Well, we’re almost to July (if you can even believe it!) and I’m happy to report that our first few weeks of homeschooling have gone really well. I was worried, of course, because I’m already tight on time since I’m a full-time blogger and I have the two kids all day but we’ve worked out a system that’s keeping everything under control.
The best part of all is that we didn’t have to totally turn our house upside down to do it! Looking on Pinterest, I had seen a ton of people who created full classrooms in their homes in order to homeschool and I was feeling a lot of pressure to do the same for Eva (crazy-making in our teeny little rental house) so I’m quite relieved that we’ve found a way to create a school space in our home without making our home feel like a school. Also, it was cheap! I like cheap!!
Our system is all organized around a 10-drawer Mobile Organizer that I bought back when I was heavily into scrapbooking in college. I swear that every household in America has had one of these babies at one time or another because I see them all the time, either in people’s craft rooms or at the thrift store seeking a second home.
I used the drawers to organize our homeschool preschool around five subject areas: life skills, language arts, science, mathematics, and arts/crafts. Even these subjects might have been overkill since preschool age kids learn by doing pretty much anything they want to do, but I wanted to try a balanced approach so I’d have a better sense of whether or not I’d be out of my league trying to teach math and science when I’m such a language arts kind of person. (Spoiler: I’m not and it’s fine.)
The top of the drawer unit has a tray with flashcards because we use them often, Eva’s abacus, and a small pencil box with an eraser, safety scissors, two pencils, and about 8 crayons since crayon-hunting is too distracting for school stuff. I was going to get her a larger pencil box so she could have markers and colored pencils and tape and all sorts of fun things at her disposal, but now I just pull those out for specific activities to keep her from being overwhelmed.
Since there are two drawers per color in our storage thing, I use the top drawer for activities that Eva does by herself (indicated by a little drawing of Eva) and the drawer underneath it is for activities she does with me (indicated by another little drawing). The deal is that we can’t do the together activity until she finishes the solo activity, which is motivating for her since the together activities are usually a little more fun. It also means that I get moments of work time while Eva is quietly doing her own thing in each subject.
She doesn’t go subject to subject but she also doesn’t seem to be favoring any particular one and I just refill the empty drawers at night without worrying about what she didn’t complete. (If her solo is empty, but she’s saving her together activity in any subject, I do leave the solo one open so I don’t forget that she earned some mom time. Otherwise, meanest mom ever.) I also don’t force her to do an activity if I notice that it’s been sitting there for a week, but we do talk about why she didn’t want to do it. Usually she either misunderstood the activity or she didn’t know what to do.
To fill the drawers, I either use flat activities that will fit or I use my Instax to take a picture of what she should use or play with. The nice thing about the Instax is that I can write the activity name right on there to help with her word recognition and the photos are reusable so I just keep them in a little stack on a nearby shelf. I do have a few other homeschooling resources, but they’re in magazine holders, in one particular basket in Eva’s wardrobe, and on the shelf with my other books. It was really important to me that homeschooling didn’t eat our life, so I’m happy that this is a manageable level of clutter.
If you’re curious about what types of activities I’m using for each subject, you can check out these posts on our brand new homeschooling blog:
There’s also a wild card that floats around as a “together” activity and it’s by far Eva’s favorite card to get so I tend to stack a more difficult or time-consuming solo activity in front of it because I know she’ll blaze through it to get to this card: the homeschool outing card.
I actually love this card because it’s been a challenge for me to think up new outings and new ways to approach places we go often in a way that will teach Eva concrete things. It’s also great to see her out on homeschool outings because she’s really focused on learning. To help make it a real event, we got her a personalized kids t-shirt from Petite Lemon that says “Hello! My Name is Eva. I’m busy learning,” and when she has it on it’s like a school uniform. Little lady is all business.
I feel like the homeschooling is going well and even though I know homeschool at the preschool level is worlds away from homeschooling at the fourth or fifth grade level, I’m a lot more optimistic about it now that we’ve started the journey and nobody has gone crazy. Will it stick? We’ll see…in the meantime, Eva is engaged and occupied for the summer with lots of mom work time and mom play time built in. Works for me!!
PPS – Kyle was getting a little jealous with everyone in the house having a blog but him, so you can pop over to Ever Clever Dad to leave him a little love.
The ALT conference just ended and it will take a few days for me to sort business cards and photos and thoughts BUT I wanted to get these ideas out before I forgot them. This conference is two straight days of pure creative energy and ultimately I can never remember whose idea was what so I apologize for not tagging the people who came up with the brilliance below. Just know that I think you’re a genius!
