Suddenly Homeschooling - What do I do?
Geez Louise! It's hard not to feel like all of this escalated quickly. I'm glad that we are taking necessary precautions to flatten the curve and protect the vulnerable. I acknowledge that these precautions are going to be a challenge for many. One major challenge that many are facing is school closures.
If that's you, if you've found yourself suddenly a homeschooler and not by your choice I hope that we can help. There are so many in the home education world that are stepping up and offering advice and resources. I get that this could feel totally overwhelming and I'd love to do my art in offering support.
That said, let's start with some simple steps you can take to keep learning with your kids at home. These are SIMPLE things that anyone can do.
1. Perspective Shift
Homeschool does not look like public school or at the very least, it doesn't have to. That type of structure and schedule typically doesn't translate well at home. Your kids don't have to be sitting at the table by 9 am, they don't have to focus for 45 min on one subject, they don't have to fill out endless worksheets to prove they are learning. Be aware that when kids are being worked with one on one - it goes quite a bit faster. Let yourself relax into this and figure out a flow that works for you and your family.
Read to your kids. Read picture books (big kids like them too) and/or choose a novel to read out loud to your kids. Maybe you can even choose a book that was a favourite of yours as a child and get to experience it together as a family. As you read, talk about what you're reading. Guess what will happen next, stop to digest big events in the story, compare family members to characters etc. When your kids are listening to a non picture book let them do something with their hands. They will listen better and be more engaged. This could be play doh, drawing, colouring, beadwork, lego, etc.
Then have your kids read to themselves if they know how to read. Ask them to read on their own for at least 15-20 minutes a day. Lots of wonderful learning takes place just by reading. www.getepic.com is a great resource for kids books as is Vooks for animated picture books.
Get yourself an AUDIBLE subscription. The first month is a free trial and you'll get one audio book credit. Use that to choose a novel for read aloud time (this saves your voice). Hint - when cancelling your free trial you can select the reason of "too expensive" and they'll usually offer you three additional months at half price.
Your public library also likely has HOOPLA DIGITAL which you can access free of charge. It has tons of audiobooks.
Our favourite audiobooks are:
The Green Ember series by S.D. Smith
The Percy Jackson series by Rick Riordan
The My Side of the Mountain series by Jean Craighead George
The Hatchet Series by Gary Paulson
This is a wonderful time to do some interest based learning. Pick a few topics as a family that you are interested and start making a playlist of documentaries. Youtube has a plethora for free, Netflix has a ton and there is National Geographic on Disney Plus. Another great website is Curiosity Stream that is comprised of ONLY documentaries.
If you want you can also ask your kids what types of things they were studying in school. Were they learning about the history of flight? Look up documentaries or short videos on flight. Were they learning about the life cycle of a plant? Find a video on it. It's super simple.
If you've never watched Planet Earth and Blue Planet as a family this would be a great time to do that. They are phenomenal.
Also check out youtube channels like "Brave Wilderness - Coyote Peterson" for awesome nature videos.
4. Mystery Science
You could cover the rest of your science for the year with this one website alone. The lessons are all developed and easy to prep. You just print out any of the printouts listed in the activities section and your kids watch the video. All activities are guided through on the video by Doug ;) They have a bunch of free lessons and if you need more the subscription is totally worth it.
5. Math Facts
I was with a bunch of friends the other day (who are all teachers) and we were talking about math. They all agreed that the single thing kids could do to improve their math skills would be to memorize their multiplication facts up to at least 12. So, if your kids don't have that down pat (and are at the age where they multiply) that would be a great task to take one while you're at home. If they're younger, master counting or adding, etc.
There are lots of ways to make the practice fun including multiplication apps, card games, etc. I like the game ZAP. Cut paper into cards or use large craft sticks and write down multiplication questions (not the answer). 5-10 sticks write the word ZAP. Take turns drawing a stick and if you can answer it correctly you get to keep it. If not, put it back. If you pull a ZAP stick you lose all your sticks. You can do this game with addition questions, subtraction, division, sight words, etc.
For high school students check out websites like Khan Academy.
6. Play Games
We like to call this gameschooling. Games are full of math, reading, logical thinking, strategy, etc. Let each family member pick a game to play each day (we rotate turns by days rather than playing that many games a day lol). If you need some new games to play and have a tablet check out some app versions of popular board games. They are multi player even on the ipad. We like Ticket to Ride, Settlers of Catan, Forbidden Island and The Game of Life on the ipad :)
7. Typing Skills
Typing is so crucial but a lot of schools don't teach it anymore. You could use this time to get your child the fundamentals. The website www.typing.com is a free resource that teaches your kids typing basics (like home row) in short lessons. It's great and it'll really help them in the future as so much school work is done on computers. When they can type quickly they are better able to get their thoughts down and it improves their writing.
This is such a great opportunity to allow your kids to explore art. A watercolour set at the store will set you back about $10. Grab some watercolour paper to go with it and you can even get a pack of brushes from the dollar store and you're set for lots of activities. You only need to do a quick search of tutorials on Youtube and you'll have tons of lessons.
Let your kids draw, colour, make collages, etc. Art of Kids Hub (on youtube and additionally you can get a premium subscription) is an amazing resource for drawing tutorials.
Don't stress about this. Any writing your kids do is going to be beneficial to them. Having the opportunity to write what they want is awesome. Give them time for free writing or journalling. If you want you can give prompts. Here's a few favourites:
- Write as if you are a piece of clothing being ironed (from Bravewriter)
- Write about something you will NEVER do (Bravewriter)
- Write yourself a cameo in your favourite book or movie
- Make a list of 5 random words. Have your child write a few sentences about the first memory that comes to mind when you hear each word.
Check out Bravewriter for great writing curriculums.
I will refrain from writing a book about this. I want to. But I won't. But please.... GO OUTSIDE. Ha. Nature is SO good for us. The physical health benefits are astounding, it's one of the best things for our mental health. Did you now that just looking at the fractals (naturally occurring patterns in nature) reduces our stress by 60%? You read that right - SIXTY percent!
Trees give off phytoncides that protect themselves from bacteria, viruses, and fungus. When we inhale those phytoncides it increases our natural killer cells (that are main warrior in our own immune systems) and it activates them. Go smell a tree. Dirt has beneficial bacteria in it that strengthens our immune system and decreases depression. Play in the dirt.
Oops - there I am writing that book.
Nature is a good place to be during a pandemic. It's not super peopley out there. Go for hikes, build forts in the woods, go for bike rides, observe nature. If you see something cool, explore it. Then go home and find a video on it. Maybe you saw a snake or an owl - go learn about it. That rock your child stuffed in their pocket, try to identify it. Nature is an endless educator.
11. Embrace Home
The circumstances are not ideal but you can definitely choose to make the most of this time at home. Snuggle on the couch for reading, take art outside, watch a documentary with popcorn and cookies or do a nature study out in the woods. Remember, it doesn't have to look like public school for learning to be taking place.
I hope this helps. When you take it to the fundamentals it can be really simple. You got this. If you need help or need to chat find me on instagram @monique.willms and shoot me a message :)