With a background in elementary and early childhood education, Mary Duncan has incorporated her experiences as a teacher and mother in the recently published book, “Tools for Motherhood.”  Her goal is to help mom’s build strong bonds with their children while preparing them educationally for elementary school.   As a first grade teacher, she saw that some students were better prepared for the demands of school than others.  As a new mom, twenty years ago, she was concerned that her pre-mature son might be at a disadvantage when he started school because of his size and age.  She was determined to give him every advantage, so she began to plan games and activities around his developmental stages.  She researched what young children learned at different ages and then created fun games she could do with her son to build those important foundations.  Over the years, she saved all her charts, notes and calendars hoping they would come in handy for a next child.

During a bible study on 2 Kings 4:1-7, Elisha asks the widow woman whose husband has just died and who was in great need, “what do you have in the house?”  She said nothing but a little oil.  Elisha sent her out to collect empty jars from her neighbors. From God’s abundance, she filled the jars until they were all full and then went out and sold the oil.  Mary asked herself how she could apply this lesson to herself.  She thought, perhaps there where moms who had empty jars of how to play with their children – perhaps she might be able to share her experiences with them.   She could help them prepare their children to be fully engaged in what they would be learning in school.  Mary emphasizes that she was just a stay at home mom and that just as the widow acted in faith, so Mary acted in faith.  She says she is just the tool, the clay pot that God fills with ideas and strength.  This was the seed of an idea that has become a great tool for helping moms.

A mother is the first and most important teacher.  She can make a difference in the life of her child with just a few minutes of one-on-one contact with them each day.  “Tools for Motherhood” helps moms to recognize ‘teachable moments’ and to plan activities around five subject areas of learning:  pre-math, pre-science, pre-social studies, pre-writing and pre-reading.  Amazingly, children begin understanding math concepts at the age of eight months when they learn Object Permanence.  That is, when a child drops or throws down an object, he will recognize that it is missing and look for it.  Something as simple as teaching a child to count objects, not just memorizing numbers, teaches an important relational math concept.  In her book, Mary helps moms to understand each developmental stage of their child and outlines activities suitable for each stage.  For example, a child’s attention span is equal to 3 minutes times their age.  A 2 year old would have a six minute attention span.  For some of us, we are just getting warmed up to teach when the 2 year old is ready to move on to the next thing.  A 6 month old has a 90 second attention span but there are suitable activities you can do with your child for that 90 seconds.  Recognizing those 90 second opportunities throughout the day can enhance a child’s learning.  By age 4, children have learned 50% of what they will learn!  In addition to helping mom’s know what activities to do, Mary also wants to help mom’s to have reasonable expectations for themselves on what they can do with their children.
Hot off the presses, Mary has also developed a set of six flip books which will be coming out later this summer.  Each book is for a different age group with age specific daily activities.  A section in the back of each book summarizes the developmental phase at that age.  They are also perfect for grandmothers who are looking for ideas of how to spend time with their grandchildren.
Mary’s guiding verse is Deut 6:6-9, which commands parents to teach their children when they stand up, sit down, walk or lie down.  The idea is that teaching children is a way of life – throughout the day and in all activities.  As parents, we can incorporate teaching into all aspects of life using simple things around the house to make learning fun. 
In case you haven’t met her yet, Mary and her husband have been members at TBC for 14 years.  She enjoys being a part of the Women’s Ministry and has lead Wednesday morning bible studies.  As well as being a greeter on Sundays, she has spoken at mothers groups in Kansas and Texas, taught workshops in Denver, Colorado at the National Christian Ministries Conference and is currently serving as a Mentor Mom in TBC’s evening MOPS group.  Watch for upcoming information about Mary’s Tools for Motherhood class!  Mom’s, you won’t want to miss it!”

– written by Kathryn Wahwasuck.