First, let's start off by understanding what a POSITIVE learning environment actually is. For most parents these days, their life and their child's life is filled with non-stop distraction. There isn't any time to FOCUS because everything they do is about distraction. Give the child the tablet on the way to work to distract them from bothering you while you're trying to drive, drink your coffee, and mentally prepare for work. (we will talk about multi-tasking later) Screens are literally the ultimate distraction - whether it be a tv, phone, video games, ipad or kindle - they're all a pacifier. There is nothing about a screen that fosters independence, responsibility, and growth. Honestly, the concept of "watching" is taking a back seat to actually experiencing life.
So what is a parent to do in this world of non-stop distraction where not only are THEY distracted all the time, they're accidentally modeling this in front of their children, and then on top of that GIVING their child a distraction when they want to focus. I am not only talking about young children. How many parents of teenagers say, "I can't get him/her away from her phone" as they're texting while driving and drinking a latte. At some point, we're going to have to take a step back and look at the big picture.
Let's talk about HOME - and what it is. It means a place of safety, love, and security. Where ALL our needs are met and we can enjoy being ourselves. It doesn't matter what we're wearing, or even how we're feeling. Home is where is all happens, the good, the bad, and everything in between. When you think about it, we spend the majority of our lives "at home" especially when we're children. So how do parents or caregivers create a positive learning environment at HOME?
This is the exciting part. It's pretty simple too. Are you ready?
Give everyone a special role to play. EVERYONE must have a role to play. This role is what allows them to feel valued in their home. They feel valued by the other family members and also themselves. Let me give you an example that I have shared with parents for years that works wonders. Everyone has their own clothes that require maintaining. Folding, laundry, putting in dressers or hanging in a closet. Starting at the age of THREE, children can help with laundry. "Show me so I can do it myself" is the motto. When you show a child, "This is the way we fold our t-shirts" then you allow them to try and you show them enjoyment in the PROCESS, all types of things unfold - literally. The feeling of accomplishment on the INSIDE has sparked. It doesn't come from the mother clapping her hands and saying "good job" That only leads to a constant desire to get rewarded. It doesn't come from dad showing the child part of the way and then taking over the task. That only leads to a constant feeling of inadequacy. The role has to be something that must be done by every human being and without a doubt VALUED. It cannot be a distraction. It can not be "busy work". It must be important in some way.
When I was little, I was blessed to grow up on a small farm. There were a lot of chores and each of us had our own list that we needed to accomplish. I always took care of the hens and the bunnies, and once I was old enough, I helped with the horses as well. Each one of these animals depended on me for their health and well being. I always felt good about how I did my chores and took pride in the way our animals looked - healthy, fit, and well behaved. Whether you have a farm or live in the city, there are many things within a home that are needing care. That's where the value comes into play. We call these things LIFE SKILLS in a Montessori environment. Life skills are accomplished without reward because in order for a person to have value in their lives, they should be able to do them on their own. These skills foster independence which grows empowerment and critical thinking. Which then in turn sparks creativity and problem solving. And yes, I'm talking about teenagers as well. Meaningful relationships cannot happen with distractions. They happen when people feel valued by their family AND their family members take the time to focus on that value. How can you focus more? Well, that's next week's topic.