7 Tips for homeschooling elementary and pre-schoolers
I never envisioned myself a homeschooling mother, but COVID19 has changed that. Let’s be clear, I LOVE TEACHING, but I teach high school seniors and my children are six and four; aka. Dorothy we’re not in Kansas anymore.
My children are learning to write letters, words, and sentences, not MLA formatted essays. I’ve pushed aside my Macbook cluttered with open tabs, for a touchscreen tablet and a dry erase board.
And I’m a lucky one. I’m trained in pedagogy. I’m familiar with the websites that my daughter needs to access for her kindergarten class (FlipGrid, Clever, RedBird, RazKids, etc). I don’t know how parents with no classroom knowledge are doing it!
I’ve seen some pretty funny memes about it though.
I’ve been homeschooling for about two months (along with the rest of you) and here are my suggestions, as a mom and a teacher, to parents and grandparents facing the daily struggle of school at home.
1. Get a touch screen tablet with a pencil/stylus if you don’t already have one. We use an iPad.
I’m regretting only having one iPad when homeschooling two children. I hate having them on screens during “school time,” but there are great learning resources online. I have my son using tracing apps on the iPad with the Apple Pencil to learn to form his letters properly. The pencil is helping him learn to hold a writing utensil instead of just using his finger on the touch screen.
I don’t know how we’d do my daughter’s assignments from school without the tablet. Many of them require writing on the screen and her little fingers aren’t ready to do that with a touch pad on my Mac (we tried). The tablet or writing on paper are the only feasible options.
2. Do school in the morning right after breakfast just like the kids would if they were going to on a normal day.
I’ve found routine is key. Monday through Friday my kiddos get up, eat breakfast, and then go to school (it just so happens that school is now at our kitchen table, and only lasts about and hour and a half rather than six). I’m sure some parents find that breaking up schoolwork throughout the day is helpful, but my experience is plowing through it all first thing in the morning works best for our family. Getting them to refocus on it later in the day has been near impossible for me.
My school district has shorted the school week for children to Tuesday through Friday, giving teachers Mondays for professional development and lesson planning, but I still give my kids lessons on Mondays. It’s all about routine. What do I give them on days that there are no lesson plans from school?
We read a book. We write a sentence about that book (6 year old) or recall elements of the story (4 year old). We do math. Their favorite is subtraction using pretzels. We start out with a certain number of pretzels in front of each of them. They count, then eat, then count again. Subtraction fun. I’m also constantly roving the internet for science experiment ideas. Anything that includes food coloring or baking soda and vinegar and blows up has lots of potential.
3. Make a list of what needs to get done before they start and let them cross things off the list as they go.
It’s helpful to know what needs to be accomplished before you start. Even my four year old who can’t read his list will still look to see the number of things he needs to accomplish (and bonus: since we do the same things each day–reading, letters, speech, science–he’s started to recognize the words). My six year old daughter feels a great sense of accomplishment as she erases her completed tasks (I write our list on a large dry erase board).
4. If you have two small children give them both the same number of activities.
Like I said, my son is four and my daughter is six. They are on quite different levels academically. Kevin is still working on writing his letters correctly, while Emmy is capable of reading whole books on her own and summarizing them, but I still give them the same number of activities each day. If Emmy has five activities on the dry erase board, so does Kevin, otherwise there will be whining about things being unfair. She doesn’t need to know that his tasks are easier and quicker than hers and sometimes I can even get her to be the teacher and teach him basic skills.
5. Get a large dry erase board and dry erase markers that have erasers on them!
I just happened to have a large dry erase board at my house. It was actually hidden away in a closet for when my kids wanted to play school. Well, now we’re playing school five days a week.
What I didn’t plan for was how much erasing we’d be doing. With the current rationing of paper products I was cringing at the number of paper towels we were using to erase. Then I switched to a dish towel only to find that dry erase makers will stain towels. Oops. Then I found these dry erase markers with erasers on the ends of them. Hallelujah!
6. Throw in something tactile
We do a ton of science experiments over here. A quick Pinterest or YouTube search for kid’s science experiments will lead you to a treasure trove of ideas. I always save science for last because it’s something the kids really enjoy doing. It’s one of those things where they’re learning without even knowing it. Check out my Instagram @wannabeteachersguide for our recent experiments.
7. You Tube is your friend
I have found so many awesome FREE resources on YouTube that I use in my home “classroom.” Here are some of my favorites:
Cosmic Kids Yoga: https://www.youtube.com/user/CosmicKidsYoga
Durham Museum of Life and Science: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCltZ6FbBazxe_A58DRBfjGA
Mark Rober Science: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCY1kMZp36IQSyNx_9h4mpCg
Prodigies Music Lessons: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCR_6C8MGPmasS-4QMKclRGw
You can do it! This is hard, even for me and I’ve been in a classroom for 14 years.
Not every day is going to go well. Some days your kids will be totally into it and others they will refuse to do anything. Try to make it as fun as possible and don’t give up. Learning can take so many forms. It doesn’t always mean sitting at a table. It can mean doing yoga, planting seeds, building towers, so many things!
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