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An Early American Governess

How young is too young to begin teaching children? There are those that children are taught every day from the moment they are born, and others that claim they are gathering experiences which help them learn, but should not be formally taught anything. I fall into the former line of thinking.

My daughter is now 19 months old (this is obviously a recycled post), and I don’t think she’s super advanced, I just think she thrives off of being challenged. Children love to learn, because it’s basically the only thing on their mind right now. They want to absorb information, so why not encourage it?

When I don’t know something, I research it—a lot. So, when I had my child, I researched development. One of the first books I brought home with me was Active Experiences for Active Children: Literacy Emerges. At the time, I just wanted some other pedagogy sources other than the ones I had from my University classes. What, I wondered, was really involved with teaching? Could I fulfill my dream of homeschooling my own child or would doing so be detrimental to her development?

I mentioned the book by Carol Seefeldt and Alice Galper for one main reason. They list some creative signs to post for indoor learning spaces. They have become my parental aptitude litmus test. At the end of each day, I want to be sure I’ve covered all of these for my child.

Something New

New locations are like Disneyland to my daughter. She gets to see new things—acorns, owls, lace, globes—anything she didn’t see the day before. There is no excuse to not patiently show and explain at least one new thing a day to her.

Something to Do

She is learning and growing every day, as are her abilities to interact. So, I always try to give her something challenging to do. Now here, I cheat a little. I’m not around any other children her age, so I have to use the Internet or read through my books to discover what other youngsters are doing. For my daughter, that means looking at what three year olds are doing. If the developmental activity doesn’t seem to challenge her, I pick something from the age four list.

Something to Observe

I’m blessed to have the opportunity to let my little one grow up on a farm, just as I did. Out here, there are always plenty of new things to observe. Even in town, though, there is plenty new to be observed and explained. We take for granted so many things, but even just stopping to watch how the employees at Wal-Mart go out and collect carts is fascinating to my daughter. Taking the time to observe and explain helps create order out of chaos for her budding mind.

Something to Think About

I try to keep this separate from something to observe, because otherwise the observations get too much about the lesson, and less about the experience. Observation takes place a little better when she’s allowed to do so patiently for a short time, so she gets curious enough to ask me for an explanation (not that she does so in so many words—hehe). Rather, for me, I’m often explaining the cooking, cleaning, or animal-care process. If she has an emotional outburst, that is the opportune time to explain how I understand how she’s feeling, why she is reacting the way she is, but how else she can react and get a better result from those around her. That gives her something to think about.

Something They Need to Know

20131009. Post Graphic. An Early American GovernessAha. Here it is.

Reading will be a must in her life, from the Bible to Philosophy, literacy is not an option—it is a necessity. So is counting and understanding the world around her.

Even though my daughter is less than two years old, she loves “reading.” She likes to be read to, she likes to see words written for her, and she likes to point to letters she knows in books. Why on earth would I not help foster that along? I truly believe I would be remiss as a mother for simply telling her, “No, Sweetie. You’re too young to learn your letters.” Or, “No, baby. I don’t want to read you that book. How about you go watch some TV instead?”

Do I expect my child to be able to recite her ABCs by age two? Of course not. However, if she does, I’m not going to consider myself a bad mother, which is how some people seem judge early-teaching parents.

You know, our society use to beginning potty-training children at 18 months, and now the average age has been moved back to 36 months. Why? Are we de-evolving? No. (Now, I know I’m about to catch all sorts of grief for this, but here goes…) I think some (not all!) mothers are just getting lazy. They don’t view it as their job to teach. Granted, there are mothers out there that are just spread too thin to set up regular, scheduled time each day to sit down and teach-teach, but still—

It irritates me that I am made to feel like I must apologize for pushing my daughter to do things that are not required abilities at her age. Well, guess what? I’m not trying to teach my daughter to be a part of the lowest common denominator. If she’s ready to learn, I’m not going to make her wait, and the only way to know if she’s ready to learn is to keep her challenged with the next level.

What do you think? Is 19 months too young to be started on a structured learning program?


