How To Approach Preparedness With Children

Posted by Amber Elle on Mar 23rd 2021

The word pedagogy is used in the realm of education to distinguish various teaching styles and theories of learning. As the primary educator of my children in our chosen realm of home education I make it a practice to continually study the ways in which a child’s mind grows and develops. I seek how to foster a sincere joy in the art of learning and retaining. I listen closely as they reveal to me how to maintain their natural curiosity and wonder. While I teach them about the vulnerabilities of the world and the safe practices in which to counter those vulnerabilities, I ardently protect their confidence and empowerment to drive away fear and anxiety. I will forever consider myself a student of the minds of children, and I encourage anyone with influence over children in their own lives to passionately do the same.

In the world of preparedness, we have found there to be a void in the thorough and continual inclusion of families. While details on how to pack an emergency bag for a child, or how to teach a child survival skills are fundamentally necessary-and something we have provided and plan to provide consistently for you, there’s the missing principal on what that lifestyle looks like. Children learn through repetitive nature, through witnessing the success and efficiency of our teachings, and through practice and eventually teaching someone else. The true magic in the teaching, however, is found when we can weave the basic principles of preparedness into their lives in seemingly underwhelming ways. In ways that also pull us into a deeper presence and understanding of these incredibly brilliant children that we have been given the joy of teaching. This manner of living propagates the values and framework of what becomes an organic form of preparedness for your entire family. It’s a way of viewing the world, a lens through which fear and angst can be replaced with confidence and knowledge. It’s in the way we play, we teach, we listen, and we respond. It is what we have coined the pedagogy of preparedness.

I couldn’t possibly discuss every exhaustive topic and how to implement the teachings into your family life in one blog post, but what I can do is explain the template of teaching and implementing that is supported through classical education models, curriculums worldwide, and my children’s own ease and response. With this template you’ll be able to contemplate your own lifestyle, rhythms, and passions, and find how your life and fit into the template to pivot toward a preparedness focus. As we bring new family content onto the various media platforms you will also start to notice the repeating pattern of the template and find the inspiration and encouragement to get creative within your own four walls.

The template of teaching our children preparedness, according to what classical scholars call the trivium happens in three simple steps: grammar, logic, and rhetoric. What does this mean?

It means that teaching must unfold in this chronological way. We have the freedom to teach using our own unique talents and skill sets and we are not bound to a legalistic checklist, but children-no matter what age- will receive and retain best when we are following these steps.

Grammar- here we have conversations with the child to discover what they know about our topic of choice (fire safety, water safety, situational awareness, etc.) I find this step important to discovering what it is the child already knows or has assumed about the world around them, it gives us an understanding of how tender their knowledge may be around the topic. It also gives us an opportunity to clear up any misunderstandings that may have formed in their minds. In this stage of teaching we also introduce them to words or concepts that pertain to that given subject. You may need to use photos or videos to solidify certain components, sometimes a field trip or a walk outside may be useful as well depending on the topic. Sometimes we may use rhymes or riddles to help them retain helpful information (think: Stop, drop, and roll).

Logic- In this stage of teaching we move into a more thorough conversation about our teaching using the “memory pegs” of what the child now understands from simply the words and explanations that you have taught them in the grammar stage. Here is where you really dive deep and get your hands dirty with the topic at hand.

Rhetoric- This stage is simply where your child can communicate back to you that they have an understanding of the topic, the communication can happen simply through they physical act of carrying out whatever the topic may be, but oftentimes it’s helpful to have them also verbally explain the why behind what they are doing. They’ll also be able to teach others the concept at this point and reinforce their own understanding by doing so. Sometimes children reach this stage within minutes of showing them something, and sometimes it may take days, weeks, months, or even years before they have the mental or even physical competency in order to fully reach proficiency.

