This article was originally published on Instructions Sold Separately .
It’s a long day when you must not only keep your child occupied but also learning while juggling everything else that you need to do. The way your child learns, how you structure their day and how you interact with him/her depends greatly on their temperament. My son learns, interacts and plays in a structured, regimented, almost ritualistic style. While it can be great to have a kid that knows what to do at meal time, or when leaving the house, it can also be difficult to insert new information. At around 2 years old my son began to get bored of his books, puzzles and videos because he had memorized them and they didn’t provide a challenge for him anymore. Since we had only introduced Arabic to him, the material out there was scarce, and didn’t help in expanding his learning abilities. Ensuring our children knew Arabic was very important because we believe it gives the child a collective of people he/she can relate to and learn from and a sense of identity. We knew that they will easily learn English in school like my husband and I did. However, it was becoming very difficult to keep him interested in activities, and more importantly, learning.
This is where I got frustrated with myself and concerned for my son. I was worried that maybe, we weren’t doing enough as parents, what if we are preventing him from being a great learner, what if teaching him only Arabic will set him back and a thousand other scary thoughts ran through my brain. At this moment I felt like was failing him because I didn’t know what I was doing wrong to make it right. The activities and advice I found in the articles that I read, and the parenting forums didn’t cater to my son. It was things that he mastered in minutes and moved on to something else. Finally, one day I sat and reflected on how my son learns, how he observes things, what he likes and what activities pose as challenges for him. I decided that if I want to teach my son in Arabic, not have him be bored at home but still try and manage everything else, then I needed to create a new structure for him.
The next day I went to Michaels and created a curriculum composed specifically for him. The whole curriculum was in Arabic and I did my research on both English and Arabic languages from phonological development to phonetics. I have compared children’s language development of both English speaking only with Arabic speaking only kids to understand what sounds, letters and words are produced, delayed or not available in the other language. What I did with this information is help my son not only learn the all sound in the Arabic alphabet, but also the sounds in the English alphabet. This was important because some research showed students who spoke Arabic as a first language had trouble deciphering between /b/ and /p/, /f/ and /v/ and some other sounds. I wanted to close the gap on those language barriers and have those sounds available in his everyday vocabulary and to be able to use each sound properly for the most part.
The rest of the curriculum fulfilled most concepts that a preschooler should know such as numbers, letters, reading, writing etc. I created an activity to go with each subject to make it interesting for him, but also flexible that he wouldn’t get bored easily. To make him even more enticed I bought him a desk and colored chairs to help him complete his activities but also get acquainted with how things are done in real classroom setting. I restructured our day to make everything we did from breakfast, to cleaning the house, to running errands a learning experience that correlated with his classroom activities. A key note I added to the curriculum was that I designed it in way that regardless of the language he could still understand what a teacher asks of him when he enters school by including some English sign language to his communication skills. Then at the end of each day as he is laying in bed we practice our numbers, letters and whatever else he wants to review.
At this point some of my parent friends are thinking to themselves well I already teach my kid numbers, letters and colors, it’s not a daunting task. Well, each child learns differently and most commonly, learning is done with verbal communication paired with a visual aid. My son was speech delayed so I couldn’t count on only verbal communication. I needed aural, visual, physical and logical and social forms of learning to help teach him. The classroom structure has been working well for us and he enjoys learning and playing. This system made teaching new things to his sister easier because she likes to mimics everything that he does.
Educating my children is a heavy burden to bare. I want to encourage them to constantly wonder, question and dream of different possibilities. I’m also trying to show them how to deal with conflict resolution, how to accept consequences and most of all, to be empathic. I know that we as adults struggle with these ideas sometimes but being young and innocent makes it easier to practice these notions. Our jobs as parents is a long description that’s ever growing with our children’s growing needs and we welcome it, but sometimes it is a struggle. Part of the struggle is thinking, I’m the only one experiencing this and everyone else is just enjoying being a parent. Every parent has their struggles and it comes at different moments in time. At the end of the day, we are all trying to figure out as we go along.