Summer Homeschool Schedule for Learning

Do We Homeschool Year-Round? Our Summer Learning Routine

 

It’s summer vacation for most of us in the United States. For many parents, that means figuring out ways to occupy the kiddos.

I’m quickly becoming a mom-group junkie, especially when it comes to homeschool groups. Since summer schedules seem to be a hot topic, I figured I’d go ahead and write a post detailing what a tentative summer schedule looks like in the Anderson household and how we incorporate learning.

But first, I owe you a quick update.

As most of you know we live in Georgia, which means summer break started in May. So far, our boys have enjoyed weekly VBS’s, sports camp, swimming lessons, summer movie screenings, community events, playdates, and more. This is probably one of the busiest summers in our entire homeschool career. Most importantly, our boys are learning things that textbooks can’t teach. Things like how to be a team player, respond to mean kids, meet new friends, and grow in self-confidence.

While summer break is the perfect time to take advantage of all the social opportunities it has to offer, many new homeschooling parents beg the question; How do I prepare my children for the next academic year?

There’s no right answer to this question but let me present you with a few studies. Consider this study that reveals students lose a significant amount of knowledge in reading, math, and spelling during summer. This learning loss accumulates over time leading to a regression in academic proficiency, which we all refer to as the summer slide.

There’s no denying that taking a substantial break from academics poses the risk for children to forget key learning concepts. For this reason, you’ll find that the average curriculum incorporates a review of previously learned material for the first few lessons. Therefore, summer learning loss is already accounted for.

However, if you’re like me and want your children to build fluency during summer, incorporating learning into your summer routine doesn’t have to be a battle. Here are some ideas for how you can encourage your child to continue flourishing during summer months.

 

1. Implement a family reading time.

In our home, I implemented what I like to call a “reading hour.” During this time, everyone grabs something to read, their favorite snack, and hangs out in the family room reading together silently. Afterward, everyone can discuss what they’ve read. For children who aren’t readers yet, try read-alouds or let them listen to an audiobook with headphones on. For struggling readers, research shows that reading just six books during the summer may keep a struggling reader from regressing.

 

2. Make fluency practice easy.

If you don’t mind screens, installing apps like Prodigy, Elephant Learning, Reading Eggs, Epic, and more, can turn tablet time into fun fluency practice. Learning apps are not only a nice break from worksheets, but they also make incorporating summer learning easier on parents by allowing them to create academic goals and track progress. While some of these apps aren’t free, there are a ton of free ones available for download. Some apps even come with a free trial, so take advantage.

 

3. Focus on learning a new skill.

In our home, we carve out some time to encourage our boys to learn something new. We not only want them to retain what they’ve learned, but also increase what they know. Learning new skills sharpens their brains and builds confidence. Some great ideas we’ve tried are:

  • Following drawing tutorials
  • Learning how to play a new song on the keyboard
  • Learning to code a video game
  • Following dance tutorials
  • Learning life skills like tying shoelaces, riding a bicycle, swimming, etc.

 

4. Enter a contest and win money for college.

I’m excited to share this opportunity with you all. Education.com is holding a Limitless Learners Contest for a chance for six students to earn $500 toward college and $1000 to donate to their elementary school or local library. There are no strings attached. All your child/ren must do is this:

Describe a time when you were having so much fun, you didn’t realize you were learning something new!

Kindergartners may draw or paint a picture to reflect their answer, while older kids can write a short story, poem, or even a comic strip. Deadline is October 31, 2019, but why not utilize summer break to sharpen your child’s writing skills and craft a winning response? See details, here.

 

5. Implement a reward system.

I’m a believer in incentives. In our home, screen time is a big deal, so I use that to my advantage. This summer, learning how to spell new words will grant my boys an allotment of precious Minecraft time. Of course, I had to make it fun by printing out this list of key Minecraft terms. I told my boys if they’re going to be playing the game, they need to know the spelling and definition of each term. The result? Over 40 words learned in just one week for my 9-year-old. My 6-year-old also learned 15 new words.