The most important thing here is that I want you to understand that you don’t have to be a scholar of learning, an expert on the brain of a child, and to be honest, you don’t even need to memorize the 3 words that I listed above. You simply need the willingness to passionately pursue your children, their natural inclinations, and then plug your teachings into this simple template of learning to ensure that your children aren’t just learning for a moment-but rather for a lifetime

Teaching children safety

To help you fully understand how you would utilize this approach in your home, let me give you an example and walk you through each stage of the learning process. Imagine we are teaching a young child how to cross the street safely. We would first begin by asking him what he thinks a street is, where he sees streets, and we may even take him on a walk around a more urban area to get him up close to a street where he will be able to practice. You would also make sure he knows what a vehicle is, what a stop sign looks like, which direction is left, and which direction is right, what a stop light looks like, what a crosswalk looks like, what the colors of a stop light or pedestrian walking light mean. I also include the senses in whatever teachings I can, and it's an excellent way to work on expanding that very natural skill and foundation of preparedness into as many parts of our life as possible. I would even go as far as to explain that the rules of the roadway are laws enforced by the police officers (you’ll see why in a minute) and that they are meant to keep everyone safe. You may sing a little riddle that teaches the meaning of the stop light like, “green means go, yellow means slow, red means STOP!”. This was the grammar stage. While being near a road during the main teaching moment would be helpful these preceding questions can happen in the car as you’re driving around town. The unfolding of the grammar stage doesn’t necessarily need to fit into a set time frame, but can happen slowly over the course of time as the moment inspires and you choose to bring up the topics. This is what I mean when I say an “organic” part of our lives. Over time you’ll have discussed enough of the words and understanding of concepts that the children will be more than ready to move into the more specific learnings of crossing the road safely-and much more.

Now in the logic stage you’ll explain that when you reach a road that you have to cross, you stop and look left and right to make sure no vehicles are coming before you cross. You’ll practice on a crosswalk if you can, and when you encounter a town with a pedestrian crossing light you’ll teach them how to operate it and wait for the walking icon in order to cross safely. You’ll also want to explain that sometimes people don’t follow the laws and may not stop when they should, so it’s our job to do our very best to keep our bodies safe by using our senses like our sight and our hearing to keep us safe. Have a conversation about what sights and sounds are helpful here. You can most likely see already that the reason that you are able to teach this concept more fluidly is because the child was able to attach your teachings to the memory pegs of the grammar that you gave them in the first stage.

Next you’ll have them explain to you things like why being cautious at roads is important, why stop lights work the way they do, and they’ll be able to teach someone else, like a friend or sibling how to be safe crossing roads. This is where they prove to you that they have zoomed out from the specifics of “crossing a road safely” and can piece together the puzzle of how there is a much larger picture of preparedness involved. This is the rhetoric stage.

Whether you consider yourself a creative person or not, the nature of fitting your own personal styles into your teaching is necessary for the success of your own family, and for finding your own joy and fulfillment in the process. I personally love to look for the opportunities for teaching that present themselves in our life depending on what it is we find ourselves involved in. You may find yourself compelled to teach more water safety as summer months approach, or focus more on stranger danger before a weekend visit out of town. Sometimes you may have the time and feel the need to create a more thought out lesson where you take notes on the different stages of the lesson and what you want to include with each and other times you may feel compelled to teach a lesson on preparedness in the moment, no planning involved with lots of organic conversation flowing back and forth between yourself and the children. You may teach lessons on your own, or involve your spouse and your entire family (sometimes even extended family) in the process. You may find it fun to link arms with a friend who shares the same mindset as you, or who is curious in learning more about preparedness and turn a playdate or an adventure into an opportunity to learn as a group. You’ll find that the pedagogy of preparedness in your life will never look the same, it will never fit into a box, and it will constantly shift and evolve just as you do. It is a living, breathing part of your life and before long you’ll find yourself implementing preparedness oriented games and lessons without even realizing.

I encourage you to set aside any and all hindrances that have kept you from the rich and rewarding experience and life that is family preparedness. Know that while may be the subject matter experts on the teachings, you are the expert in your family. You have the greatest value as the protectors and nurturers of your children, and the reward of learning alongside one another will run much deeper than just basic skill sets. The more time you spend in intentional togetherness, the more you will learn about one another, respect and admiration will follow, conversations will flow more fluidly, and your delight for what your family is cultivating will abound. While some preparedness skills require specific and focused teaching, most mindset topics can be easily discussed in the recesses of life-while driving, on walks, while fixing puzzles, or snuggling at bedtime. In many instances we aren’t teaching them to “do things” but rather to “think of things” or “see things” through that preparedness lens. They’re doing the thinking and the seeing, you’re doing the encouraging and helping them to focus from a different angle than they may be using.

We can’t wait to watch you grow and thrive together. You’ll find that simply starting can sometimes seem like the most daunting task, but you have all of the tools that you need in your love for your family, your zeal for preparedness, and the ease of our template for teaching that begins with the most simple of things-your words.