What I did miss out, partly because of lack of time and partly because we’d lose interest in it, was any kind of conscious learning such as practicing numbers and letters.
Something that made me feel much better though was coming across Maria Montessori’s philosophy of enriched environment. Montessori believed that children do not have to be "taught" but are born with an innate craving to learn and gather information from their environment. The key for her was to create an enriched environment which would stimulate the child and also give them the tools to satisfy their curiosity.
I realized that over time, our family area has become that environment to a certain extent. I have picked up good quality books and toys cheaply (second-hand) and my craft supplies and drawing and art stuff are stored in the same room. So there are always toys for them to use in their make believe and books for them to look at and think about. For a change or when I need to keep them occupied their box of chunky beads gets brought out or I let them have my glue and spare bits of paper and bits and bobs that I won’t be using for my cards (postcards, old cards, magazine or catalogue cut-outs, bits saved from old jewellery, toys and gift packaging). They think this is absolute treat because mum’s letting them have a go with her stuff. Little Lady sometimes is allowed to have my craft scissors and scrap paper to see what she can come up with.
A level of interest is added to our home by the odd gifts my husband temporarily brings home from his removal job: a green recliner that rocks and swings around like a fair-ride, a children’s toy kitchen that the kids kept hiding food to rot in, a giant beanbag that took up nearly the whole room, a collection of old gift bags that we could cut up etc.
Charlotte Mason also talked about the quality of the tools used when educating children. First and foremost she mentioned nature with its numerous benefits for children (see 2. here). She also advocated the use of classic literature, poetry and fine art as opposed to "dumbed down" books (I try to keep an eye out for old discarded books from the 1920’s onwards as they have a great feel to them although I would vet them first).
I think you don’t have to be rich to give your children an enriched environment with the best educational toys and the best books. I think the key is creativity: finding a bargain, using what you have, being resourceful when your purse can just about manage the basics, as is the case for many young families. I think if you have that creative spark in your thinking (even if you are not artistic) it is something that your children will pick up. If they have the creativity and resourcefulness within them, then you would hope that they could deal with any situation no matter what the difficulty or resources to hand insh’Allah.
Little Lady's scrapbook
"Fathers and mothers have lost the idea that the highest aspiration they might have for their children is for them to be wise . . . specialized competence and success are all that they can imagine." ~ Allan Bloom
"I hear, and I forget. I see, and I remember. I do, and I understand."
-- Chinese Proverb
"Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire."
-- W. B. Yeats