 

6. Develop the whole child.

Some parents focus solely on academics and unknowingly neglect other skills equally important for ensuring a child’s potential for learning, growth, and wellbeing. Outside cognitive development, other skills that should be challenged and developed are physical, social, emotional, and creative skills. In our home, we’ve also added spirituality to the list. How does this whole child approach play into academics? In short, research suggests children who are emotionally and physically healthy are higher academic achievers. But did we really need research to know that? Summer is the perfect time to check in on your child’s socio-emotional, physical, and spiritual health. Some books to read with your kiddos are:


 

If you need inspiration crafting a summer schedule, check out ours below. Keep in mind this schedule is always changing depending on what we do that day, but it comprises all the things we’d like to incorporate into our schedule when we’re at home. I love schedules for children not only because knowing what’s expected encourages positive behavior, but they also teach time management and responsibility.

Summer schedule for home school

What does your summer routine consist of? Let me know in the comment section!

Help Boys learn Effectively

10 Methods to Help Boys Maximize Their Learning Potential

Over the past few months, my oldest son tried a hand at musical theater. That meant extra rehearsals for him and lots of downtime for mom, as I accompanied him.

They performed Beauty and the Beast last week, he was Phillippe, among other characters, and the performance was great. Just in case you’re curious.

During my downtime, I had the luxury of reading one of the books I checked out from the library a couple weeks ago, Boys and Girls Learn Differently! A Guide for Teachers and Parents. I wasn’t purposely looking for this book. It simply fell into my hands while reaching for another book about homeschooling on the same shelf. Nevertheless, the title of this book intrigued me, and I decided to keep it.

Let me paint the picture: my boys often stand when they work, pace when they read, don’t seem to know what walking or a quiet voice is, protest sitting still at any capacity, will mope about writing a book report on a classic novel but willingly write about the history of Minecraft, are drawing and coding fanatics, would rather listen to me read than read on their own, are so video game obsessed that I have to forbid it on weekdays—and the list goes on. 

As a woman, most days I just don’t understand them. But I love learning about their unique ways of learning and how I can better facilitate this process. I’m not here to change them. They’re fine as they are. I’m here to change the way I teach them.

Now, I’m no newbie to research regarding learning differences between boys and girls. Yet, this book taught me some new things and gave me great ideas on how I could foster a healthier learning environment for my boys. I’ve also linked other great resources in my post, should you want to investigate a little further.

I’m not here to debate whether boys or girls learn differently. Truthfully, some of the following tips—as proven by research—are useful for children in general. However, I won’t negate that some of the following methods I’ve applied to my homeschool have worked in our favor.

Although I’m looking through the lens of home education, please note that most of my research came from a traditional classroom perspective. So, don’t fret if you’re not a homeschooler, these tips will certainly work for your family or classroom, too!


Here are 10 Methods to Help Boys Maximize Their Learning Potential

 

1. Forget the desk and chairs.

Trust me—let him move! A boy’s autonomic nervous system causes them to be more alert when they’re standing and moving. Why? Movement activates all the brain cells boys use to learn. Research suggests that children who are more active show greater attention, have faster cognitive processing speed, and are better test-takers than children who are less active.

 

2. Schedule learning time after outdoor play or physical activity.

Jumping straight into morning learning may not be your best bet. If your little buddy is reluctant to learning, check back with him after he’s had a little outdoor playtime or physical activity. Why? Other than my aforementioned point about movement activating those “learning” brain cells, a study showed that young children who were given recess worked more or fidgeted less than when they were not given recess. Additionally, a 2016 study found that young boys who spent more time sitting and less time playing didn’t progress as quickly in reading and mathematics.

 

3. Let him draw it out.

Have your child draw pictures of a story in sequential order before they write a summary. Why?  Drawing can be used as a mechanism to help students recall details in a story or text before beginning the writing process. In fact, a study contended students who drew before writing tended to produce more words, more sentences and more idea units, and their overall writing performance was higher than the students who wrote without drawing. This method can also be applied to solving math problems and studying informational facts.

Check out my resource Book Report/Summary Guide for Beginners & Reluctant Writers

Book Report Guide for Reluctant Writers

 

4. Pace while you’re teaching a new concept.

Boys typically interpret the world as objects moving through space. We might just hold their attention if we become that moving object. Why? Research suggests instructors’ physical movement increases boys’ focus and engagement during lessons. So, try pacing and using wide-range movements when teaching new concepts.

