Homeschool

The Choice To Homeschool

Homeschooling your child is a difficult choice. The opportunity to bond with your child, give your child choice in their learning, and watch them grow may not be enough to quell your anxieties. But hopefully these three tips will open up a new perspective. 

  1. You will not be good at everything

One of the big concerns I hear parents express when they are considering homeschooling is that they will not be good enough or will not know how to teach something. One thing I want you to take away from reading this post is…that’s ok! You have a lot to offer your child in terms of learning. You may not even realize your own strengths and talents. However, it’s important not to compare yourself to other parents or teachers. Even teachers who are trained professionals are not great at everything. It’s also important to recognize that just because you’re not good at something does not mean your child will not be good at it. If there is an area you particularly struggle with and prefer not to teach, reach out to your local homeschool community and see if there are co-ops that offer instruction in your weak areas. You could also hire a tutor. The important thing is that you recognize the areas that are hard for you and find an alternative for your child.

      2. Focus on skills

Branching off of the idea that you’re not going to know everything, is the idea that content is not as important as skills. So what if you don’t remember all the events leading up to the American Revolution. Your child can read a book about that or watch a documentary. Focus on the skill you are teaching. You want your child to be able to read a nonfiction text and extract important information. You also want them to find meaningful ways to connect with any text so they can remember what they learn. Don’t worry about what your child is learning, but rather how. Choose a skill to focus on and let your child pick the subject matter.

     3. Don’t compare yourself to school

The structure and environment of school is very different from that of home learning. Being at home affords you flexibility, choice, and the opportunity to build your own structure and routine that works for you and your family. I emphasize to parents that routine and structure are important, but don’t model it after that of school. Children crave predictability and organization. That’s not to say spontaneity is bad or you can’t cancel plans once in a while. But for a child to develop good executive functioning skills and maintain a low stress level, they need to have some idea of what to expect. The structure of school is very rigid and can be anxiety producing for children. Don’t try to mimic it. Also recognize that schools spend a lot of time organizing large groups of students, doing behavior management, moving from place to place, and making sure everyone is on the same page. At home, you don’t need to do all of that. The six hours your child would spend in school is not all learning time. So at home, adjust the amount of academic time based on your child’s stamina, ability, and schedule. Keep it simple and stick to a basic routine.

August 6th, 2020|

Learning Outside

Now is the perfect time to get outside and leave the stresses and confines of quarantine at home. While we may still feel the pressure to socially distance and be mindful of our health, especially at this time, enjoying all that nature has to offer is a great way to calm the mind and ease the spirit. Learning is happening all the time, but it is important to draw your child’s attention to the world around them in unique ways. This doesn’t have to be explicit, formal instruction (although there’s undoubtedly value in teaching skills like planting a flower or drying herbs), but a way to open the door to further inquiry and discovery. Here are some ways you can help your child look at their surroundings with new eyes.

Drawing

Recreating nature through art is a wonderful activity that can build fine motor skills, attention to detail, and artistic ability. Sometimes I hear from students, “I’m not good at art”. But what they don’t realize is that drawing a picture of something is a skill that takes practice and is not necessarily reliant on raw creativity. It’s like playing a piece of music. You learn the piece by practicing it over and over and then you are able to play it well. You are not writing a piece of music, but rather replicating what’s already there. Anyone can learn to draw and you don’t need to be super creative to do it. 

One of the projects I loved while I worked at Brookwood School in Manchester, MA involved art and science. Students chose one spot outside and their task over the course of the school year was to periodically draw that same place over and over. With the changing seasons, each place transformed over the course of the year. This is a great project to replicate with elementary and middle school aged children. Your child could choose a tree, plant, or any place outside and over the course of the summer, draw a picture of the same place weekly. This could be done using the same medium, or you could change it up. Maybe one week your child uses watercolor, and the next markers. Their art will look different anyway, because different plants bloom at different times, weather changes, and nature is constantly shifting. 

Words

Language plus experience is what allows children to understand and communicate. Pre-K and Kindergarten age children sometimes struggle to comprehend words like: on, in, below, under, above, over, across, before, after. These prepositions can be difficult unless your child has the experience to create a context. Simply drawing your child’s attention to these words by saying things like “I see you are on the slide” or “I notice you went under the monkey bars” can help them develop understanding of how to use these words. A fun way to incorporate them into your outdoor time is to play Simon Says. Using commands like “hop on one foot” or “stand on the porch” gives children different contexts for the same word and provides deeper understanding of how these words are used.

For children in elementary grades, boost their vocabulary by creating a chart of adjectives, or describing words, like the one below. Your child can move around the yard feeling, touching, and writing down or drawing pictures of what they find that fits those descriptions. It may be helpful to give them examples first. You might point out that a basil leaf is smooth. Ask, “What else can you find that feels smooth?” Be sure to forewarn your child of any plants they should not touch.

