For those of you suddenly thrust into the world of homeschooling, I’m here to help. Having been a teacher and principal for twenty-five years as well as a parent and grandparent, I understand the difficulties. No, I did not have to do what you’re doing right now, but I did raise kids, go to school and work at the same time, and I have strong memories of being stretched so thin I thought I’d snap in two. Over the course of my 25-year career in education, government testing increased in number and frequency with each passing year. I had to learn to do more in less time and ensure that each lesson with the children made a lasting impact far beyond the test scores. I’m writing today to pass some of my best tips and techniques on to you, in hopes it will ease your load.
You are hereby given your independence to try something different. Traditionally, we have known school to be a series of isolated subjects chopped up into 45-minute segments. The classroom was one big transition from being done with one thing in order to start another. Is that what your kitchen table looks like these days? “Which do you want to do first, math or reading?”I invite you to try something called “integrated learning.” Fold skills and ides together in a way that makes sense. Like baking a cake, the medley of ingredients creates the cake, not each ingredient by itself.
Start by ditching the textbook. I mean it. Do you need to complete a worksheet on adjectives and adverbs to know your child understands them? Just use them. A lot. When you are having breakfast and talking about the day, use adjectives and adverbs and point them out. Play Mad Libs for some fun family time as well as learning the parts of speech.Talk about parts of speech when you are reading a bedtime story. Get excited every time you or they see or hear one-no kitchen table required.
Here are a few examples of how one activity can count for two:
1. Combine Writing and History. When looking at your child’s assignments, you see he is studying the American Revolution and also has a writing assignment in English class. Can his writing assignment also count for demonstrating his learning about the American Revolution? If the writing assignment requires informational writing skills, that’s perfect. If it requires point of view writing, that’s perfect. If it requires persuasion, that’s perfect.
2. Combine Science and Math. Let’s say your elementary school child is learning about recycling in Science. Recycle at home to group items according to materials. Al sorts of basic mathematical operations can happen here, as well as graphing to compare recyclables. How many bins do you have and how many pieces do you have? Do the pieces divide equally into each bin? Do you have a remainder? Take it a step further. Write a letter to the recycling center with any insights they gained about home recycling. An older child can write a persuasive essay asking for more free bins to better separate the recyclable items. Bingo! Math, science and writing done in one swoop.
3. Your child is learning about telling time and understanding the difficult concept of elapsed time. Use your day’s activities to teach.Ask children how much time they have left to play before bedtime? Tell them you’re starting dinner at 6:10 tonight. Ask them to keep track of how long you are taking to eat today. What time did you finish? How much time has gone by? Did dinner take longer than lunch?
That’s the basic idea. Take a look at the learning requirements for each of your subjects, and wherever you possibly can, combine them. Use your home and real life as the primary source for learning-not the textbook. My hope for you is that you’ll be able to cut down on the number of hours needed to satisfy requirements, feel more freedom ad confidence as you grow into this new role, and enjoy learning with your children at home.
I am here to help. Ask me questions and good luck!
Such great ideas and advice! I too am a grandmother, (my grandkids go to the same school as yours!) and I want my daughter to read this, so I’m forwarding it to her. We also need to recognize and appreciate the fact that today’s working mothers have become home schooling teachers in addition to managing their work requirements. This is very difficult and it leaves them little time to think creatively about education.
On another note, I just finished reading your book and loved it! I cried with you and I am happy you found an outlet in writing, as I did. I remember Mark and you very well from when we lived in Westchester.