Tag Archives: learning experience

Incidental Teaching

Jesse actually took a snow day yesterday. He’s in the habit of risking life and limb, and going to work anyway, but after some close calls last time, he decided to play it safe. In an effort to make the most of his day off, he decided to do something that has been on the back burner for a very long time. If you had walked into our living room last night, you would have found a huge mess. The computer was in eight or ten parts all over the coffee table. Our six-year-old, Ian, was fascinated and was standing around asking questions. From the kitchen, I heard bits and pieces of their conversation. Jesse: U.S.B. The letters stand for Universal Serial Bus. Ian: I know how to read “universal!” I know what that means! Jesse: Well, sometimes that word is talking about the universe, but this time it just means “everything.” I was busy doing dishes, but I couldn’t resist an opportunity to teach a little grammar. “Universal is an adjective. Adjectives tell us what something is like.” That’s all I said before returning to my household duties. I didn’t have to say more because Ian and I have already discussed three or four parts of speech in depth. I usually give very simple definitions – then we think of tons of examples together. I was tempted to stick around and differentiate between adjectives and adverbs (what something is like as opposed to how something is being done), but they were having a great time in there, and the topic wasn’t really relevant. Relevancy is one of the keys to incidental teaching. If your child is already focused or interested in something, nudge him up into the next tier of understanding.

As homeschool parents, we know that our children’s educations are ultimately our responsibility. No one is going to “fill in the gaps” for us. That’s why I make every possible moment a learning experience. When Ian was young, and I first began to teach him to count, we counted everything: eggs while cooking, cars going by, tiles on the floor of the hospital’s waiting room – everything. I didn’t want to waste a single teachable moment. You can do the same thing with letter recognition or colors. As they get older, plenty of opportunities will present themselves for reading, addition, grammar, science, etc.