“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.” Ecclesiastes 3:1.
My son called home from Grand Rapids, Michigan. “Mom, I am coming home to spend the holidays with you.” He is very protective of his mother during this time because of coronavirus. I have truly enjoyed having a white Christmas with my only son over the past three years in Michigan, but this year he and I decided to use wisdom and be safe by having an Alabama holiday! Needless to say my heart leapt for JOY!
As we head into 2021, home has so many meanings to so many different people in different families and cultures. For some right now, home may bring on happy thoughts, and for some it may bring on sad thoughts. World travelers have witnessed many different kinds of homes from living in tents, mud huts, open-air homes, homes up on stilts, chalets or even homes on an open savanna in Africa under the stars.
Even around our surrounding area of Lee County we see mobile homes, boat homes, apartments, condos, brick homes, wood homes, log cabins, etc. Some of us live in the country, city or suburban areas. Even animals are provided homes like nests for birds, (Psalm 84:3 says even the sparrow has found a home), dens for bears, forests for all kinds of animals, lakes, bays, oceans for our water animals. Beds of soil for ants, holes for moles, a web reflecting the morning dew for spiders. Sometimes we land in temporary homes like shelters when there are natural disasters or hard times like fires, tornadoes or hurricanes that misplace us for a while. Hospitals become our homes when we become sick.
In Deuteronomy 6:7, the Lord guides us in teaching our children all the time about His truth in the Word of God at home: “Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up.”
Normally our homes provide a place of refuge, security and peace; they are where we can sense we are loved and accepted for who we are. In 2020, home has become a place where we stay, work and do school and home has become an anchor for life as we safely separate ourselves during this pandemic. You’ve heard the expression “home is where the heart is.” This expression means so much to a young child’s growth, development and life. Home is a place where a child can learn, grow and experience many different lessons to prepare them to live in a bigger home: our world. How can a home prepare a young child emotionally, teach new skills appropriate for their young age, teach rules of discipline that lead to a well adjusted life and respect for others and teach young children to use and recognize their gifts and talents?
1. Emotionally: Children are moldable and bendable by the words we say to them. Young children need clear lines of rules and boundaries, but they need words of encouragement in order to learn, grow and just believe and know how special they are. One of my favorite centers in the classroom is the Play-Doh center because I can mold Play-Doh. Play-Doh is just plain old fun to make different kinds of things. Like Play-Doh, children can be shaped into objects they don’t desire to be or into objects that radiate like the bright colors of Play-Doh by the words, actions and time we spend with our children. The home is the perfect environment where words of encouragement and time spent with our children are the essential building blocks in their adjustment, well being and good self esteem. Too, getting off the very busy routine at home and letting your child just unwind is very important. Free play is so important in the developmental steps of a young child. It is voluntary, spontaneous, open-ended play, with no wrong or right answers. Home provides a safe haven to develop a good emotional foundation.
2. Learning new skills: There are so many readiness and academic lessons to be learned at home through household chores that truthfully aid in your child’s developmental learning. Sorting laundry into piles like the family’s dirty or clean clothes, they can sort what belongs to mom, dad, brother or sister. Sorting silverware to set the table for a family meal emphasizes groups or sets. Too, children have to count and remember how many family members to set the table for, which is one-to-one correspondence. In the kitchen, have preschool children read food labels by looking at the pictures on the jars or cans. Measurement of quantities, fractions, comparison of sizes can be taught as young children help mom or dad in the kitchen. Social skills can be taught as you interact with your young child. Too, role-playing is an excellent way to teach a child the wrong and right way. Siblings can be a part of role-playing what is right and what is wrong. Discovery skills in science can be taught by having your child observe his/her surroundings. Reading a favorite book together is an excellent way to wind down the day while at the same time teaching your preschool child new words and concepts.
3. Discipline: As parents it is our responsibility to discipline our children. Home provides the environment to help a child learn to get along with his/her family as well as his/her friends. Young children are born with the desire for parents or caregivers to set boundaries for their health and safety. We have rules for driving on the road and being careful, as well as respecting the lives of others. As I tell my students in my classroom, I set up rules for you to follow because I do care about and love you. I have five easy-to-remember rules for children and the consequences if they don’t follow the rules. Rules differ for each family according to their needs and lifestyles as well as cultures. We say that if we have no rules in our classroom, we cannot learn because we would have no direction. Young children remember and follow the rules you consistently set down and expect them to follow. When discipline and rules are set at home it is important for us parents to know the child’s age and abilities. Discipline helps young children learn what is right because they want to learn what is right. It takes a lot of time and consistency as parents of young children to learn this as a lifestyle and not because they are afraid of punishment. Consequences of disobedience should be appropriate and carried out immediately with a young child. One truth that I have always used with my students and own child is that “little obedience is no obedience.” When you call your young child to come in and eat dinner or clean their room, if they are slow to come or say wait and find other things to do instead of minding their parents, they are not minding their authority. Again, it is so important for young children to have boundaries and routines in order to be healthy and happy physically as well as emotionally and mentally. Different families and homes have different rules and consequences. There is one common thread of truth that carries through with all home and families: really understanding your own child and their need is a good basis for effective discipline that teaches and influences the adult they will become.
4. Gift and Talents: In what better environment can a young child realize that they have certain gifts, talents and unique personalities than in the safety of their homes? Celebrating the life of your young child is so very important. Set special days within your home to spend time one-on-one with your young child. You don’t have with wait till their birthdays. Stay in tune with what your child likes to do such as drawing, reading, music, building with blocks, legos, observing the world through the eyes of science, playing with mud pies or tendencies toward certain sports and games. Spend time with your child at home on the couch, in the kitchen, bedroom or giving nightly baths to get to know the special little gal or guy you have been blessed with. They are little people too whose young lives can be molded within the home.
A home well lived in, no matter how big or small or messy or clean, is where a young child can feel loved, safe and happy. Yes, home is where the heart is. Also our homes provide for us a refuge of hope as we enter 2021 in hope and with dreams.