Today we are sharing our advice for those families with Kindergartners through 2nd graders. We are sharing with you the things we wish we would have realized about this age when we began homeschooling!
Focus on reading, writing, and math. Do you know what your child needs to be successful in every other subject? Reading, writing, and math skills. Focus on building these foundational skills every day. Do not get bogged down with trying to incorporate science, social studies, languages, art, music, etc. into every single school day. Their attention spans won’t allow for it, and you all will end up frustrated. Set them up with the basics and a love for learning now--you will thank yourself in years to come! Pick and choose what you incorporate into your day; some days you can do more, and some days you can’t--balance is critical. You can do so many of those “extras” through language arts, exploration, and play. Don’t overdo book work, workbooks, and busy work in these early years just to feel like you are “doing school.” If you choose to continue to homeschool into the middle and high school years, you will be spending plenty of time focusing on all of those other subjects. You do not want you and your children to be burned out of “learning” before you get there.
Explore and play. Give these little ones plenty of time to explore, discover, and play. Research has shown these activities are crucial for children’s minds to create lasting connections. It is necessary to plan free time into your day to support this learning. You will often find your children playing with the concepts you are teaching them. When some of my kids were younger, we had spent some time learning about knights and castles. Later on in the day, I heard my kids upstairs in their bedroom playing legos and building castles. Later that week, the big box was being decorated like a castle. They even requested we eat a meal just like they did in medieval times. Learning pours over into their play. It’s how they process the world around them. Give them time to do the “work” of playing.
Deep dive into their passions. Most kids at this age have particular interests that consume them (dinosaurs, animal groups, knights & castles, etc.). Creating units around those topics allows them to take a deep dive into that information. Plus, units are an excellent way to incorporate a variety of subjects....and the best part-- you can create a unit about ANYTHING! When kids learn deeply, they will remember it forever--one of my daughters went through a dinosaur learning phase (for years!!)--even though she is a teen, she can still discuss specifics on dinosaurs that I have long forgotten! Why? Because we took the time to pursue her interest. You can dive deeply into topics for a few weeks or months (or years in our case!--by the way, she did learn other content during that time, but in her free time she would be reading books about dinosaurs).
Everyone needs quiet time. Take time each day to have a period of quiet time for everyone in the house. They need this...and so do you! This can include a book time in their room or on the couch, or a coloring time while listening to soft music. Audiobooks are great options during this time too. Some children do well playing quietly with legos, blocks, or other toys. One last tip--make this a screen-free time. They may struggle with this at first, but soon it will become routine. Just realize that most days, a bit of downtime will give everyone some space to rejuvenate for the rest of the day!
Early elementary routines. If you are coming out of a public school situation, please do not feel you need to do school from 8 am-3 pm every day. Your day to day life will be filled with learning opportunities, so you might only do “school work” for an hour or two when they are this young. Take advantage of learning opportunities throughout your day; let them help make meals, fold laundry, or put things away. While cooking or folding laundry, it is natural to have conversations about fractions and measurements or even colors! While running errands, you can practice counting by 2’s, 5’s, 10’s, etc. You can also have fun with reading signs you may pass on the road. Talk about money when you pay at a store and ask how much change you should get back. When my kids were learning to read and write, I would have them help me write the grocery list. We would practice spelling words, letter formation, and reading, and it was always amusing to see what “extra” items they would attempt to add to the list. Learning comes very naturally throughout your day to day activities! (Read additional information on scheduling versus routines here.)
Testing. Also, please do not worry too much about testing at this age--public schools need to assess everything to collect data to track progress. It is so much more important to develop a love of learning at this age--your children (and you) will reap the benefits from being an eager learner for the rest of their lives! Not only this, but learning to understand and having knowledge on a topic is vastly different from learning facts just to pass a test. The retention rate of what your children learn will be much higher when the motivation is interest-based and not just to pass a test.
A few final strategies to incorporate when working with these young learners include short lessons, giving breaks, adapting curriculum as needed, and establishing a predictable routine (as best you can!). Fill this time with joyful learning opportunities and exploration so you can truly relish this precious age!
You got this!