In my opinion, the number one reason for homeschooling is having the ability to mold your child’s worldview in the direction of God’s Word.
But a close second is FLEXIBILITY! We can teach our kids using whatever style, schedule, and content that we want. In the past couple of months, I have made some changes in how I teach my older two kids. I wanted to make it more personalized so that they could reap the most benefit possible. These changes have required a lot of creativity and flexibility. But at the end of the day, we all know that helping our kids reach their full potential is sooooo worth it!
So let’s back up a bit…
I believe that “organized homeschooling” isn’t necessary before age three. Of course, it isn’t necessary once they turn three but, in my experience, more benefit can be reaped at that age. At age two and under, it is enough for them to watch and follow you throughout the day. Add in lots of reading aloud to them and then some on-the-go education.
Example 1: Pop in an educational DVD, like LeapFrog, during their lunch so they can learn the letters to a fun tune. Then find opportunities to reinforce the lessons throughout the day. Maybe get foam letters for the bathtub or magnets for the fridge so that you review as you go. The most important thing is repetition…repetition…repetition! By the time my son turned two, he knew all of the letters, their sounds, numbers 1-10, basic shapes, and colors. To get those results I did nothing outside of what I am telling you!
Example 2: Show them that work is simply a part of life. When you dust, give them a cloth so they can “dust” too. When you sweep, get one of those child-sized brooms (Melissa & Doug make a great set!) and let them “sweep” with you – point out an area you’ve already swept so that they won’t swish your dirt pile all over the place. Make sure to have fun music going and a joyful face so they learn that work isn’t drudgery!
Example 3: This one is BRUTAL! If your child hasn’t reached this stage yet, they will! I’m talking about the “why, mommy?” stage. I know that it becomes mentally exhausting. Sometimes it seems like the “whys” will NEVER stop! But if your child is asking a question about something they truly don’t have the answer to, it is huge if you can take a second give them that information. You are going to be their teacher for the next chunk of their life and you want them to feel like they can ask you anything. You are communicating that it is always good to expand their knowledge.
So that brings us up to date.
My son is three and my daughter is four. By simply teaching them as I lived my day, they learned so many basics. The main change I implemented recently was 45 minutes-1 hour or organized school time. I also try to be intentional about teaching them to do age-appropriate chores instead of simply letting them watch me and do their own version of it.
In my own “need to be organized” way, I narrowed what I am teaching them to four main categories:
- World Concepts
Today I am sharing my method of teaching Academics and World Concepts. These same four categories can be applied to your child. The only variable would be at what level you begin. You are the mommy, only you can know what your child knows and what information will help them move to the next level.
Since my two kids are so close together in age, I tend to aim towards my daughter’s abilities and my son does his best to follow along. Heidi will get a firm grasp on what I am teaching, while Daniel will get a slightly “looser” one. But repetition…repetition…repetition is JUST as important as this age and it simply takes a few more reviews for Daniel to catch on.
The first step is to go by Dollar Tree and look in their school section. I have found some good activity books there, but the main thing I like is their flashcards.
- Disney addition and subtraction cards – These flashcards have simple math problems on one side and the answer on the back. My kids both knew how to count from 1-20 (if your child isn’t there I would start with that first). I had them count out dry kidney beans then “add” more or “subtract” some while pointing to the problem on the card.
- Shapes and colors – Flashcards with different colored shapes in them. Heidi and Daniel both knew their colors and basic shapes. So, I intentionally choose a set of cards that had some more difficult shapes (semi-circle, octagon, pentagon, etc). Crayola makes a great set.
- Basic words: I actually found these on a website (link). After your child knows their letters and sounds, the next step is to help them learn how to use that knowledge to sound them out. I have them tell me the sound of each letter and then we say it “faster” until they realize what the word is.
The next step is to find a workbook that mostly teaches what your child is ready to learn. Sometimes it can be difficult to find an exact match but I would suggest leaning on the side of overlap. It isn’t just about learning academics here. It is about giving them the confidence that they are able to succeed and have fun with learning. If there are a handful of concepts in a workbook that your child already knows, it will simply serve as a confidence boost before they tackle a new idea or skill.
