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Between preschool and flashcards…November 26, 2016

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We visited friends the other week and saw their flashcard book. They were involved flashcards, by which I mean they posed questions about position, size, order and other relative concepts as well as absolutes like colours. Another parent learnt I was doing tot-school and quizzed her nursery about it: Was it something she should be doing? Was her child missing out? She was assured it was totally unnecessary. I totally agreed. When I started out on our tot-school journey I downloaded the pre-made packs from a few websites, I find myself using painfully little of the activities.

Tot-school for us is the middle ground.

We chose tot-school
At times it’s a maze to resource
It’s not flashcards, neither those of straight memorisation nor involved concepts.
It’s not a preschool lite
It’s not a journey on the route to reading and writing
It’s not parent directed play
Equally it’s not nothing.

Using the letter of the week format is in itself misleading, but hugely helpful to me as a parent. Because I want to do activities with my child. I want him to grow up with the inescapable smell of homemade play-dough and walls covered with his attempts at artwork. I want him to be stretched by concepts well above him, not so he can reach the crest of the mountain but so he can aspire to climb. When you look for toddler activities the ideas are overwhelming, it’s easy to do nothing in the face of so many.

But is nothing an option? Blessed with the skills I have and the time and opportunity is it not right to do something? Does a child at home all day not need something? How do you balance between wanting to serve and entertain your child and being a pushy parent?

How do you balance between wanting to serve and entertain your child and being a pushy parent?

I don’t resonate well with the flashcard way of learning nor teaching. I don’t use so much of the material I find online because it concentrates on letter formation and that’s not an aim for us. Much also extends beyond the letter into concepts and we found we don’t need that. Lots are related to books we don’t have access to, or use sensory baskets or activity trays that don’t really suit our setup. So I made a choice, and my choice was this form of tot-school. One with a few words on which to hang our activities, a central letter, nothing more.

Every day we pull out our folder of bits. I’ll often have an idea in mind but toddlers don’t always like plans. At the weekend I take my wipe clean record of activities and write them up. I make up a new batch of activities for the following week and file the packet from the week before. Most weeks there are pages left un-printed, activities left unfinished, sourced ideas un-used, pages I’ve created for further down the line whose ideas I don’t want to forgo. I’m pretty sure the alphabet will circle round to be played again.

I look forward to Mondays now

I look forward to Mondays now, to embarking on these new activities, fresh every week. Tot-school is a time to escape the screens, to test our skills and show off our achievements. It’s something unique for that day, a corporate learning journey, a break from our usual toys. Tot-school adorns our walls and fills our display book. For us it fits.

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