Describing Word Example Your Find
smooth Basil leaf
rough pavement
bumpy
soft
damp
dry
prickly
slippery

Scavenger Hunts

Scavenger hunts encourage children to notice their surroundings in new ways. Kids love the challenge of completing the list and they can do it on their own or with a partner. This Reading Mama has great ones for younger children. For elementary children, there are lots of different scavenger hunts you can put together. A scavenger hunt featuring different shapes challenges children to spot polygons in unusual places like in your yard or in the neighborhood. You can go simple and have a color scavenger hunt or a number scavenger hunt. There are lots of different ways you could structure this.

These activities are great starters for having fun and learning outside, but you also want to be open to ideas your child may have. Brainstorming together is quality time spent, and helps you better understand what kind of learner your child is. For more ideas, check out Jennifer Findley’s post on outdoor learning.

Comment with your favorite outdoor learning activity or share this post with a friend!

June 29th, 2020|

Summer Learning

As schools have made the transition to virtual schooling, many parents have told me how overwhelmed they’ve felt. You may be feeling the same way. Whereas your child had previously been responsible for following directions and bringing homework home to complete, they are now responsible for maintaining a schedule, checking for their assignments, completing the work (often on their own), submitting assignments, participating in online classes, and troubleshooting tech issues. At school, children are told when to sit, stand, do work, play, talk to each other, etc. Everything is dictated for them. No wonder families are feeling stressed! I do believe that students would have adjusted better to this new level of independence had it been given in smaller doses; a gradual release of responsibility. But, I have seen great progress in some of the students I work with in taking ownership and accountability for their new responsibilities.

I’ve also talked to many parents who’ve felt their children have been less stressed by school since being home. There is no longer someone constantly watching their every move. They don’t have to ask permission to use the bathroom. The pressures of competition, socially and academically, are no longer there. Family time is not just the few hours after school arguing over homework and eating a meal. 

But this model is not necessarily sustainable. Parents have to work and children require guidance. That’s not to say they need to be told what to do every second of the day, but learning new skills begs encouragement and support from an experienced mentor. It’s yet to be seen how parents will choose to move forward with their children’s education. But one thing is certain, ongoing learning is a must. Schooling and learning are two separate things. Learning can happen anywhere, while schooling happens within the confines of a teacher-lead structure in a designated space. I am hopeful that this summer will provide children with the opportunity to explore. Scheduled activities and socializing will be at a minimum. What a wonderful time to dive deep into your passions and interests! In the same way a routine can benefit children by giving them a sense of structure, harmony, and responsibility, discovery and exploration are equally important in promoting growth, thoughtfulness, and enthusiasm for life and all it has to offer. 

This summer will be a chance for your child to go outside and do some adventuring. There is so much to learn in nature. Falling in love with stories and pouring over books is the perfect activity for a lazy summer day. Math may not be the first thing that comes to mind, but there are loads of examples of math in nature and plenty of fun games to play to practice math skills. As a working parent, you may not have the time and space to support your child in these endeavors. Hiring a professional may be a good option for you. Even meeting once a week can work wonders for your child’s learning progress. Project-based learning is a great way to build new skills in a hands-on, relevant way. Either way, as I said before, guidance from an experienced mentor will be the key to helping your child grow. If you are able to be that mentor, I encourage you! Helping another person learn is very rewarding, as any parent knows. Check out the resources below that will help you in your journey!

Infographics

Kids Discover offers a range of “infographics”. These beautiful images complete with detailed explanations cover topics from history to biology and everything in between! They are a great jumping off point for deeper exploration into an area. When you click on the link, the site may ask if you want to start a free 30 day trial, and if you click “maybe later” you should be taken to the infographics page. Below is an example of what they offer.

Skillshare

Skillshare is a very popular website amongst my middle school and high school students. You can take a workshop on almost anything and a professional will instruct you on the best methods and strategies. You can start a 30 day free trial and there’s plenty to learn! 

Examples of some of the most recent topics are:

Learn Embroidery: Painting with Thread

iPhone Photography: How To Take Photos On Your iPhone

Make Your Voice Heard: Writing For Impact

Real Productivity: How To Build Habits That Last

This Reading Mama

You may recall this website from previous posts, but it is truly great. If you have an early elementary reader, or struggling reader, this website is for you. Becky Spence not only provides fabulous resources, games, and activities, but she explains how to use them and why they are helpful. Many of the printables are free and if you sign up for the newsletter you will be notified when various free resources are available for download. From letter formation, to phonics, to reading fluency, this site has it all! 

I hope you find these resources helpful. If you are looking for support for your child, please reach out to me to learn more about how I can help. I work with struggling learners, but also learners who are just looking for some guidance and support as they go along. I can also help your child stay organized and put a plan in place that is easy for you as a parent to follow.

May 27th, 2020|

Teaching Subtraction

Teaching subtraction to young learners can be difficult. Unlike addition, where items/time accumulates, subtraction can represent taking something away, as well as the difference between two numbers. This can conceptually be difficult for young children to understand. Then, when you get into subtraction problems with borrowing, such as 45 – 27, you have to borrow a ten to do subtraction in the ones column, and children can be equally confused!