PS – Some of these are blog focused, but most of this stuff is pretty applicable to life in general!
1 /// Don’t be a passive consumer of media that you enjoy. If you would be sad to see it fade away, you need to take an active role in keeping it around (by sharing, commenting, etc.). It’s easy to just flip through the Internet quickly, but it’s all real people behind the scenes and they need to feel the love.
2 /// It makes sense to master the really small details in your life, regardless of what your ultimate goals are. Creating beautiful spaces at home, learning which foods make you feel the best, finding the personal style that energizes you…all of those details prime you to succeed on a day to day basis.
3 /// Blogger home swapping! We’re from all over and most of us find travel inspiring. We need to start taking turns exploring each other’s hometowns!
4 /// Glitter macarons. I didn’t even get to try one, but now I’m a little obsessed with finding them.
5 /// ALT alumni meetups in Salt Lake City. We always say we’re going to get together between conferences. We’re making this happen!
Some of the links below are affiliate links.
1 /// Read a book about animals.
2 /// Look at nature slides through a Viewfinder.
3 /// Read Zoobooks.
4 /// Start a nature collection. Examine your specimens with a large magnifying glass.
5 /// Water plants in and out of the house.
6 /// Blow bubbles and talk about how bubbles work.
7 /// Read a book about health.
8 /// Look at animal flashcards and see how many your kids can name on sight.
9 /// Start a nature journal. Glue interesting leaves into the journal and write down where you found them.
10 /// Fill an empty glass jar with a wet paper towel. Put a different kind of dried bean on each side of the jar and put the jar in a sunny window. Turn the jar once a day for the next couple of days, keeping the towel wet. See what happens.
11 /// Plant an herb garden.
12 /// Get a butterfly net and see if you can catch anything.
14 /// Put white carnations in different jars filled with water. Add different colors of food coloring to the water to grow different colored flowers.
15 /// Put a piece of black construction paper out on a sunny sidewalk with a couple of opaque objects on top (a toy, a fork, etc.). Let the sun bleach the paper to create a print. Talk about what happened.
16 /// Visit your local science or natural history museum.
17 /// Start a weather chart. Draw the weather every day for a week. See if you can predict the weather in the mornings after that.
18 /// See if your local medical school has a skeleton and visit it. Challenge your kids to feel their own bones as you point them out.
19 /// Sid’s Science Fair
20 /// Visit a star show at the planetarium.
21 /// Read a book about the ocean.
22 /// Visit the dentist and read a book about healthy teeth.
23 /// Cut a piece of fruit in half, put it in a Ziploc bag, and set it in a warm place. Let it sit for a couple of days, taking photos each day, and then talk about what’s happening to the fruit.
24 /// Create a zoo for plastic animals out of blocks. Talk about what the animals need to eat, how much space they need, etc.
25 /// Watch a documentary about animals.
26 /// Read The Very Hungry Caterpillar.
27 /// Get a book of constellations and see if you can see any from your house.
28 /// Go to the park and look for bugs.
29 /// Back to the Roots AquaFarm
30 /// Make four batches of cookies. Make one batch using all of the ingredients and then leave a different ingredient out of each of the others. Compare them.
31 /// Visit a plant store and talk about all the different kinds of plants available.
32 /// Download and watch all of the old Bill Nye the Science Guy episodes on iTunes.
33 /// Explore different tastes: salty, sweet, bitter, sour, and savory.
34 /// Set up a veterinary clinic for your stuffed animals. Visit a real vet clinic or animal shelter for inspiration.
35 /// Get a pet. Feed. Water. Clean. Love.
36 /// Put water in a glass and put plastic wrap across the top. Put the glass in a sunny window. Look for condensation.
37 /// Go to the park and look for birds.
38 /// Visit a farm and talk about where your food comes from.
39 /// Get a big glass bowl, fill it halfway with water, and predict whether toys will float or sink.
40 /// Take your animal flashcards to the zoo and see how many you can find in real life.
41 /// Get a bunch of clear glass jars in different sizes and pour 1/2 cup of water into one of them. Pour the water from jar to jar, talking about how some jars look full and some are empty, but it’s all the same amount of water.
42 /// Pour oil and water into a plastic bottle. Put the cap on and shake. Watch and see what happens. Explain.
43 /// Make a bug village out in your garden, creating mud huts, ant hills, and other structures out of things you find outside. Be sure to include a bug buffet, trying to imagine what bugs might want to eat.
