Wednesday, February 10, 2010

WFMW: Homeschooling with Smaller Ones

I wish when people asked how I homeschool Anna with Chris and Lydia, I had a plan for them to follow. Or I could invite them over to my well-structured house and let them watch a homeschooling pro at work!!!! But that's not the way it works.... at least for us.

While Anna's schoolwork takes up the majority of our schooltime, Lydia and Christopher also get a taste of "structure" each day. And I can honestly say that it's getting easier.... maybe I'm learning, or they're starting to catch the idea of routine??? But we're enjoying our mornings together... no matter how frazzled and exhausted I am at 2pm:)

So here I humbly present what I have learned during my year homeschooling, especially with preschoolers running around:

1. Be realistic! While we have worked through what we have set out to accomplish this year, there are some things that we have had to tweak due to LIFE (younger siblings, 1st year schooling, preggo momma). One is our history, we have fallen way behind, but the greatest news that we HOMESCHOOL and we'll have the summer to finish up and enjoy our readings and maybe get to more projects:) Also be realistic with EXPECTATIONS of the younger ones, they aren't going to be quiet and play independently (without messes) for 2-3 hours alone (maybe yours will but mine won't)!! And my 5 yr old isn't going to do her work independently while I tend to the younger ones... she's young herself;)

2. Use Naptime!! Lydia and Chris have times where they know to be quiet while Anna and I work on reading assignments, grammer and her math lesson. But Anna and I really use naptimes to work on history and reading aloud.

3. Include the whole group when possible! We have enjoyed doing our Bible stories, Awana verse practice, science and some history and reading aloud together. Lydia and Chris love to be included in some of Anna's fun projects or interesting reading. For example, they'll color the history pages along side her.... it's actually really nice because Anna doesn't feel like she's the only one working and the little ones like doing "big kid" school with Anna.

4. Find time to work with each individually!! This is soo important. Lydia loves school and asks daily to work in her workbook or do letters. And I think since she's asking, it's the right time to start her on the school path. Also Chris is in the early stages of reading, he NEEDS me to work next to him and spend time daily encouraging his efforts and pushing him forward!! So I have attempted to work with them for a little bit each day.... sometimes it's 15 minutes, other days Chris is really into his reading and it's 30 or 40 (a really, really good day).

5. Be creative and flexible. With preschoolers or those starting structured mommy-teacher time, I've had to learn to be flexible and creative with how to help them get through the task. Sometimes it's drawing a picture with the reading or making a game out of it. I'll do another post on this one SOON!!

6. Have special school toys ready (STATIONS)! I have toys that are used during schooltimes (or special occassions) only. And when Anna and I need the "quiet" time I pull out the "secret weapons". We have started calling these times STATIONS! So they each play with something different that they have choosen or that I have laid out for them. When they are done at their STATION, they have to clean it up and then they can trade or move to another STATION. Occassionally they can work together at one STATION... depending on what Anna and I are doing because they can get kind of loud and the mess is usually bigger:)
**** I actually would like to get a little more structured with this idea. One idea is to have a jar where they could pick the STATIONS for that morning/week. It could also blend in nicely with the workboxes/files idea for more educationally structured activities for Lydia or Chris next year!!****

7. Be patient and encouraging!! I think that is one of my motto and themes this year! I've really been trying to find ways to praise the kids during the day and especially during schooltime when I'm focused on the specific tasks that I feel like need to be completed;) But the kids THRIVE on me being patient and encouraging.... providing them with a loving and postive environment.

8. Don't forget the basics:) Part of our school day is the kids completing their "morning chores". While most don't consider this part of schooling, for preschoolers it is:) They have to learn to do basic chores: dress themselves, tidy up their rooms, pottying alone, etc!! And I think giving them a structure at beginning of their day helps them come to the school table with a heart that is ready to follow directions sweetly... which makes ANY school day very pleasant:)


9. Play/Free time is needed. At first I felt really guilty if Chris and Lydia didn't have the hours of school time that Anna was getting.... instead they'd be in their rooms playing. But at 2,3,4 yrs old, they need that time to learn how to play alone and together. So once I was giving each the individual time that they could handle (LOL), I no longer felt bad when they are busy catching dinosaurs or caring for babies while Anna and I finish up math and language arts;)

I sound like I have it all together..... that's not the case. There are always things I'd love to incorporate or do differently. But right now I'm thankful for the little bit of structure we do get to enjoy during "school mornings".

Come next August, it will be a whole, NEW game as Nathaniel and his routine will definitely affect our routine:) Any advice about homeschooling with an infant???


Hannah said...

Great tips! I've found that my 17-month-old makes it pretty challenging to do much of anything throughout the day, including homeschooling. But we manage, doing the best we can!

Nichole said...

Your special-toys idea is brilliant! I really need to do something like that.

ilovemy5kids said...

Wonderful post!!! It is always a balancing act and deciding what things are important.

Blessings to you,
lana @ ilovemy5kids

Jenny said...

Great tips!

Ashley said...

Great ideas!! Thank you. We start Kindergarten in the fall and I will also have a 3, 1, and newborn. I will be sure to be following you for even more great ideas.
Oh, and you suggested the "teach your child to read in 100 easy lessons." We are at lesson 17 and loving it! THanks for the tip.

The Rambling Housewife said...

Good ideas. I have used some of these with (a degree of) success. I wondered what you use for your Stations? I have been told to try this by several people, but have a really hard time coming up with something that a super active nearly-2-year-old will be occupied by for more than five minutes. (Five minutes is usually stretching it.) What works for you in that area, particularly?

Mama Laundry said...

I literally just asked someone today for some tips on how to homeschool with littles! This is so timely!

I'd also love to know what you do for Stations.

And I'm having some serious trouble with the selfish thought of giving up *my* quiet time during the day. It's the only 2 hours of quiet in this house and I adore it! I'd love to hear your tips on how to get over this. I know it is just my being selfish with my I'd love to hear how you transitioned from all of your little people taking naps to giving up this large chunk of the day to do school.

Thanks so much. This was so helpful and encouraging!


Angela said...

Great post! I love your heart to be your childrens teacher.

The stations are a wonderful idea. I used that a lot when I worked in a preschool. We would set a timer and every 15 minutes the children would switch to a new station. It lasted for an hour. You can make it work with whatever you think best for your children.

An idea on the stations. Childslink has resources that you can check out just like the library. They have themed activities for preschoolers that might go along well with Anna's schoolwork. It's free. They might be worth looking into.

Beth said...

This is my second year homeschooling my daughter (1st grade). I also have a 3.5 and 2 year old. We follow a very nontraditional schedule in that we don't even start our official academic work until 1:30 when the littles go down for their naps. We are able to really focus and get a lot done in a short amount of time. I also have some "school activities" for my 3.5 year old if she doesn't nap or wakes up early. We do lots of nature study, field trips, library visits in the mornings which work well with all three kiddos. I've posted some of my preschool independent activities at my blog,
Hope it's helpful!

Kate Wicker @ Momopoly said...

As a homeschooling mama to a 5-year-old who also has a 2-year-old and 10-month-old underfoot, I found these tips very helpful. Thank you!