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Using Dr. Seuss’ Approach for Homeschooling

Using Dr. Seuss’ Approach for Homeschooling 

With no foreseeable end to school closures, many parents are rightfully concerned about their children’s education. Some have tried homeschooling as a solution. However, attempting to homeschool children, without the aid of teacher support resources and experience, many parents find themselves failing miserably to hold their children’s attention or impart the information in a palatable way. Then came Zoom to the rescue (an online platform for hosting meetings or classes). Just sign up your children , ensure good net connectivity and… it’s done, right? Not so easily. The phenonmenon of Zoombombing has got parents worrying about hackers hijacking classes and posting inappropriate material. The task of homeschooling our children can seem insurmountable, but its not a new problem, try for a solution using Dr. Seuss’ approach.

So, what can we do,
as parents at home,
oh, what can we do
with our kids all alone?

The answer is simple
For what you can do
The tips are real simple
Just ask Dr. Seuss

Who was Dr. Seuss?

Theodor Seuss Geisel, born March 2, 1904, was a freelance cartoonist who worked in the Standard Oil advertising department while attempting to make a career in children’s literature.

Then, in 1957, he published The Cat in the Hat and How the Grinch Stole Christmas!, which became immensely popular. Other hits like One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish, Green Eggs and Ham, The Lorax, and Oh, the Places You’ll Go! soon followed.

By the end of his career, Seuss had published more than 60 books, which today have sold upwards of 600 million copies worldwide. He died on Sept. 24, 1991.

The wonderfully whimsical world of Dr. Seuss has impacted generations of young readers. His memorable books are considered a canon of children’s literature. His catchy rhymes made reading easy and his unique characters turned learning into kooky adventures. Zany though Dr. Seuss’ style may have been, there was definitely a method to the madness.

Here, I’ve come up with some tips for parents homeschooling their children, using Dr. Seuss’ approach.

1. Convert mundane boring subjects or situations into something interesting

What Dr. Seuss did magnificently in his approach, was to turn a normal situation into scenes of escalating chaos, silliness and nonsense. Take for example his book The Cat in the Hat. It was a rainy day and two children couldn’t go out to play. In comes the Cat in the Hat and what ensues is silliness, and chaos. The point here, is that children have a limited attention span, without creative input, just turning pages becomes drudgery for you and them.

You can take stories from literature or lessons from history and recreate them in the home. Make costumes from items around the house. Using Dr. Seuss’ approach create characters and stories illustrating the main objectives and vocabulary of the lesson.

In my fourth grade class, we created a character for Math. We named him Haj Nasr the Butcher. The adventures of Haj Nasr came in the form of simple word problems. Today Haj Nasr had 5 sheep. His family took 2, the neighbors took 3, and Haj Nasr decried, what’s left for me?

Although The Adventures of Haj Nasr was used for teaching math, we touched on others subjects indirectly such as language arts, geography, urban and rural settings, family, conflict resolution, and entrepreneurship.

In science class, I used Dr. Seuss’ approach in a lessons about the importance of friction. So, I created a story around a baby who was so smooth, he couldn’t be held—he had no friction! “He slipped through the doctor’s hands and onto the floor. Past the guard and out through the door.” By the end of the story, the whole town was trying to catch Little Frictionless. So as a class we pondered and discussed what could be done. One boy suggested the fire or police department drop a box over him from a helicopter until doctors could find a solution. Good idea!

2. Keep lessons focused on the objectives and limited for better retention

As cockamamy as some of the characters and stories were, the objectives of the stories were not lost. The story One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish meanders through a number of scenes and seemingly unrelated characters, but throughout the book Dr. Seuss maintained his objective which was to teach children about accepting differences.

When using the Dr Seuss approach for planning a lesson, limit the information presented per session. An overload of information usually goes unprocessed in the brain. Dr. Seuss used a very limited number of words in is books, Green Eggs and Ham had only 50 words!  List out the overall objectives of the lesson, then divide them into separate sessions.

What will assist children in retention of material is repetition. You have to find witty ways to repeat the important information. For instance, in creating phonemic awareness, employ rhyme. Match together rhyming words from online academic vocabulary list for your child’s age. Together with your child, make up a story using the words in simple sentences. If you encounter problems making sentences rhyme, do what Dr. Seuss did, make up names for creatures and characters. The sillier the better.

Hop, hop, hop! I am a Yop
All I like to do is hop,

this one, I think, is called a Yink.
he likes to wink, he likes to drink.

Don’t rush through material with your children. Lessons will be more meaningful if your children are allowed to progress at a rate that’s comfortable for them. Learning is based on objectives, not finishing books.

Online you can find learning objectives in numeracy and language arts for each grade. Build your lessons around the objectives.

3. Use questions to assess understanding and stimulate thought and discussion

In the Dr Seuss approach, questions are used to promote critical thinking skills, assess children’s understanding, and stimulate discussion.

There was clearly a violation happening in The Cat in the Hat. The children’s mother was away and strangers created chaos in the house. The fish disapproved of this situation but could only advise. The story ended with the children questioning not only each other but YOU, the reader.

Should we tell her about it?
Now, what SHOULD we do?
What would YOU do
If your mother asked YOU?

Through questions, you can assess your child’s understanding, from the above example, the right and wrong of what happened while their mother was away. Additionally, questions can be used to discuss important or tricky issues. In the humanities and language arts there are a number of sensitive issues that pop up such as racism, war, poverty, obsession, and greed to name a few.

Our children have inherited a world that is literally coming apart at the seams. And it is not easy for them to make sense of it. They’re being exposed to images of protest and rage on one hand, and glitz and bling on the other.  As parents the only way to know what’s affecting them and their understandings is to use unassuming questions that promote open discussion.

4. Have fun and avoid a condescending approach to teaching

Give in to the silliness of the imaginary world you and your children are creating together. Come down to you children’s level. Participate actively in the learning process, and avoid teaching from a perch on high. Get excited, pose questions to your children that encourage them to think creatively and then have them explain. Critically important, listen attentively to their answers. Once they are able explain something to you with confidence, that means they’re engaged in the learning process.

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