 

5. Bond.

Young children learn best from whom they’re intimately attached. Therefore, it’s a good idea to intentionally bond with your child to help him reach his academic potential. Why? According to research, the brain needs bonding and attachment to fully grow and learn. Try asking your child about his interests or playing his favorite game with him before starting your lesson. Be sure to give him your undivided attention.

 

6. Establish a consistent routine.

An unstructured routine can cause boys to lose that sense of security they crave, inhibiting their behavior and learning. Why? While children’s brains need freedom to discover information, they also need structure and order to turn that information into a learning experience. Research shows that boys with a structured routine exhibited better behavior in the classroom. However, boys without good structure or had a recent change in their routine exhibited more stress and behavioral problems than their peers.

 

7. Eat a good breakfast.

Time to ditch those refined carbs in the morning and give your lad a breakfast that’s high in fiber and protein. Why? Cereal and other refined carb breakfast foods raise glucose levels and cause jitters in boys—in addition to causing them to feel low. Consequently, according to research, boys tend to become impulsive during sugar crashes, spiking behavioral problems. Of course, if your child does any sort of physical activity in the mornings, unrefined carbs are okay to have.

 

8. Add Omega 3’s to his diet.

It’s a good idea to add Omega-3 fatty acids to your child’s diet to support optimal brain development. Why? Psychiatric and neurological disorders, such as ADHD (a common diagnosis for boys) have been linked to Omega-3 deficiency. Foods rich in Omega-3s are mackerel, salmon, cod liver oil, sardines, and oysters, among others. Got a picky eater? My boys love omega swirl fish oils.

 

9. Learn Outdoors.

Toss the textbooks and let nature be his teacher. Why? Research suggests the great outdoors helps stimulate the learning brain and resolve behavioral nuances. According to other studies, access to nature has also been shown to decrease the symptoms of ADHD. So, let your child have a change of scenery and go explore hidden treasure in your city or town. Beautiful greenery, flowers, rivers, and waterfalls. Creepy crawly creatures and local wildlife (albeit harmless). Or, simply take your workload and sit on a bench at a beautiful park and let the sunrays delight your child while he studies.

 

10. Give him power over his education.  

Try letting your child help you pick out his curriculum, create enrichment activities, and/or choose the time of day he’d like to work on his lessons. Why? Research shows most behavioral problems in males stem from their desire for attention and power. Therefore, giving your child some power over his education may result in him being more receptive to learning and staying engaged. Just be sure when offering choices to your son that you offer preset options that you can live with either way.


 

Got any more tips or resource recommendations for teaching boys? Leave a comment below and share the wealth!

How to Combat Summer Learning Loss

Summer Schedule to Combat Learning Loss and Restore Order + FREEBIE

The summer vacation sort of crept up on us.

In Georgia, most kids are out of school by the third week of May. But in our homeschool, summer vacation wasn’t supposed to begin until June.

What happened?

My second-grader decided he wanted to take his final assessments early. All his friends at church were already out of public school, and he wanted to join the crowd.

So, I let him.

It was a win-win, really. We had a family trip approaching and I thought It’d be nice to come back home and not have to worry about school work.

The problem?

After that lovely trip to Maryland, where we got to visit my siblings and explore the beauty of Washington, DC, there was total chaos in our home. Fighting over games, tablets, toys, and personal space ensued. Our living room floor was full of Legos, art supplies, and Cheerios. Our kitchen sink housed every single dish from the cabinets by the end of the day. And I was close to losing it.

Capitol Building Washington, DC
Our Family Trip to Maryland Included a Day-Trip to the Nation’s Capital

But then I remembered something; amid our travel adventures, I’d forgotten to write out our summer schedule. So, I did just that.

When I say peace was restored almost immediately, it’s no exaggeration. I showed the schedule to our boys and it was like a weight was taken off them. Knowing their daily expectations offered them a sense of security and control. Even more, creating a schedule that carried out my vision to combat summer learning loss gave me peace of mind.

Let’s not get it twisted. There are still those days when everyone’s mood clashes. Today, as I write this post, is one of them. However, incorporating a summer routine has definitely given us smoother days when we’re stuck at home.

So, what does the schedule entail?