44 /// Hang a homemade bird feeder, like this one or this one or this one. (Be cautious about letting the kids handle seeds if you aren’t sure about allergies! Eva can’t be around birdseed because most contains sunflower seeds – a common trigger for kids who also have peanut and tree nut allergies.)
46 /// Make rainbows with Amlong Crystal® Optical Glass Triangular Prism for Teaching Light Spectrum
47 /// Get pirate eyepatches from a party store and let your kids walk around with one on for a while (especially on a sunny day). Take the eyepatch off and see how different things look to that eye than to the one that wasn’t covered.
48 /// Blow up a balloon with baking soda and vinegar.
50 /// At twilight, listen for crickets and see if you can catch one (temporarily). Or go after fireflies if you’re lucky enough to live in one of their natural areas.
Some of the links below are affiliate links.
1 /// Sweep the kitchen floor with a small brush and dustpan. If their sweeping needs work, start with sweeping rice into a square of making tape on the floor.
2 /// Brush hair and put snap clips in.
3 /// Match socks.
4 /// Do an exercise DVD with your kid. Most kids will be happy to attempt everything from Tai Chi and Yoga to the latest cardio routines.
6 /// Bake something simple with your kids like cookies, bread, or vegetable soup. Don’t let them handle any raw meat or sharp utensils until they’re good and ready!
7 /// Play a matching game.
8 /// Use a sponge, a bar of soap, and a small dish of warm water to wash plastic toys.
9 /// Wipe windows with vinegar on crumpled newspaper.
10 /// Fold towels.
11 /// Use an electric toothbrush and some dishwashing soap to clean sneakers.
12 /// Take a walk around the neighborhood and pick up trash (no broken glass or anything gross!).
13 /// Work on filing fingernails.
14 /// Daniel Tiger’s Day & Night
15 /// Break out the dance moves and teach them some classics. It’s all new to them so they have no idea how silly you look.
16 /// Sort a dish of coins.
17 /// Let kids apply head to toe sunscreen.
18 /// Practice button and unbuttoning one of your cardigans.
19 /// Trucks HD
20 /// Use a toy hammer to hammer golf tees into a block of styrofoam.
21 /// Slice a banana using a small spreading knife.
22 /// String cheerios on string to make an edible garland for birds.
23 /// Practice putting on and taking off the toilet paper roll.
24 /// Put a basket of small musical instruments together and let your kids create a band. Try keeping a beat together.
26 /// Make a sign with 9-1-1 and important information emergency personnel would need. Practice making a 9-1-1 call.
27 /// Put two hula hoops on the lawn and have your kids jump from one to the other. Move the hoops farther away little by little to see how far they can jump. You can also have them stand in one and try to toss a bean bag or stuffed toy into the other hoop.
28 /// Find a small plastic basket with holes in the side and string pipe cleaners across the basket to practice weaving.
29 /// Build a fort out of pillows and blankets.
30 /// Practice polite talk by having your kid handle the ordering/paying at restaurants and grocery stores.
31 /// Use a lint roller to clean the sofa.
32 /// Pack an emergency kit together. Talk about what you might want to have if the lights went out. You can also pack an emergency pack for the car. See if your kids can think of things you use often.
33 /// Beck and Bo by Avokiddo
34 /// Teach your kids how to peel a boiled egg.
35 /// Put an 8 ft 2×4 on the line and have your kids use it as a balance beam.
36 /// Have your kids practice moving unpopped popcorn kernels from one bowl to the other using a wooden spoon.
38 /// Go to the mall and talk about what would happen if your kid couldn’t find you. Point out people who would be good “helpers” if your kids needed help.
39 /// Yummiloo Rainbow Power
40 /// Set the table.
41 /// Have kids grind cereal with a mortar and pestle and use it as a crunchy topping. First dip a piece of fruit into yogurt and then into the ground cereal to make a snack.
42 /// Wash doll clothes or dress up clothes by hand and practice hanging them on a line in the backyard.
44 /// Teach kids your full name and phone number.
45 /// Play the “thank you” game. See who can say thank you to the largest number of people in one day.
47 /// Play Candy Land and talk about turn taking and being a good sport.
48 /// Teach them how to sew a large button onto a square of plastic embroidery mesh using a large dull needle and thick thread.
49 /// Draw out hopscotch in masking tape on the carpet in your hallway.
50 /// Sprinkle baking soda on the carpet with a small sifter and let set for 5 minutes before you vacuum it up.