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Social Emotional Learning over the Summer

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Last summer I worked really hard to focus on Social Emotional Learning with my kids, instead of just academics. Here are some of the things we did:

This summer I’ve got a new plan cooked up. I’m taking my inspiration from Romans chapter 12, but please don’t let that dissuade you. If religion isn’t your thing, you could choose a poem instead and use the same idea. (I’m Methodist and you’ll get no judgement from me.)

I chose this particular section of Romans because it hits upon some really BIG concepts in Emotional Intelligence. Recognizing and responding to the emotions of others in a socially appropriate way is HUGE.

Take a look for yourself. My game plan follows.

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I sectioned off the passage on sentence strip paper, with one sentence on each strip. Each particular verse gets its own color. There are 25 strips of paper.

Every couple of days, I’m going to bring out a new strip. At the dinner table, our family will discuss what the verse means, and then review all previous strips.

There’s room for a lot of discussion. What does “Agree with one another,” mean for example? Should you always agree with people? Should you agree with somebody who is doing something hurtful?

Another good one is “Be careful to do what everyone thinks is right.” What if everyone is doing the wrong thing? What about slavery and the civil rights movement? What about peer pressure?

I think this activity is going to open us up to some juicy dinner-time conversation!

When possible, we’re also going to put the words into action. “Welcome others into your homes,” for example, might correspond with my son inviting a friend to sleep over.

This summer I’d like my family’s hearts refocused on what’s important. But I also want my kids to think deep thoughts and to be encouraged to ask questions.

And if my kids would get along 20% better? My prayers would be answered!

What Parents Can Learn from Bronies

Why should I give a hoof?

Why should I give a hoof?

I’m Generation X which means I’m old.( sigh) I guess that’s why I never heard of Bronies until the documentary Bronies: The Extremely Unexpected Adult Fans of My Little Pony popped up on my Netflix screen. For the uninitiated, Bronies are tween, teen and adult males who LOVE the television series “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” created by Laruen Faust, (NOT the previous shows from the 1980s.)

I’m not a Millennial, so my first reaction was “What the heck?” But then the third grade teacher in me had an epiphany. Social Emotional Learning–how to get along with our fellow human beings– is one of the hardest things to teach. For some reason, young men who have previously felt excluded from typical boy society are connecting with this show. They are learning social skills, making friends online and through conventions, and expressing themselves through art, music and charity. Their lives are better, and all because of a cartoon.

I wanted to find out why…

To be honest, I’ve overheard “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” dozens of times while I’m making dinner, but I had never sat down with my four-year-old daughter and watched it with her in its entirety until this week, when she’s been home sick.

From the very first episode, I can see the appeal. The series starts out with Twilight Sparkles being her own worst enemy. She is so lost in books and learning, that she ignores all of the conventional steps needed to make and keep friends. It’s hard to tell if she doesn’t know how to make friends, or just doesn’t care.

Any parent who has struggled to teach kids social skills can relate. “When somebody hands you a book, say ‘thank you’. When you ask someone for a favor, say ‘please’.” Some kids come out of the womb already knowing these things, and others need to be taught explicitly. It’s easier to teach a child to read than to be charming.

As “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” moves along, the episodes sprinkle social emotional learning lessons with other aspects that hold an adult’s attention. There are huge vocabulary words, alliteration, and creatures pulled from ancient mythology. It’s not all rainbows and sunshine, although there’s a lot of that too.

The Easiest Way to Teach Social Emotional Learning

The Easiest Way to Teach Social Emotional Learning

I talk a lot on my blog about Afterschooling, which is when parents provide meaningful, structured instruction to their children at home to help shore up learning gaps, or provide extra enrichment. Sometimes, for certain children, learning deficits are social. I’ve shared ideas for promoting social emotional learning in the past, and would like to add “My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic” to that list.

It turns out, “My Little Pony” is something to neigh about.