The purpose of the schedule, other than to restore order, is to ensure our boys keep their brains sharp, limit technology usage, and learn something new this summer. I understand resting from the demands of schoolwork is essential for developing brains, but I also wanted to ensure our boys were spending a little time each day building fluency with old skills and taking the initiative to develop new ones.

Take a look at our summer schedule below and download your FREE editable copy, here!

Summer Schedule to Combat Learning Loss
Click the Image to Download Your Editable FREEBIE and Create Your Own Summer Schedule!

As you can see, I’ve split the schedule into three parts: mornings, afternoons, and evenings. Every morning, there are three requirements to enjoy afternoon screen time:

First, our boys must read at least one book or two chapters. My five-year-old is still new at reading so we’ve worked it out where my oldest son does shared-reading with him. There are several studies that illustrate the significance of summer reading to prevent learning loss. However, our reason for ensuring our children hit the books during summer vacation is to simply encourage the lifestyle of reading.

Boys Love to Read Books by Mo Willems
Our Boys Love to Read Books by Mo Willems

Second, our boys must do at least one math activity. I made each of them fun interactive activity binders that house at least 35 activities for math fluency practice. You can read more about it here or purchase it here. These binders are a great alternative to worksheets because the Velcro attachments allow for repeated use until mastery. Additionally, these activities are perfect for kinesthetic learners who thrive with hands-on learning.

Boys Interactive Math Binder
My Son Practices Fluency Using His Interactive Math Binder

Third, our boys must complete their chore checklist. This checklist is basically a reminder for them to clean up after themselves, which is super helpful to me. Since they’ll either be playing with their tablets or watching TV, completing their chores in the morning means the house is likely to stay tidy all afternoon. I laminated the checklist (and schedule) to make them reusable with dry-erase markers.

Chore Checklist for Kids
Chore Checklist for Kids

Believe it or not, these requirements only take my boys about an hour or two to complete after breakfast. After that, they usually build Legos or draw pictures until the afternoon. I also created a list of activities to choose from should they grow tired of building skyscrapers with their Legos or drawing Sonic characters with scrap paper.

Why have a summer schedule?

Like most children, my boys thrive on structure. It offers them a sense of control and limits the frustration that can often trigger defiance and sibling rivalry. I’ve also made it a requirement that both must complete their checklist before afternoon screen time, which encourages them to work as a team.

Schedules are also great for me and my husband, who work from home. We know that from noon until four in the evening is going to be the quietest time to get important things done since the kids are typically quiet during screen time. To be honest, they’re actually so quiet, they’ve finessed us into having longer screen time because we’ve lost track of the clock. We must remember to set that egg timer!

Lastly, schedules are a great way to ensure we reach our summer goals. In our case, our main goal was to ensure our children were still sharpening their brains and building new skills. Trust me when I say that summer learning loss is real, but over the years we’ve discovered that making fluency practice a requirement decreased the amount of re-teaching we’d have to do for reading and math in the Fall. Repetition is one of the keys to mastery for children.

What are some alternatives to screen time?

Evenings in our home are scheduled to help our boys get their minds off the screen. Children must be encouraged to try new things and develop interests apart from television and video games. Therefore, our schedule reminds the boys of some of the things they like to do. Those activities include:

  • Playing the keyboard
  • Cooking
  • Dancing
  • Listening to audiobooks
  • Telling jokes
  • Making crafts
  • Drawing pictures
  • Playing sports
  • Playing board games
  • Storytelling
  • Playing outside
  • Playing MadLibs
Educational Board Games for Boys
Board Games are Great Alternatives to Screen Time During Those Summer Days You’re Stuck at Home.

Not only are these activities fun, but they’re also a sneaky way to incorporate additional learning into our daily summer routine. Of course, most of these activities will hold the attention of older children. But if you have wee ones, visit my friends Zoe, Josephine, and Angela at ThinkBaby.org and read their post “FUN & EDUCATIONAL DIY CRAFT IDEAS FOR TODDLERS.” They’ve got an awesome website full of gems for new and veteran moms!

What happens when we’ve got somewhere to be?

