I’m far from a perfect mom. I mean, I read MetroParent for advice just like the next mom. So, even though I’m far from perfect, I thought I would share some fun educational experiences I’ve had with my kids.
Learning around town
When my boys were younger, I tried to share as many experiences with them as possible. We went to the Milwaukee County Zoo, the festivals by the lake, Betty Brinn, parks and kite-flying festivals. And that’s just a few of things that we did! While we certainly has a fun time, I tried to weave learning into these experiences in a very natural and playful way. For starters, I tried to be very present in the activities that we were doing together. We may have just been playing at the park with friends, but we played together and through that play we worked on developmental tasks like counting, vocabulary, manners and expressive and receptive language. Something as simple as asking to play with another child at the park involves many learning opportunities!
My two boys are teenagers now (Jared is 16 and Kyle is 13), our lives are much busier and our “play” time has changed. However, we still do many of the fun things that we have always done – festivals, trips and basically just exploring fun opportunities in and around Milwaukee. When we are out and about, we take time to learn the history of the city and talk about our opinions.
At home, we do things like share in each other’s homework and daily experiences. We try to laugh and learn from our failures and celebrate in our successes. We play board games, read the same books, research plants for our garden, build things and make connections in our neighborhood.
Hockey mom -- and brother
Let me talk about a more specific learning opportunity. Kyle is very active in hockey and Jared is not. So we all end up spending a lot of time at the rink. Sports moms know how time consuming the sport schedule is: practices, games, out of town tournaments. Jared comes to all of these things. But rather than just seeing it as down time, he really makes the most of his time at the rink. He keeps the stats for the team and shows off his math skills. He helps out the coaches with a smile on his face and a song in his heart. And he talks to his brother and the other kids about their games, their practices and their attitude in a way that only another child can talk to a child. The learning experiences that Kyle has had in hockey have been invaluable, but Jared has also had invaluable experiences.
The gift of learning together
As my children have grown older, we have definitely had our share of fun and learning. The lessons have changed and have deepened. But we still never miss an opportunity to learn about our world, to explore our language, to read and to write and to continue to develop the traits of the people we strive to be. I may not have as many friends as other people or as much time to spend in grown-up activities, but I wouldn’t change it for the world. Watching and encouraging my children to learn through everyday activities has been a gift.
Tracy Christman is a school psychologist with Milwaukee Public Schools and mom to Jared and Kyle.