"The most important thing I can learn right now is skills (displaces the more crucial moral childhood lessons of good-bad, right-wrong, true-false)."
Would you agree that there ARE crucial moral childhood lessons? If so, what are they? Have you ever really thought about it?
This is what a TJEd "core phase" of learning is really all about. And whether you are five years old or fifty, you never really leave this phase of learning but you do build upon it. Or maybe you never really had a complete core ...
I have 3 little girls in "core phase." Yet I continue to reinforce core-phase lessons with the rest. This is the spine that guides you:
informed by your "Core Book"
practiced through Work and Play
by You First, then Them
As parents we pass a culture to our kids. One of the very first things our family teaches our babies is manners. Please? Thank-you! Oh, thank-you Katie! Katie want a snack? Please? Here you go. Thank-you! This is typical momspeak in our house and it never stops. I commend my other little girls every time they use good manners. As the kids get older, we teach things like shaking hands when you meet a friend of your mom and dad, and introducing yourself, making eye contact. We teach the kids to answer the phone by identifying who they are. The manners and social conduct and graces we teach our kids are part of any good core phase of learning. Building upon those simple manners, we begin to teach our kids right and wrong in very basic ways. Its wrong to hit your sister. Its right to share and be generous. Its wrong to mouth off to your mom. Its right to show ready-obedience to your parents. And I love how all of this core learning takes place naturally within a family, by experience and feel. As they grow, they learn the reality of good and bad, that both do exist. Think of early fables and tales and how they all sought to instill this concept; and that good prevails.
I think most parents of small children really do make an effort to provide some sort of boundaries and guidance in good/bad, right and wrong. Does it stop here?
What about ... the true-false?
That must be one of the biggest challenges we face in our morally relativist society and school-system; one that promotes "many truths" all on equal footing and all equally "true." Where does that leave our children? Everybody cannot ALL be correct. So what is the core truth YOU are teaching? What are YOUR core truths? Where did you get them from? What drives your faith and morals? Anything?
And this is where the "Core Book(s)/Works" comes in. As a Catholic family, our Core Works include the Bible, and the Catechism. It informs all of our moral decision-making and behaviours. Our Catholicism is the glue that binds our family together and creates our family and homeschooling culture.
Here are some ways I am implementing core phase concepts in my home. It has to apply to me personally as well as my children.
Study of the Core Book
* me: study of the Bible and modelling the habit; scripture memory work (see Ann Voskamp at A Holy Experience for wonderful inspiration on memorywork!). And ... I really need to make more effort to refer to the Catechism on a more regular basis.
* the littles: playing with the Bible - by this I mean Bible storytelling, Bible felt storyboards, read-alouds of Bible stories including little board books, Bible stories on audio (Jim Weiss is great), any kind of manipulatives like a Noah's Ark toy, nativity toys, etc. We "play" with Scripture memorization via the Suppertime Scripture. I remember my friend telling me the one thing he remembers from his childhood was that his mom told him Bible stories, and it gave him a deep love of Scripture. Make an effort to have a family devotion time every day! If you are flying by the seat of your pants, and if you're Catholic, you always have the Daily Mass readings at your internet fingertips. Baby steps!
* the bigs: daily interaction with the Bible and with our faith issues. On most days, the minimum is family gathering for the daily readings. I have fallen short in encouraging private personal Bible study but ... no homeschool is perfect!
Prayer - a Core Value
* me: prayer. Morning prayer always. The kids see me pray my Rosary every day. I have downloaded a monthly breviary to my handy-dandy kindle and I try to pray with it ... when I can ... no mommy is perfect! But I'm definitely always in a dialogue with God.
* all kids: morning prayers (but we forget sometimes); Grace before meals always; weekly family Rosary, evening prayers with littles (bigs are on their own).
* we have always always always done chores and flylady weekly houseblessings, ten-minute-tidy-ups, and so on. One thing to distinguish in a TJEd core phase model, is little kids should be working alongside you and not getting assigned a chore to go off and complete. Is there really a difference? Yes. I originally assigned Alexa (5) the emptying and sorting of the cutlery from the dishwasher to do on her own. The novelty wore off quickly (expected!). But as soon as I switched to doing it side-by-side with her, it became less of a chore. Consider then, incorporating side-by-side family work into your day. The idea is that the lesson of "hard work" begins to be learned from a young age; that when they are older and faced with the "hard work" of scholarly activity they will have already formed a strong work ethic. This is why, with TJEd/Leadership Education, you can't just jump into say, the scholarly phase, because you aren't really equipped with the skills and values to do it justice. Another benefit of family work is the kids will learn systems from you that work in home organization and maintenance, not just the how-to of cleaning a bathroom. Do you have good systems in place to keep your home running? No? That is part of your adult core phase. I can tell you I did NOT learn the true core lessons of self-discipline and doing a complete and thorough job when it came to housekeeping until .... uhm ... very late in life. But I have an impeccable model in my own mother whose behaviour I try to emulate here. Modelling is crucial.
* core kids play. Their play is the way they test out "life." They play house and they play family, they practice-play everything they see in their immediate world and I find anything they read or I read to them comes out in their play. It is so very essential. Hop in there if you can and make it a family affair, at least some of the time. I really enjoy being outside with them and just observing all the kids, its quite joyful actually!
* there is nothing better than sharing the experience of a great story, a great book. Really. It is foundational in our homeschool. Even if nothing else occurs in the day, I can guarantee you there will be a story or two read and chatted about. In addition to the classics, don't be afraid to choose books that reinforce your family's core values, even little storybooks. Currently, we are reading lots of Frog and Toad by Arnold Lobel, and its all about friendship and kindness! Funny, I then switched to a math reader where Hare and Rabbit Divide an Apple and they fight over the food every time. Alexa recognized that "Frog and Toad would never act like that." So never underestimate the impact of good storybooks, and look for the themes to draw attention to with your kiddos. They will help solidify the right/wrong, good/bad, true/false for your children.
You will notice
* that the core phase does not place a strong emphasis on skills like reading, writing and other academics. Not that you *can't* incorporate them, but they are NOT the priority. And that brings me to the quote I began with - the "crucial moral childhood lessons."
There is a lot more to study and learn about core phase. Maybe you want to venture along with me?