We're finishing up week 11 of our school year here at home! So, since I'm technically NOT a beginner anymore, I want to share some tips and tricks that have simplified our school days!
AND CLEAR THE WAY FOR THE TIPS....
(It's completely okay if your drumroll consisted of toddler demands or feet running through the house-that's how we roll too!)
1. THE MASTER PLAN RULES!!!
Ready. Set. SCHOOL!!! Many of us know that feeling! I spent so much time and energy into getting ready for our first homeschool year! It was all a learning experience and once the train actually started to roll, it allowed me many things to hang onto....and showed me what would be unnecessary! So, for the sake of efficiency, I scrapped some of my original plan in lesson making and such! However, I have clung to that MASTER PLAN and it has turned into one of my greatest homeschooling tools! No matter what the week brings or life throws our way, I can change up the day because I am one of those crazy Mama's.....you know the kind that educates her OWN children! ;) And, because of my original Master Plan, I can do so with the confidence of being exactly where I want to be in our progress-give or take a day or two!
HERE'S MY 'MASTER PLAN' PLAN......
A. Curriculum arrived....I oohed and aahed and flipped through the fresh books.
B. I then proceeded to break down each subject for each kid into the number of weeks I wanted our school year to consist of. I chose to follow the flow of the local public school calender-except I choose what days and weeks to take off! I used the Lesson Plan Section of Mardel-A Simple Plan's online FREE planner!
C. Each week, I prepare an outline of what we need to accomplish to get where we need to be (using my master plan for guidance). This is SO easy and I never have to wonder where we are because I simply grab my master plan!
Each kid has an individual plan of course! This is a PRIME example of how a few hours of work before the year began has saved me immeasurable time, stress, and energy as the weeks go by!
2. FLASH CARD BASICS
Drill. Drill. Drill. Drill. Drill. Okay, since we have that established-here's my tip......
A. Organize with a coupon/bill organizer found at any local retailer! These come super cheap at dollar stores or you can let go of a few more pennies to buy one to better suit your style! I have divided mine into sections by student/subject/covered/not covered.....you get the picture!
B. Use page protectors to cover your full sized material! For Kindergarten, I use many of these pages such as the Hundreds Chart (which I customized for Miss Priss as a reward), basic alphabet for handwriting and reference, and BLEND LADDERS! We love our phonics curriculum, but I have added blend ladders for extra help and practice. If your child is struggling with 'putting sounds together' or discouraged with pre-reading or reading in general....these are great memorization and drill material. So great, that they gave my girl the extra boost of confidence! We keep these all in one tidy little folder and they may even make it into a binder one day! These exact blend ladders can be found at confessionsofahomeschooler.com. Just click on the link to go visit and land directly at the post where you find these handy pages!
3. FIELD TRIP IT!
Believe it or not, you do this already....all of the time! Once you switch your family over to a learning 'frame of mind', you'll be amazed at how naturally and easily the teaching (and learning) will come, for all of you involved! The local fair. A seasonal fun day (think Pumpkin Patch or Tree Farm), local festivals (you wouldn't believe the local heritage and history to be found at such), a day at the zoo with friends (what is there NOT to learn), or a road trip to see family (reference THIS POST to see how a simple roadie binder turns this into a fun, real life geography lesson). My kids know more about some states and their locations before they're even introduced to them in a school setting!
My point is....chances are that you and your children learn together already! OWN that and claim it for what it is....learning life! A simple change in how we see things with our kids opens up endless opportunity! There's nothing better than a trip to the zoo turning into a simple biology lesson....on accident!
4. BREAK IT UP AND GO WITH THE FLOW
Morning break! Aaaaahhhh, one of the best times of our day! I get these kids in here and I work them....until I've pushed just enough to get their best of the morning without discouragment You'll know that moment when it comes....TRUST ME! Then outside it is.....
Fresh air, natural Vitaman D from the sun, plenty of exercise, spontaneous nature art, puppy play....what is there NOT to love about this! Some days we go out and get back in 20 minutes later for a snack. There's been MANY days we end up outside for an hour or more...and we go with it! We believe in strong, sturdy, old fashion, hit the books curriculum! We also believe in family, real life, and our kids learning to love the world around them! So, the breaks and the in-between of formal school days is when you will find us "unschooling".
Walk in the woods turning into plant and tree identification, taught exclusively by Daddy himself!
Squirrel season + break time + perfect coincidence= extended morning break to skin squirrel, spontaneous squirrel anatomy lesson, comparison to how God made our bodies anatomically, and discussion of how many chambers a squirrel's heart must have. And yes, that did lead to us finding out for ourselves! LOL!
DISCLAIMER: If you have a problem with the above example-let me just state that at least our anatomy experiment served dinner as well, therefore we didn't waste the rest! Also, God gave us domain over the animals, and permission to eat them for supper. And last but not least....if ever without food, my kids could hunt, kill, and eat the little furry guys to survive! Disclaimer complete!
Mornings that break turn into a family football game on the gravel road. Priceless.
A picture can say this so much better......
5. ROUTINE ROUTINE ROUTINE
Firm believer here! The proof is in the pudding and we thrive on it...the kids AND this Mama! We have a very firm schedule of early wakeup, breakfast, morning responsibilities, then meet me in the school room! We basically school on a set schedule of 7:30-noon, give or take a few minutes. Some days we get it all done and even more to be ahead of said master plan! Other days, we've had a rough go of it, and things are left undone! The 'set time' has given me the flexibility of having 2 great advantages.
A. We often get ahead which lets us 'catch up' on future days when something comes up or you know....life happens!
B. If you homeschool, or if you're a parent in general, you know that life NEVER goes as planned, we ALL have our down days, and sometimes things just don't work the way we want them to. That's life! That's also school! So, when it's been rough-this allows us to just stop at stop time and go about our daily lives!
Option A covers B and B covers A. It's a win win. An additional bonus is that I have eliminated the sibling argument of who gets to be done first. Yep....they have yet to accept the fact that that different grade levels mean different amount of works, which makes it fair. Not gonna happen here, so this eliminates any need to address such argument!
We multitask 'individual child spare time' with online supplements. ABCmouse.com for my K girl and PreK boy and typingweb.com for my 3rd grader. Free kid time + I need to individually teach=wonderful time to sneak in extra learning! Or, they just draw or create!
These simple concepts have made our days flow much smoother than without them! And it's the PLAN and the ROUTINE that allow me the extra freedom to let each individual child grow, thrive, and learn outside of the classroom! We are happy with these things! For us....they work!