how I stumbled upon Peter Gray’s book, Free to Learn. In my research on the book, I found that he highlighted the importance of allowing what comes naturally to children as a means to learn a variety of important life concepts and lessons.

What follows is my review of a book I chose on my own. I did not receive any compensation for this review.

Book Information

Title: Free to Learn
Author: Peter Gray
Date Published: 2013
Publisher: Basic Books
Pages: 274
Genre: Psychology
Goodreads Link
Amazon Link (non-affiliate)
Official Book Website


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Fun Literacy Activities

Allow me to get on my soapbox for a moment: literacy is extremely important.

I taught college composition for four years in graduate school and I saw first-hand how important literacy is to a student’s long-term college success. Students with high literacy and goal-oriented succeeded in the classroom, whereas students who struggled and did not take advantage of the opportunities provided for them inside and outside the classroom did not do as well.

Without going down the rabbit hole of the American educational system both past and present, I recognized that a student’s success correlated with their literacy levels. Those with high literacy knew when they struggled and came to me for help. Those with lower literacy levels tended to not recognize it or rejected any outside help I offered them. I had several students with lower literacy levels (or were afraid to reveal how literate they actually were) who sought extra help from me.

Those were always my favorite teaching success stories. They turned their failing grades into high passes. The look of accomplishment and pride they gave when meeting at the end of the semester informed me that they would find college would be less of a struggle now that they could apply what they learned in my classroom across the courses.

Seeing the importance of literacy informed how I would teach Jai as a parent and encourage him when he finally became a student. I want Jai to know how to work through a problem and to seek help when he gets stuck.

What is Literacy?

Originally it was defined as the ability to read and write effectively. But like all words, over time it’s expanded to include how we interact with language and information both in conversations and what we read. At its core, literacy is critically thinking through information presented to us and analyzing it to determine what to do with that information: accept as fact/opinion or rejecting it as misinformation.

Literacy is struggling to maintain relevancy, but there are ways to ensure it remains important in how we teach our children. It’s never too late to encourage literacy with a child, but because I have a toddler, I am going to focus on the fun activities that promote literacy between the ages of 12 months and 36 months.

There are plenty of resources available to promote literacy in early childhood for little ones beyond the toddler stage.

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Prepping for Pre-School

Jai is going to be two soon. I still can’t believe it.

What that means is that we have another year before we need to consider enrolling Jai in pre-school. The cultural narrative is if he isn’t already enrolled in a quality pre-school before being born, I might as well accept the fact that he’ll never get into college.

I exaggerate but I do have that fear.

Ash and I looked at a couple of local pre-schools but to the extent of checking out their programs online. We haven’t visited, we haven’t contacted them, we haven’t really discussed our options other than: should we?

For a person who likes to be on top of everything and stresses out when I’m not, this “lack of planning” is a new feeling for me. Part of me is concerned that I am not concerned and another part of me isn’t ready for the idea of sending Jai way for portions of the day to be under a stranger’s care.

I am torn between being more proactive or just waiting until I absolutely have to make the decision to enroll him, around age 4.

Jai may make that decision for me: if he isn’t ready developmentally to join pre-school before 4, then I don’t have anything to worry about other than getting him into a decent program when he’s ready.

Right now, because I have a year to go before he can even be considered for pre-school, even part-time, I am not stressing too much. But I do need to start thinking about it because of applications, enrollments, and other deadlines that come up fast.

I also have to consider: what does he need to know before he steps into the classroom? And how can I, as a parent, work with his future teachers to provide him with all the tools he needs to get the most out of his education?

To be clear, this post isn’t about the first day of pre-school or finding a pre-school to send a little one. It’s about what I can do for Jai before I send him to pre-school so he’s prepared when the time comes. I will cross the bridge of the “do I send him at 3 or do I send him at 4” when I get to it.

This is something I can work on now.

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Rainy Days: Toddler Book Activities

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Jai is still in the early stages of toddlerhood and therefore limited by what he can do with organized activities. Many of the activities have to either be done by me for his benefit, or with a lot of supervision to make sure he doesn’t hurt himself. That’s if his attention span lasts long enough.

That said, Jai loves books. He’s not able to read them yet, but he loves sitting down on his bedroom floor and flipping through the books for vast stretches of time. I’ve walked in to check on him only to have Jai chase me out of his room so he could have his private book time. Jai brings his favorite books to whatever adult is close at hand and makes the reader repeat the book a couple of times before moving on.

It came to mind to find a couple of activities we could do on a rainy day that ties into his favorite books. His current favorite authors are Dr. Seuss, Mo Willems, and Sandra Boynton (this last one makes me happy because she is a local author where I grew up). I know that making the connection between his favorite story and activity would make him happy, plus I always enjoy a creative endeavor.

Below are the activities I came up with to do with Jai on those rainy, summer days.

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