But I also didn’t share some of the things that are going well. So whilst I may share a few more of our ‘challenges’, I wanted to focus today on some of the homeschool wins.
Encouraging curiosity and improvisation
Young kids are incredibly curious. Sometimes I wonder if Solo’s only word is ‘why’. And when we are curious about something, we are better able to learn. But we lose our curiosity over time. Some people claim this is down to traditional schooling. But I’m not curious enough to look into it.
Curiosity can be a problem in traditional schooling. If you’re a teacher in the middle of a Spanish lesson and a kid asks a question about how much money a bike costs, you’re likely to shut the question down. I know, because I was that teacher. I just wanted to finish Spanish so that I could have a break.
But after my initial push back, I realized my mistake and we went back to Yoda’s bike cost question. That meant we could cover some math, had some excellent follow up on the importance of saving, before learning how to translate ‘money’ and ‘bike’ into Spanish. Spanish lesson complete!
We want our kids to be ‘drunk on curiosity’ (Ben Killoy).
But we’re not perfect in engaging our kids’ curiosity. Particularly when its at lights out time and everyone just has ‘one’ more question.
Side-stepping ‘Resource Overwhelm’
Our initial response when we went into lockdown was to search for lots of resources to keep our kids busy and engaged. Then the school sent some work. And various parents’ groups started helpfully sharing resources. Then family members and teacher friends started sending their recommendations. And it became overwhelming and never-ending. You can spend so much time assessing different resources, you never end up using any.
We decided very early to pick some that we knew and trusted, and to stick to these.
These are our tried and tested resources (and I appreciate the irony in adding to YOUR list):
An amazing (totally FREE) app with a huge selection of learning activities, including books, brain puzzles, math and literacy games for 2 to 7-year-olds. It’s something we’ve been using for some time, our kids love it (in part because it’s on a screen) and we happily let them, without feeling ‘the guilt’. But you can also go to the main website for a ton of resources for older ages (and adults if you fancy a free course in entrepreneurship or computer programming?!)
Kids books on audible are currently FREE! A wonderful resource to have. It’s like reading to your child, for hours. Except you are not. Someone else (who is much better at it) is doing the reading, while you are relaxing with a cup of coffee. Win.
“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales. If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
This website has a worksheet for ANYTHING. Historically I have not been a fan of worksheets – but now I am ‘the teacher’, I am totally on board with any pre-made teaching material. In addition, Twinkl has A TON of great resources, posters, some teaching videos and games. But best of all, Twinkle has an amazing FREE offer that has been indefinitely extended! Click on this link www.twinkl.co.uk/offer and enter the code CVDTWINKLHELPS. (If you are logging in from outside the UK – you may need a VPN).
Mrs Chaos printed out specific worksheets for Leia as she struggling with converting between analog /digital time. And she downloaded a 20 page Pirate workbook for Yoda with everything from word searches, to coloring pirate math problems and making your own eyepatch. For the twins, she printed out pencil control worksheets and a colorful set of number / letter / picture cards. Everyone was happy busy. Homeschooling win.
5. Educational Toys
We intentionally downsized our toy collection when we left Zambia. See HERE for a full review of our favorite STEM toys (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) such as Lego and Playmags. Mrs Chaos would also like to add Geomags as they have some overlap with Magnet tile varieties but are also very useful for geometry.
Screen time doesn’t have to be a negative thing, our kids love animals and have loved the series Seven Worlds, One Planet (BBC). It’s a seven-part documentary series about animal life in each of the seven continents narrated by Sir David Attenborough, and will fill kids like Yoda with endless fun facts. But in reality, pretty much any documentary will do. Most kids will sit there regardless of whether they are enjoying it. Learning by absorption = win.
7. Passion projects
If our kids show an interest in something, we will (energy levels permitting) develop a project idea with them and hunt around for ideas and resources so they can explore it. Kids learn when they are interested.
As soon as children find something that interests them they lose their instability and learn to concentrate.
We’ve tried to incorporate regular video calls for our kids with their friends and grandparents. Mrs C’s family have a zoom call three times a week.
They’ve also had calls with school friends, friends from their time in Zambia, and friends from Scotland. It’s helped our kids with their sense of connection to the outside world. Though I’m not going to lie – some of the calls with their friends are incredibly painful. You sometimes wonder if it’s a competition to keep quiet for the longest.
Initially we couldn’t handle the awkwardness, so it ended up being two parents prompting their kids with questions. Our solution :
Give them a list of some questions they can ask in advance of the call
Don’t be there when they have the call
It is however developing their conversational skills.
Its also been great for easing them into the world of technology – and they are already incredibly proficient. Now if someone could come up with a way of teaching grandparents how to use zoom…
Learning moments don’t have to be in ‘school time’
The best learning moments often happen outside of ‘school time’. It’s not always easy, but when these opportunities come up, we try to follow through on them.
Last week Mrs C decided to introduce the kids to musicals by watching Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat as a family. She loved singing the songs as a kid, however, she had never watched the film version.
So Mrs Potiphar’s (Joan Collins) costume (lack of) was somewhat of a surprise.
There was a quick scramble to fast forward the scene. But not fast enough, as Leia couldn’t understand what Mrs Potiphar wanted to do with Joseph.
Leia is like an elephant. She never forgets – unless it is chores / homework / clothes lying on the floor. So she waited for a full explanation until the end of the movie. I ushered the boys out and allowed Mrs C to have an impromptu awkward conversation with our eldest.
Our twins are only 4 years old and whilst we spend some time on learning activities with them, the majority of their time is spent playing by themselves and with each other. We did have concerns as to how this would go, given they would lose a concentration contest to Dory.
We have been pleasantly surprised by how often both of them have appeared at snack-time without any significant injuries. In fact, one of the best aspects of the enforced lockdown is how well the twins have been able to keep themselves occupied and to play with each other for extended periods.
Their play almost always revolves around engineering toys like PlayMags and Lego. So even though they are playing a lot of the time, they are learning about shapes and how to make structures more solid. And inevitably, the best ways to sabotage their brother’s creations.
The perfect chocolate chip cookie
One of the biggest successes came along disguised as a baking lesson for Leia – i.e. fractions, but really nutrition…
Mrs C has been trialling chocolate chip cookie recipes for years in search of the El Dorado of cookies. You know the one, perfectly crisp on the outside, but chewy in the middle with molten chunks of chocolate. She actually stumbled across this particular recipe awhile ago, however it got shelved because it is literally called ‘The 2-day cookie’. Anyway, lockdown means we’ve got a bit more time these days so…
All the health nuts will be glad to know that she balanced out this particular ‘coronary recipe’, by trying to get the kids to grow some veg.
We’ve toyed with the idea of homeschooling full time. Not necessarily a permanent arrangement – but one that would allow us to travel more flexibly for a year or two.
One thing is certain – this is not the time to judge whether homeschooling is suitable or not. When you’re stuck inside your four walls and can’t take kids exploring in a forest, to a museum, or a science center, then you’re not getting the full experience of how we would implement homeschool.
Our post last week focused on some of the lessons we have learned. But we have also had some educational successes. I think its important to reflect on these – particularly on the days when the sun seems less bright.
I wish none of this had happened.
So do all who live to see such times, but that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given to us.