Conversation as a Subject

We used to have a poster-sized calendar on the wall for something like preschool circle-time when we'd learn about days of the week, weather, and the like. We went through spurts for a couple of years while my oldest two were little -- and the only children I had. I'd purchased the poster at a yard sale, but I had to make the velcro-backed cards with numbers and days and months myself. It shouldn't have taken as long as it did, but I think the time and effort I put into making that calendar work ended up being the most significant reason I kept it on the wall so long.

We don't have an official circle time. We no longer have a calendar on the wall or calendar time. We had never been consistent with it for long, and eventually I realized I had no reason to keep trying to work it in, letting myself feel unreasonable guilt over not teaching my toddlers what day it was.

It is certainly not the case, though, that we do not learn about calendars and the days of the week; it's just not during a scheduled, poster-on-the-wall, all-eyes-on-me class. I've found that some things are best left to learning in conversation, and, like numbers and letters and the family tree, calendar-related things are one of those.

So, we talk. We talk about what day it is and what happened yesterday. We talk about tomorrow. We talk about the seasons and how God has promised that they will continue. And about months and years and clocks and seconds and the beginning of all time.

Just a few months ago my four-year-old would say things happened yesterday that actually happened several days -- or even months -- before. It was always unclear if he didn't understand that the word yesterday meant the day before today or if he just thought of every day before today as being yesterday. Even now he is just understanding what today is, and tomorrow is a whole other thing that will take even more time to get down.

And that's ok.

The kids learn the seasons as they see them. We talk about the clouds while we're outside looking up at the sky. Sometimes they ask me a question about clouds that I can't answer, and we have to Google it later.

They learn about time passing as we take note of the time passing. Brush your teeth for two minutes; set a timer. This TV show is 22 minutes long. You can play for five minutes; I'll set a timer.

We cover most of the preschool subjects this way. Someone asked me a couple of weeks ago how my kids learned their colors -- just in regular conversation was my answer. We do the same with shapes. They have shape toys and puzzles, and when they hold something up and ask what's this, I answer. And when they ask the same question again, I answer again -- or someone else does.

That's what we do. I'm always surprised with how much they retain. By the time we actually sit down to learn the alphabet, say, the work has mostly been already done.