Summer vacation is filled with camps, traveling, sports, swimming, fellowship, and much more! This week, my boys have Vacation Bible School in the mornings. Next week, they’ll have afternoon swimming at our local pool. We try as much as possible to keep them involved with outdoor activities. When we have somewhere to be, we just pick up the schedule where we left off.

For instance, after VBS, my boys complete all their morning requirements and enjoy screen time for the rest of the afternoon. Next week, morning requirements must be completed before afternoon swimming. The remainder of the schedule will commence when we return home in the evening.

Schedules are made to be broken in our home. Therefore, we invite spontaneity. We are known for taking impromptu trips out of town, fellowshipping with friends until the wee hours of the morning, and hopping in the car to attend that local event we just learned about an hour ago. It’s no big deal if we ditch the schedule for things we find more enriching to our lives.

Vacation Bible School FUN Time Travel
Vacation Bible School Shenanigans With My Futuristic 8-Year-Old
HEART 360 (2)
My Boys Had a Blast Spending Their Mornings at VBS Where the Theme Was “Time Travel.”

Why do we have so much screen time during summers?

Summer screen time is a treat because my boys are only allowed screen time on weekends during the school year. Screen time basically consists of anything from watching tutorials, to coding and playing video games. While the allotted time is from noon to four in the afternoon, I admit some days our boys are probably watching screens much longer than that.

My husband and I have no qualms about children and screens, but we do see the value in controlling the amount of time our boys spend watching screens in order to help them develop other interests. Likewise, we’ve recognized that eliminating screen time on school days helped increase their concentration and work ethic, as they no longer tried to “hurry up and finish” school work in order to get to their video games.

There are many scholarly articles that make a case for why screen time is or isn’t good for children. I say, it all boils down to what’s best for your family. I know parents who can’t do any screen time whatsoever due to their child/ren having sensory processing disorders. Our boys can handle limited screen time, but we do heavily restrict what they’re allowed to consume (i.e. no violent or inappropriate games or shows).

Coding on a MAC for Boys
My 8-Year-Old’s Favorite Pastime Is Coding New Games with Scratch.

I hope you enjoyed me sharing a glimpse of what our summer is looking like this year. I decided to write this post because some of you liked the summer schedule I posted on Instagram and I wanted a way to provide an editable copy for you. I also love sharing what works for me in hope that it may work for you, too.

If you’re looking for activities to do with your children this summer, I highly suggest connecting with your local library, homeschool group, or recreation center and check out their schedules. You’d be surprised how many free and low-cost activities these resources have to offer.

I want to hear from you: What are your summer plans? Let me know in the comments!

Homeschool | Help Your Child Work Independently

How to Help Your Child Work Independently

You may have read my post last week where I shared what a typical homeschool day-in-the-life looks like for my preschooler. This week, I will discuss how I was able to get my second-grader to work independently to award me more time to work with my four-year-old.

I’m surrounded by homeschool moms often, and I can pretty much gather there’s a common struggle with getting a child to work independently. One mom admitted she waits until her husband comes home to lay down the law, while another mom recently discovered her “independent worker” had been skipping assignments. Still, there are many moms who don’t even know where to begin.

We all fall short somewhere, but there is hope for those of us who struggle to get our children to complete their assignments on their own. This academic year, my goal was to get my second-grader to work independently on reading, spelling, and math at the very least. I can safely say that I’ve reached my goal and it’s taken a huge weight off my shoulders. I want to help you remove some weight, too. So, here goes!


16 Tips That Helped My Son to Work Independently


 

1. Make Daily Reading a Habit.

If you don’t follow any other tips on this post, at least follow this one! Strong reading fluency is the foundation for working independently. Why? Because your child will need strong reading skills to read and understand lessons on their assignments. Only continued practice will develop a fluent reader, so ensure your child reads every single day. My second-grader was required to read for one hour every day last year—including summers. This year, he easily spends an hour reading on assignments alone.

How to Get Your Child to Work Independently

2. Let Your Child Practice Reading Instructions.

Instead of reading the instructions to your child all the time, let him give it a shot. Reading instructions helps your child get familiar with words they may not encounter in everyday language but are common jargon for a subject. For instance, your child may never see the words “addition,” “subtraction,” or “multiplication” in a chapter book, but will need to become familiar with these terms to work independently on their math curriculum.