Attribution Some rights reserved by ell brown


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  • Call it lazy, tapped out, ill-equipped, checked out, or too distracted and worried about other things – you may not be altogether wrong here. I sometimes wonder when I receive criticism if this is something like the high school cheer-leading squad getting mad at the geeks for getting good scores on tests. Not that you can’t be a smart cheerleader, but the peer bullying to “come down a notch, you’re making us look bad” is very real, even and especially in mothering.

    I know a 5 year old that was doing square roots. Keep teaching your daughter. It’s not a waste.

    But, on the other hand, some mothers really are just overrun with their lives and are barely functioning – especially mothers of preK kids, and among that group, mothers of MULTIPLE preK kids. It’s hard work, and if you’re struggling with postpartum depression or marriage difficulty or financial stress or poor home management skills, an intentional education program is one thing that is easy to let slide. If your choice is to crash and burn or to just send your kid to the television for a a while, you’re not necessarily being a bad mother for doing so.

    It cuts both ways. I think you are right, that kids can do a LOT more than we often assume, and we “wait” on their education for reasons that are really just a sham. If they can learn it, why not? There is no real reason to wait for the conveyer-belt style educational system to tell you what to teach and when. But, it is also hard to judge from the outside why mothers may not be pushing their children to learn as much as they could.

    As you said, some are philosophically opposed, preferring to let their children have a “natural” childhood full of exploration. That doesn’t necessarily mean that the education is lesser, depending on what it contains. But, I agree with you, that this camp of parents cannot turn around and judge those parents who value a more formal approach, if, say, your children are reading at age 3 and their children don’t care two figs about books. It’s simply untrue and also cruel to tell parents who train their children in learning at earlier ages than are typical that they are “harming” their children.

    The end game of parenting is to produce individuals fit for society. The question of what achievements are best left to what age is both a theoretical one, debated in ivory towers, but also a practical one. The ivory tower can come up with public policy and even drive public sentiment. The practical, day-to-day, of a mother with her child? Totally different story. Nobody knows that kid like you do.

    It DOES make a mother whose child struggles or has a learning disability feel bad to see a child achieving, but that does NOT mean that the high-achieving child needs to be restrained. Lowest common denominator does not work very well in helping each child to fulfill their best individual potential. This is the beauty of homeschooling, and small-size classrooms in the better educational settings.

    Have you read Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother? I wouldn’t advocate for all of her methods, but she very aptly describes the sentiment you are expressing here. Pushing your children to achieve is NOT harming them. Sometimes, pushing a child produces something in them that you can NEVER achieve by only and always waiting for the child’s intrinsic desire to develop.

    Great morning thoughts today! Thanks for thinking and for getting the discussion going.
    Corey Hemmerich recently posted..Gritting it outMy Profile

    • Jessica S says:

      Thank you so much for that thoughtful reply! 🙂

      I agree with you, and I would never want to rub my child’s progress in someone else’s face. Some mothers are already “doing it all,” and that “all” just doesn’t include the time for one-on-one teaching. I just get annoyed when people make me feel, as you say, like I’m somehow “harming” my child by teaching her. That doesn’t even make sense to me! LOL

      Anyway, thank you, thank you, thank you for such a wonderfully thought-out response. You made my day. 🙂
      Jessica S recently posted..On Homeschooling a 19 Month Old: Letter “A” ActivitiesMy Profile

  • Great post, and response. There’s not much I can add, except to say that I believe, like with everything, everyone has different needs, wants, and capabilities.

    There’s no one “right way”.

    Frankly, I find it weird that lately I keep seeing all these articles where women are explaining/defending why they work outside the home or why they are full-time stay at home moms. Or why they are breastfeeding or not. Having children or not…

    These are all personal things. No one needs to defend their personal life choices.
    gypsyscarlett recently posted..Black Sabbath: A Drop of Water- a Tale of TerrorMy Profile

    • Jessica S says:

      I agree, to an extent. (I add the last part, because I just wrote a novel for a response, then deleted it on accident. Now I’m too frustrated to write it all over. Haha.)

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About Me
JessicaJessica Schmeidler is a professional editor, ghostwriter, literary agent, and homeschooling mompreneur. While still in college, she began working from home, starting her own business soon thereafter. In 2015 she founded Golden Wheat Literary. If she's not inside reading, writing, or editing, she's outside with her daughter, riding her horses, annoying the chickens, or playing in the garden. Read More
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