About the Method
The Paolini Method: Learning by Doing
At the heart of the Paolini Method is the recognition that each child is a unique individual who is building the adult they will become. Young children are not just kids who need to be taught things, but little people filled with needs, desires, energy, and boundless curiosity. This method taps into that enthusiasm with activities designed to help them learn by doing.
It is our great privilege as parents and educators to introduce children to the world, to surround them with love, to shelter them from harm. Yet at the same time we must give them the freedom to explore, to experiment and make mistakes, and then to try again. The Paolini Method embodies these elements. And it empowers you to teach the children in your care with confidence and set the stage for a lifelong love of learning.
Early Childhood Education
The early years are times of remarkable growth, both physically and mentally. Spurts of development come at different times for each child, as you can see in variations of when a child first speaks and when they show interest in numbers and words. It is important to watch for these key periods and provide the appropriate materials and experiences the child needs to grow.
Children learn best by holding, touching, and manipulating things, not passively looking at information on a screen or in books. Because actively participating in the learning process makes the experience more relevant and memorable, the Paolini Method lessons include movement whenever possible. Projects that require sitting are limited to short sessions.
This curriculum easily accommodates the slow or fast learner, allowing students to work at the pace they need to fully understand the material. It’s easy to repeat lessons as needed or skip ahead when it’s clear a student is ready to move forward.
Discovering when a child is ready to read, write, or understand math concepts is easy with the Paolini Method. Simply watch the child’s reaction when you present a lesson. If there is no interest, put the materials away and bring them out again at a later time. But when you see a twinkle in the eye—the aha moment of understanding—you know the child is taking a new step in their learning journey.
About the Lessons
The Paolini Method lessons fall into two categories: those that teach new concepts and those that encourage practice to improve skills. When teaching something new, extraneous elements that distract from the heart of the lesson are eliminated. If the point is to show how a quantity of items is represented by a number, for example, the project is presented without competing images such as animals and different colors. These can be fun additions later, but keeping it simple and focused at the beginning helps children learn the core idea without confusion.
Lessons are presented in bite-sized units, which help students develop a habit of working enthusiastically toward achievable goals. Children look forward to discovering something new, and they feel a sense of accomplishment each time a mini-task is completed.
Step-by-step directions—like those found in a recipe book—show you exactly what to do. Even if you have no training as an educator, the clear directions and illustrations make it easy for you to teach with confidence. No expensive curriculum or materials are required. Common household items are all you need.
To help you teach effectively, the instructions model how to present the activities simply and purposefully. Many of the lessons in Letter of the Day, for example, offer short, guided conversations on the given topic. These chats provide a child the opportunity to have your full attention and to practice listening, thinking, and replying.
The Paolini Method language program in Read, Write, & Spell follows a proven system for teaching reading and writing, tailored for the home environment. Students first learn the letter sounds—the essential building blocks for reading—then string those letters together to form words, sentences, and paragraphs. Writing is introduced at the same time. Work is collected in sets of booklets they can proudly read aloud to family and friends, thus reinforcing the lessons and strengthening reading skills.
You’ll find a streamlined version of this language system in Play and Learn with Cereal O’s, along with a similar approach for math. The concept of numbers is introduced with sets of cereal O’s glued onto cards. Once these are understood, students learn to write the numbers and associate them with loose items. From there they experience the four basic mathematical operations—addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division—all the while making little books recording their work.
The lessons aren’t confined by grade level. Even the earliest lessons can be portals to deeper investigation of a topic. In Letter of the Day, for example, an activity for the letter P involves stringing popcorn to form a necklace. At first glance, it seems like a simple craft project designed to help the child remember the sound of the letter P. But there is more. Before the corn is popped, attention is focused on the kernels, and the various types and uses of corn is discussed. If a child is interested, this could lead to a whole range of research on corn and other grains. They might help prepare a meal that includes corn, learn where it originated, or discover corn in rainbow colors. Blue corn tortillas, anyone?
A Final Thought
Children want to do things, and do them for themselves. The Paolini Method provides simple hands-on ways for them to learn to read, write, and understand the basics of math. And once they can read, they are free to explore the world, to ask questions and find answers that are not only useful but sometimes exciting—discovering, for example, that some dogs have blue tongues—and burrowing into topics of interest lead them into unexpected avenues of history and culture.
Nourishing a child’s love of learning and innate curiosity is, perhaps, the most valuable gift of education. The Paolini Method offers a helping hand on that journey.
About Talita Paolini
I’ve always been interested in education. As a child, I loved writing lessons on a chalkboard in my room, pretending to teach. Years later, I was thrilled to study with a remarkable woman, Dr. Elisabeth Caspari, who had the privilege of working directly with Dr. Maria Montessori, creator of the Montessori method. From Madame Caspari, as her students fondly called her, I learned the principles of early childhood education: how children think and how they learn.
Following the birth of my son, Christopher, I retired from teaching to concentrate on nurturing him. Watching him and his sister, Angela, grow inspired me to design simple projects to meet their needs. Since the expensive materials of the Montessori system were outside our limited budget—and classroom techniques often didn’t apply to one or two students—I adapted lessons and developed new ones to fit the home environment. These same activities would later become the Paolini Method.
Now adults—Christopher is the New York Times best-selling author of Eragon, and Angela is a screenwriter—they look back fondly on the years of little projects we did together.
I'm delighted to share the Paolini Method's fun and effective educational ideas with you. Wishing you all the best with your teaching adventures!