Most parents of public school students have felt the frustration of trying to help a child with homework when the teacher insists they use “new math” or Common Core Math. But with quarantine, now parents across the country are feeling the pressure of picking up where school left off!

In this post, I’m not going to cover all the different aspects of subtraction, such as when you’re borrowing and you encounter a 0 in the tens place. Oh no! But I’ve included 2 simple videos that may help your child get started on borrowing. If you don’t have tens sticks to represent the tens, you can use pens or pencils. You can use little blocks or erasers (or really anything tiny) to represent ones. Get creative and have fun!

April 18th, 2020|

Teaching At Home

As an educator, I subscribe to a lot of teacher sites and blogs. Over the past week, my inbox has steadily been filling up with email after email directed at parents who are now staying home. These emails are typically offering to instruct parents how to teach. While that is helpful for some, that content may not be realistic for all parents, and may even be overwhelming. A lot of parents are working from home, dealing with the transition to their new setup, and do not have time to learn how to become teachers. But here’s where parents have a leg up: every parent is their child’s first teacher. Any parent can do the basics, and going back to basics is not a bad thing. Children need review and continued practice to maintain skills. Below you’ll find my three tips for homeschool success.

Have a Routine

With the days stretching on and each hour blending into the next, it is so easy to get off track with a routine. But children crave routine (even though they may not realize it, or vocally crave it the way they do snacks). It gives them structure and also a sense of responsibility. That’s not to say you can’t have days of spontaneous fun or unstructured time. But to get the best results from at home learning, you should set up a daily routine and STICK TO IT! If your child knows they can get out of their 30 minute reading time at 10 am, your routine will fall apart. You should have designated time set aside for academics each day. Be sure to factor breaks in between subjects and don’t ask your child to sit and work for more than 45 minutes at a time. Keeping a schedule each day will help your child know what to expect and provide predictability and structure during a time when circumstances feel like they’re anything but. Other aspects of a daily schedule you may consider are time for house chores and going outside for some fresh air. Getting outside is just as important as academics. It is beneficial for your mental and physical health. If you don’t live in an area where you can easily access the outdoors, you may want to drive to a state forest or hiking area. It’s a great reset and your family will feel refreshed. 

Keep it simple

The basics of learning are important to review. These include mental math facts like numbers that add to make ten, doubles facts, and multiplication/division facts. They also include sight words and reading fluency for young readers. And don’t forget the basics of writing, such as paragraph form and checking your work. These are all fairly simple to teach and can be done with games too!

If your child is a more advanced student or in the upper grades, they probably have assignments from school. But reading, writing, and math can be done at home without internet access. Summarizing an article, writing an opinion or persuasive essay, or doing a mini research project on a topic of choice does not require anything but paper, a pencil, and some books. If your child has a sense of humor, ask them to write a 5 paragraph persuasive essay (intro and conclusion included) on something completely ridiculous like why they should be allowed to have a pet porcupine. They could also write up a broadcast on something completely made up and record it. Get creative and have fun! 

Make it fun

Practicing basic facts does not have to be boring! There are so many resources online and games for the basics that I mentioned above, but even if you don’t have internet access, there are so many simple games you can put together at home. 

  1. Go Fish
  2. The Memory Game

For both of these games, you can use the same set of cards. For sight word practice, write each sight word on two index cards. For math facts, have one index card with the math fact, such as 6×5, and the matching card with the answer, 30. 

  1. Bingo

Your child should create the bingo cards for the players. The bingo cards will feature the math fact answer, or the sight word. They can also make the calling cards. The calling cards will also be sight words, or for math, they will be the math fact. This activity in and of itself is good practice. 

  1. Black Jack (without the gambling)

This is a super fun game for mental math. My students love it! You have to get to the number 21 (or any number you choose) without going over. Your child will have to add mentally and not use counting up or their fingers! 

Reading Fluency

For reading fluency, you can find free reader’s theater scripts online or if you have a children’s book of plays at home, you can use that. These are so fun and help build fluency because you have to read the same lines over and over. You can practice reading in silly, different voices and reading with expression. You can switch parts too. Get the whole family involved! It’s even more fun once your child develops fluency with their part. They can then find household props and act it out. Record it to play back and have a laugh!

Writing

The first thing that comes to mind for most people is journaling, but for some kids, that’s not very fun or they don’t know what to write about. After all, there’s not much to say about your day inside the house. You and your child can answer a “would you rather” question and write three reasons for your choice. Then compare! You can assign your child a writing prompt a day. You can also use story starters if your child likes to do creative writing. For example, give your child an index card that reads, “As I was walking through the woods on a bright, crisp morning, I suddenly stumbled. When I looked down to see what had caught my foot, I saw a brass handle attached to what looked like a small square door…” They’ll be so excited to tell their version of the story! You can set a timer and write for 20 minutes. Then check in. Your child might be ready to write for longer!

I hope these tips are helpful, but if you are not able to sit and work with your child, which is completely understandable, I offer virtual tutoring that’s structured to fit your child’s needs. Contact me to learn more about how I can support you child.

March 19th, 2020|