3. Don’t Skip Reading Comprehension.

When my oldest son was in kindergarten, he was required to complete one reading comprehension activity every morning. Of course, this was once he became a fluent reader. Reading comprehension is not only important for ensuring a child understands what he reads, it’s important because it puts the child into the practice of questioning if he understands what he reads. Therefore, when a child reads on his own, he will naturally look for evidence that the text is understood. This is essential for working independently because some children who lack reading comprehension skills may struggle with understanding lessons that accompany assignments.

Reading Comprehension Practice

4. Baby Steps Build Confidence.

I recommend starting a child off working independently as early as preschool. You can give them simple tasks like circling all the “A’s” on a worksheet and then “slip away” while they complete the task on their own. These baby steps will help the child build the confidence that they can successfully complete tasks in your absence. This tip is new to me, so I didn’t do this early training with my oldest son but have with my youngest. However, when my oldest son was in kindergarten, I would leave the room after a lesson while he completed the seatwork on his own. This practice gave him the confidence he needed to eventually work independently.

5. Read It Thrice Before Asking for Help.

Establishing a habit of reading the directions over three times will help cut down on asking for help prematurely. I don’t know how many times my second-grader came to me in a panic, only for me to ask him to reread the directions and for him to say, “oh, I understand now.” The rule of thumb is if after the third reread you still don’t understand the directions, I’ll be glad to help.

Helping a Child Work Independently

6. Make Consequences Clear and Concise.

Being a mom is hard enough. When your child doesn’t take you seriously, it makes the job even harder. To the mom with no backbone, here’s how to get one: make clear and concise consequences for not completing assignments—and follow through! Consequences reinforce your authority and encourage your children to respect you as such. In our home, there will be no screen-time of any sort if independent assignments are not completed. No exceptions. You get to decide what rules and consequences best fit your family.

7. Develop a Simple and Effective Checklist.

Once your child is ready to work independently, make a simple checklist to help them stay on track. Although you want the checklist to be simple, add necessary details to ensure your child completes all the assignments for a subject. For instance, I must remind my son on the checklist to answer all the questions for his assigned reading. When you give a child a checklist, it eliminates the “what next?” questions. Additionally, research suggests those little checkmarks increase motivation and confidence.

Checklists for Kids

8. Have a System in Place.

Make sure that you have a designated place for all your child’s independent work that is easy to get to. In our home, we’ve adopted the workbox system using a storage cart. In previous years, we’ve used labeled binders that we stored on a tabletop shelf. What I love about our current system is that there are ten drawers, so every subject has a place and we can even store school supplies there. This simple solution eliminates all questions that start with “where is my…?” Plus, having a system encourages my son to practice the good habit of organizing.

9. Create a Conducive Environment for Independent Learning.

You don’t have to get fancy on this one. Most of my mom friends attest that the bed is their child’s favorite place to get work done. Personally, I like to let my son work quietly upstairs in the classroom while his brother and I are downstairs doing lessons.

Homeschool Learning Classroom

10. Eliminate Screen-Time.

Trust me on this, screen-time is a distraction. I’m going to sound very strict, but we do not do screen-time unless it’s the weekend or off-school day. This, of course, is with the exception of videos that accompany a lesson. How do we live? Perhaps I’ll write a future post on it. I must say that when screen-time was an option, my son would rush through his schoolwork just to be done for the day so that he could play video games. This lack of application resulted in careless errors on his assignments. It was then that I decided to limit screen-time to weekends only, and it worked!

11. Explain the Importance of Working Independently.

If your child is like mine they like to know the why behind EVERYTHING. Even if they aren’t as inquisitive, it’s still a good idea to explain the importance of working independently. This explanation may be different for each household. In our home, we explain to our boys that their independent assignments test their responsibility. When they complete their checklists without being told and put in their greatest effort they are indicating to us that they are responsible and can be trusted with more privileges. Of course, there are more benefits we could share with them, but privileges are what motivates them most them at this age.

Helping a Child Work Independently

12. Be Available.

Working independently can be stressful in the beginning. And with good reason, because as parents we are transferring some of the educational responsibility to our children. Don’t be surprised if, during the first week or two, your newly independent worker takes on the role of the “needy” student. My son tested me to the point of annoyance. But I later realized what he was looking for was reassurance that I was “there.” Once I assured him that he was not entirely on his own and that I was always willing to help him, I received fewer unnecessary interruptions.

