Posted in Blog

Tips for Low-Stress Homeschooling from an Instructional Designer

I’ve built a career creating face-to-face and online learning for adults. Now I find myself like many others spontaneously needing to homeschool my kids. We are in a slightly unique situation that our public school teachers haven’t reached out to us with specific lesson plans yet for the first grader, so we’re largely left to our own devices.

The Internet has exploded with ideas of things to do with your kids. I’ve explored some of them, but I’m taking a different approach. I promise they are all very simple and easy to implement. I am NOT prepping instruction. There’s enough stress and to dos on my plate right now with everyone stuck at home while I’m working that I’m not adding to it anymore than necessary.

Ask Them What They Want To Learn

At ages 4 and 7, I don’t really care what subjects they learn about, but I need them to be excited about it to keep their interest. It’s motivation theory 101. I just need the 1st grader to read, write, and do some math. My pre-K kid is ready for kindergarten, but we’re working on fine motor skills and starting to learn to read. I can meet these objectives regardless of the subject. Mr. 7-year-old wants to learn how a lot of things work: eyes, drawbridges, trees, etc. (Look, STEM!) Mr. 4-year-old wants to learn how to do things, like stop a baby from crying (?) and how to see things far away.

Get Moving

Sure, we have plenty of worksheets for the kids that I found online or received from pre-K teachers that we work through, but they can’t do those for hours a day. Even for adults, you don’t want them sitting all day listening to a lecture. You have to get them up and moving!

We have been lucky that the weather has been nice, so we’re going outside every day. I’ve been pulling out the chalk and creating games for the kids to play. One day I wrote a few sentences and had the kids jump to each word I said to complete the sentence. Once they mastered that, I explained pronouns, verbs, and adverbs and had them jump to different types of words to build their own sentences. They then added their own new words and had each other jumping around for 30 minutes or so.

Another day I created a number line and gave the kids math problems to solve. They had to jump to the correct number. We were able to cover low number addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division.

Word learning with pronouns, verbs, and adverbs

Integrate Assignments

Since we’re focused on reading and writing with my first grader, I look for ways he can practice both in whatever activity we’re doing. He wanted to learn about the eyes, so we read a related book, watched an online video, and found a Nat Geo kids webpage. I encouraged Mr. 7-year-old to take notes while learning. I then created quick, handwritten worksheets for each kid that they had to read to answer questions about what we learned. Of course, the questions I gave Mr. 4-year-old were different than the ones I gave Mr. 7-year-old, and I helped Mr. 4-year-old read his worksheet. When we next practiced handwriting, they had to trace a paragraph about eyes that I made at worksheetworks.com.

Use What You Have

I’m not a Pinterest mom. I’m largely not interested in arts and crafts. I don’t have a stash of toilet paper rolls or egg cartons to make all of these cute projects with the kids. But, we do have tons of generic art supplies, like paint, clay, coloring books, markers, etc. We also have about 10 million toys. They are all at my disposal for learning. We can use board games to learn colors, shapes, words, math, whatever. We have a bunch of STEM toys the kids have been given over the years stashed away in corners of the playroom. I pulled them out and have them in our homeschool area (the space formerly known as the dining room) to use when the mood strikes.

I will admit, the hardest part of this approach is that I’m with the kids the entire time they’re working, which means I’m NOT working during homeschool time. I can’t leave them in front of a computer to work on their own. I don’t think that approach would typically work for Mr. 7-year-old for any length of time and forget it for Mr. 4-year-old. Well, I take that back, they have fallen in love with ABC Mouse. I’m not sure how much they’re learning on that site, but it is educational and they love it. My oldest mentioned in conversation that something was in the shape of a cylinder. I asked how he knew that word, and he said he learned it on ABC Mouse, so that’s something!

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