By Shiloah Baker
“Children are affected from the beginning by what they see and hear within the walls of their home. Their environment creates their taste.” –Arthur Henry King
From the first day I learned that I was going to be a mother, I began collecting books, toys and things that I knew would benefit my child. I read every resource manual I could get my hands on. Like most women, I want the best for my child. I quickly learned that in addition to providing shelter, clothes, food and love, that the environment in the home is an important key to raising a well adjusted child.
Creating an Environment for Learning
Years later when I decided to homeschool my children I was introduced to the Thomas Jefferson Education or a Leadership Education. One of the suggestions was to build a library of classic books. I had maybe a small bookshelf full at that time and not surprisingly my kids weren’t big readers. I took the advice to heart and over the next four years I gathered and built a large “brain” storage of books for our home. We have over eight bookshelves now spilling over with fun, classic and educational books. More importantly, my children have caught on to this passion for reading good, wholesome literature-literature that educates. Not a day goes by that I don’t see the children pouring through books, rifling through the bookshelves or reading in a corner. We have a large bookshelf outside of my bedroom door which is at the end of a long hallway. When a child is waiting to speak with me, she naturally chooses a book, sits by my door and takes a little adventure with words on the pages. What joy it brings me to see the difference having a library of books in your home can make.
“Every single item is of relevance to our education and to the education of our children.”–Arthur Henry King
How many times have you noticed your baby would rather play with empty boxes or magazines than her own baby toys? Children always want to help mommy bake cookies and can’t wait to learn how to make their first peanut butter and jelly sandwiches. Children have a natural curiosity and we should allow them to explore and learn within the safety of our home.
Children learn naturally through their own environment. Why should a small child fill out a worksheet on how to match socks, when they can learn that same skill only using all their senses: the smell of the laundry detergent used, the visual senses of colors and patterns, touching the various textures of socks and occasionally tasting the texture of socks. I have many fond memories of sock folding growing up and trying the over-sized ones on my hands and sliding around the bare floors with them on my feet. The natural learning experiences within the home are powerful.
I’ve made it a mission to keep the majority of commercialized toys out of our home. They do not foster learning like a set of plain building blocks or a life-like baby doll with clothes and cloth diapers. Even though they wanted them and got them for birthdays, my children have never treasured commercialized toys (such as Barbie dolls, Bratz, etc.). After the initial excitement wears off, I find those toys lying around unused with little to no interest. We have never had that happen with puzzles, wooden beads, blocks, or art supplies- the basics for foundational and explorative learning.
Organization and Structure
I used to cringe when I heard those words, but now as a mother of many I feel excited and inspired when I see them. After being a mother for nearly fourteen years I have learned that children, some more so than others, thrive when there is structure and organization in the home. We have seven children, two children with autism and two others with various disabilities. When things become chaotic in our home, not only do our family pets react (i.e. birds chirp frantically) but the children react to it too. Every family has a rhythm whether they realize it or not. The question is- is it conducive to teaching and does it promote family time?
I love reading Steven and Teri Maxwell who have written a couple of books on this subject. They successfully homeschooled and raised eight children and now write about how they did it- it involved scheduling, structure and organization. “God has given us a powerful example and analogy of scheduling in the natural world. Everything that He has created, from atoms to the universe, has a periodic cycle. There is a timetable God has applied to each part of His creation. This is easily seen in the weather. Year by year, each season comes at its ‘scheduled’ time bringing with it predictable changes.” (1) If God uses scheduling, I believe it is an example to us that using a family schedule is something we should do too.
While it is unnecessary and too constricting to schedule all of your time, coming up with a family schedule/rhythm for each day gives the home an organized environment while giving peace to each family member so they each can know what to expect in their daily routine. This is especially important if you have children or adults in the home with disabilities. Eliminate the disordered feeling and house clutter by prayerfully creating your own unique family rhythm complete with chore time.
Keeping a Morally Clean Environment in the Home is Imperative
"Parents now are concerned about the moral and spiritual diseases. These can have terrible complications when standards and values are abandoned. We must all take protective measures.” -Boyd K. Packer
Memories from books and the pictures in the books teach, mold and shape a person. Just as we should fill our homes with uplifting and wholesome books, we should be equally as careful about not bringing anything contrary to that in the home. I heard it once said that if a young boy were to view pornography in his own home he will be a customer for life. Is it worth it to allow anything pornographic in your home? Never. Aside from the fact that it is morally wrong, the risk is too great.
Regarding music-while I am fairly careful about lyrics to the new music, it is easy for things to slip by our notice from time to time. I find that I feel inspiration often to continually sift through the music my family and I listen to. We are all aware of the powerful effects of music on our moods. Music teaches and depending on the words and the beat it can teach negative or positive things. By my vigilantly reviewing music, talking with the kids about their feelings on the songs and reading the lyrics online my family is learning to do the same. Even though you may not always listen to the lyrics, your subconscious mind does and then records it. I think I would rather know what my subconscious mind is recording by paying close attention to what I or my children listen to.
Television needs a filter like the computer. We don’t watch regular TV because the morals portrayed on everyday television, especially the commercials, are not in line with ours. Instead we rent Netflix and buy the movies we enjoy the most. We carefully screen the reviews and ratings before watching and buying movies.
Raising children is anything but easy; but it is so worth it. Each child comes to our home with his/her own unique personalities. I find it fascinating to see how for the most part, children naturally pick up many qualities of their parents, whether it be the habits they pick up, facial expressions or one or a combination of both parent’s temperaments. I have three sisters and while we don’t look exactly alike anyone can tell we are sisters when they listen to us talk or see our mannerisms. It is an art to take into consideration all the differences of personalities in the family and apply the perfect mix of teaching, religion, and love. Children can’t help but to be influenced by the home environment especially when the parents care so much about making it a positive one.
1. Maxwell, Steven and Teri. Managers of Their Homes. s.l. : Communications Concepts, Inc., 1998.