13. Refrain from Micro-Managing.

I find that many moms, including myself, will constantly ask their independent worker if they’ve completed all their assignments. No, don’t do this. The goal is to help them become independent workers. That means they should already know what’s expected of them and execute the mission without being told. Instead, evaluate their progress at the end of the week and give fair consequences for incomplete assignments. I guarantee their checklist will be one of the first things they’ll get done in the morning after a day or two of not being able to play video games.

Help a Child Work Independently

14. Review All Assignments.

Set a day aside every week to ensure your child is on track and is mastering the material. I’ve heard from many moms who admit to not doing this, but I must say reviewing your child’s work is necessary for their academic success. For example, one week I noticed my second-grader was not “borrowing” correctly on his math assignments. I was able to nip the bad habit in the bud by sitting down and helping him to see where he went wrong. I was also able to administer extra practice on that particular topic. Even more? When a child knows you’ll be reviewing their assignments, they’ll have even more incentive to try their best.

15. Have a Reward System in Place.

It’s always a great idea to reward your child if they’ve had a successful week. I mean, who doesn’t like to be recognized for a job well done? These rewards don’t have to be extravagant. It can be as simple as writing a note that reads “way to go!” Of course, I must mention it’s best to refrain from overpraising as studies suggest it has the opposite effect. But a little praise here and there is a great confidence booster for independent learners. Personally, on the weeks when my son goes above and beyond, I let him have his tablet after his tests on Friday, rather than making him wait until Saturday (we only do tablet time on weekends).

Homeschool Language Arts Independent Work

16. Choose the Right Curriculum.

So, I literally thought of this tip at the very last minute and wanted to include it due to its significance. If your goal is for your child to work independently, make sure to choose a curriculum that caters to independent learning. The only reason my son doesn’t work independently on ALL of his subjects is that I didn’t make the right curriculum choices. His curricula for language arts, geography, and science all require my instruction and supplementation. While I enjoy these curricula, next year I will make choices that better fit our homeschool agenda.


That concludes my list of tips that helped me develop an independent learner. The key term here is develop, as there’s an advancement and maturity process to working independently. It takes time! Of course, I can’t end this post without saying every child is different and will work independently at different ages. If you have an independent learner, let us know your tips in the comments below!

 

Preparing for your first day of homeschool

How to Prepare for Your First Day of Homeschool

If you’re new to my blog, welcome! My name is Nike (nee-kay) and I’m a third-year homeschool mom to two awesome boys. This year, I’ll be teaching kindergarten and second-grade, and I’m super excited! I created this August series, titled “Ready, Set, Homeschool!” to offer encouragement and tips to homeschool newbies. The tips I’m sharing this month are things I’ve learned from homeschool veterans and through personal experience. Be sure to stick around for the next few weeks as I uncover some homeschool basics and more!

This week? How to Prepare for Your First Day of Homeschool. Keep reading if you want to know the foundation for my homeschool preparation and how it helped our homeschool thrive.


 How to Prepare for Your First Day of Homeschool


1. Don’t forget internal preparation.

Sometimes we get so caught up in buying school supplies, curricula, and setting up for our classroom that we completely forget what’s most important. That’s right! You can’t run a successful homeschool without taking care of your mind, body, and spirit first. What does that mean? Take care of ALL of you! For me, that means getting adequate rest, making healthy food choices, exercising regularly, and spending time with God.

I know, I know; this sounds so cliché, right? But friends, I wouldn’t feel right NOT to mention this significant detail of my life. Why? Because omitting internal preparation has NEVER amounted to a good day. Like EVER! I don’t mean perfect days, I mean good productive days where I’m full of energy, grace, love, and patience. Trust me, I’ve seen a difference in my demeanor. Perhaps you will, too! My current devotional? Be Still and Know!