So, let’s go back to the “why mommy?” stage. Do you ever have a moment when your child asks a good question but life is happening? To truly answer them in a way they would understand, you need to think about it, find some visuals, and have their full attention?
Or, how about those times you are trying to convey an idea to them but then realize: they have NO IDEA what you are talking about? You are going to have to back that train WAY up to help them understand!
That is exactly why I introduced the World Concepts category. Every week you can pick literally WHATEVER topic in this whole creation that you want to teach! How exciting! It can be something your child has asked you about or some random topic that you think would be fun or useful.
- The world is round
- God/Heaven vs Satan/Hell
- Day/night – the earth’s rotation
- What is church
- Health and healthy food
- Identify money denominations
Now, this is where your creativity comes in. You can teach about any topic and you can teach it in whatever way you decide! Now, at first, this might seem intimidating. But think about it, you know best what your child needs to grasp a difficult topic. And if your first attempt fails…try, try again! That is what we are here for. That is another HUGE benefit to homeschooling: you can teach in as many different methods as your child needs until they understand.
The world is round – I chose this topic because we have a very detailed puzzle of the United States. I had used it to try to help Heidi and Daniel understand our move from Florida to Illinois, and then our move from Illinois to Georgia and how that brought us closer to our family. From there, Heidi became obsessed with doing that puzzle (because it meant she had guaranteed one-on-one time with Mommy). She eventually got to the point that she knew where all 50 states went and what several of their names were! I could tell that neither of them had an understanding of what “world” meant so I decided to use the puzzle to help teach them.
First, we went outside, sat on the front porch, and had them tell me everything they could see. That same week I was teaching them the creation story (I’ll talk more about that in my next post) so I also talked about Who made everything they were seeing and how it was called the world or Earth.
I had downloaded Google Earth onto my phone and had already found our house on it. We talked for a little bit about what we were seeing: the house, our back patio, the trampoline next door, our driveway, and the road that we take walks on around our neighborhood. I wanted to make sure they truly understood what they were seeing. Next, I said that we needed to pretend that there was a rocket ship in our backyard and we were about to blast off. We did the countdown and when we shouted: “BLAST OFF!” I started slowly zooming out, continuously talking through what we were seeing.
Once we got far enough out that we could see the outline of Georgia, I showed them how it matched the shape in THE puzzle. Same with the United States. We kept going until they could see the whole world. They were blown away that it looked like a ball! After that, we colored a picture of the world that I had printed off and tried to make a globe out of playdough.
See, what that so overwhelming? Now, I will admit, not every topic is that simple. We just tackled God/Heaven vs Satan/Hell and…OOOOO DOGGIE! But I can’t begin to describe to you how much comprehending that has helped them understand the need for obedience and changed their attitude when they are corrected! Taking the time to teach your children, broaden their horizons, or add depth to their souls, is always worth it!
My biggest tip is to move slowly and make sure they feel free to ask questions at any time. Also, after teaching them a new concept, keep your ears open to hear if anything needs clarifying. Their response will be your one cue as to whether or not they understand.
I promise, the more you get creative, think outside the box, and learn what helps your child understand, the easier this will become. You can do it, Mommy!
The final thing I want to talk about today is the schedule we follow:
- Monday – Chore Education/Workbook/World Concept
- Tuesday – Chore Education/Workbook/Bible
- Wednesday – Chore Education/Workbook/World Concept
- Thursday – Chore Education/Workbook/Bible
- Friday – Fun craft day!
This is all done during my infant’s 1.5 hour morning naptime. If we have time left over, we either do the flashcards or play a game – depending on their preference. They are young and you don’t want to push them to do “school” because right now they have a very good and exciting mentality about it. I want to hold on to that!
Remember, this school time every day is just the tip of the iceberg. At the very heart of homeschooling is the idea that we should never stop learning and that there are opportunities to reinforce what we are teaching ALL DAY LONG! Practice makes perfect!