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Gan Hayeled: Note from Noah

04/08/2020 08:30:42 AM




Dear Gan community,

A few quick links before some more educational tips that are actually possible without adding to your already-too-full-plate:

Make sure to visit our homepage if you have not recently, for stories, songs, activities, and chances to check in with us. You can find all of our “diaspora” parent-emails archived here. Our Gan programming will pause for Passover observance today after class Zooms, and will pick up again on Monday. Between now and then, check out Adas Israel’s great Passover schedule and content, and tune in for Cantor Ari and Rabbi Solomon’s Passover Sing and Story today at noon. I hope your children have enjoyed Passover singing, stories, and activities at their classroom meetings this week! As a reminder, all of our Gan Zooms now require passwords; we have taken down Zoom links from our website and organized them with passwords here.

While our Gan teachers continue to offer connection and content, our country is collectively finding that “teaching” is no longer confined to, well, teachers. Yet, as I described last week and many are writing about, we can not reasonably expect ourselves to simultaneously parent and homeschool and work and sleep and clean the house and…OK you get it. So, I’m sticking with my theme from Friday: What is the bare minimum we should be expecting of ourselves as stuck-at-home-parents when it comes to our preschoolers’ education?

Last week I mentioned leaving crayons out, modeling “visual discrimination”, and embracing boredom. Here are some more ideas for doing almost nothing but still offering your child some crucial educational ingredients (my favorites are the last two!):

Sequencing: An enormous cognitive task for children is making sequential organization of a series of steps. This ability is just settling in for our children and is of huge consequence in later academic years: consider the narrative elements of a novel, the order of operations needed in math (remember PEMDAS?), and the ability to follow multi-step teacher directions. Don’t worry – we’re not there just yet. But, with minimal effort, we can offer some helpful verbal ingredients. Some go-to examples are first/second/third, before/during/after, beginning/middle/end, and now/then/after (and of course you can mix-and-match). Try it out: “Now we are going to clean up, then you can have a snack, and after you can watch a show”; “Before your classroom Zoom we will eat breakfast, during your Zoom you will see your teachers, and later you can play outside.” Story time is a great chance for this too: “What did she do first? What do you think she’ll do next?” Do this once a day – just once! – and you’ve offered your child a very helpful cognitive structure.

Executive function: Executive function (EF) is like the air traffic controller at a busy airport – it coordinates a lot of different things going on at once. Children’s brains show explosive growth in their EF capacity between the ages of two to five, before this development rapidly levels off for the rest of the lifespan. There is one really simple thing we can be doing at home: talk about how objects have multiple properties. When playing with any colorful polygons (LEGOs, wooden blocks, magnatiles, etc), try first organizing or building by shape, and then by color. If you’re not on the floor playing with your child right now (which I get!!), slip this idea into chatter throughout the day: “Wow, I realized your hair is long and curly, and my hair is short and curly – we’re both curly, but yours is long and mine is short.” That’s it! Just observing that one object can have two properties (or many more!) is so helpful for your child’s EF development.

Physics: You’ve likely figured this one out already, but let’s go ahead and label it: your preschooler’s active tactile exploration of the world is their very first physics textbook. All the time, every day, your child is learning about complicated concepts such as gravity, balance, weight, mass, physical states, and much more. You do not need to re-create your 8th grade Science Fair Project for your three-year-old. There are several very, very simple things you can be doing to help support your child’s learning in these areas without overextending yourself:

Dropping things repetitively – yes! Children need to preform their physics experiments thousands of times. Share in their wide-eyed excitement when their toys crash to the ground or their spoon falls (or is pushed!) off the table. These are physics experiments!

Simple machinesremember these? Anything put horizontally on a point becomes a fulcrum, lever, and balance. These are fascinating to children and offer deep learning that will aid them for years to come. Seesaws, bottle openers, wheelbarrows, scissors, tweezers – these all use fulcrums. For some real fun, put together a makeshift pulley with your child.

Causation: Dominoes! This is not only idle fun but serious learning for our preschoolers. Try with any household objects that will stand (and fall): cereal boxes, hard cover books, action figures, etc. Newtonian mechanics are put on vivid display for your preschooler to explore.

Watching a ball roll: Here we have gravity, friction, and inertia. You don’t even need to comment on any of this, just sit there with your child, rolling a ball across the floor. Just watch it together. Trust me, your child is an excellent observational and tactile student: they are learning plenty just silently rolling and watching. For extra credit, offer experimental variations (again, no need to even label these as you do them): wood floor vs carpet; ramp vs plane; gentle roll vs hard push.

Splashing in the bath: Here we have mass, displacement, states of matter, force…oh, and fun, all rolled into one. So as your child splashes away, sit back and smile: you’re doing a great job at homeschooling!

Hang in there. You’re doing great.

Wishing you a Happy Passover,



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