Be Still and Know

2. Read books.

I like to read up on parenting, homeschool, education or whatever I feel will help me become a better homeschool mom—or person in general. I find when I read books on these topics, I gain a sense of confidence in my ability to homeschool and manage my home. And let me tell you, mindset is EVERYTHING! If you believe you can do it, you WILL. If you don’t believe you can do it, you WON’T. Come on, you’re a parent, I’m sure you’ve read The Little Engine That Could!

So, what am I reading now? Rich Kid, Smart Kid | Giving Your Child a Financial Head Start. This book has really been helping me decide how I want to teach finances in my homeschool. Other books I recommend are the series What Your Kindergartener Needs to Know. This series includes all early elementary grades. I love these books because they help me make better curriculum selections. You can even build your own curriculum around them. And of course, what’s a homeschool without reading The Well-Trained Mind? A book that makes a brilliant case for classical education.

3. Review all your curricula.

You will thank yourself for reviewing all your children’s curricula and becoming familiar with what they’ll be learning. Reviewing the curricula will also help you prepare for additional resources and supplies that may be needed. For instance, looking at my second-graders curriculum ahead of time allowed me to make a list of all the things he’ll need to complete his science experiments, geography projects, and more. Reviewing curricula also offers an opportunity to peruse Pinterest for fun hands-on activities to accompany formal lessons.

4. Make a tentative schedule…or several schedules.

I don’t know where I’d be without my home management binder. I have a homeschool schedule, a daily schedule, a cleaning schedule, an exercise schedule, a meal planning schedule, a work schedule, a calendar of events, and more! Why do I have so many schedules? Because they make homeschool manageable! Which makes me feel like I’ve got this!

You don’t need all of these schedules. I’m just a bit of a scheduleaholic. I simply listed the types of schedules I keep as a reference for you to decide what types schedules will make your homeschool days run smoother. In the past, when I didn’t keep as many schedules, I found myself using homeschool time to get things done—especially cleaning and meal prep. Having a system for all things “life” ensures our formal homeschool hours are solely spent on lessons.

Home Management Binder

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5. Create a learning space.

You don’t need a classroom, just a functional learning space. If you have a classroom, great! If you don’t, you can homeschool just about anywhere. Many of my friends like the living-room sofa just fine. Other friends prefer to sit around their dining room table. At our home, we like to homeschool outside on the back porch when we can. Other days, we homeschool in the boys’ room, which I turned into a classroom this year due to some changes happening around our home.

Personally, we did not have a decked-out classroom right away. During our first and second year of homeschool, we used what is now our office. The décor was VERY minimal and only included what I felt was totally necessary; a dry-erase board, a political map of the world, an alphabet border, and some reference charts for math and science, among just a few other things. This year, I approached homeschool with a similar attitude that “less is more.” So, everything you see in our classroom is something we’ll actually use on the regular basis—even down to the school supplies.

Homeschool Classroom Decor

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6. Create a homeschool budget.

Not just for curricula and school supplies, but also for fun stuff like field-trips and extra-curricular activities. Personally, I like to create a homeschool budget month-by-month because, as business owners, our earnings look different each month. I also like to set aside money each month to save for curriculum purchases for the next school year. I know setting money aside makes me sound super responsible, but, trust me, I only implemented this system due to the mass amount of money I ended up spending in one lump sum on homeschool purchases. Don’t be like the old me, be like the new me. Plan ahead!

7. Join a co-op.

If you’re new to homeschool, I highly suggest joining a homeschool co-op. Why? Because it makes “back-to-homeschool” season that much more fun when your kids have friends who are sharing the experience. This year, my boys are looking forward to seeing all their pals again. They’re super excited to take on new classes with friends and go on field-trip adventures with their homeschool group. We did not have this experience during our first homeschool year and we did okay—but having a community makes things so much better!

Homeschool Co-op
First Homeschool Field-trip at the Museum Viewing the Solar Eclipse 2017

8. Organize your home.

It’s a great idea to get the entire house in order. After all, it’s your “school building.” Before we homeschool, I like to do a bit of spring cleaning in the summer. You’d be surprised at how many school supplies are buried in your catch-all drawers, closets, garage, etc. I barely had to purchase any new supplies this year. I found a bunch of Expos, craft supplies, markers, crayons, sticky notes, and so much more. And they were all in perfect condition.

Additionally, when your refrigerator and pantry are neat and organized, it makes meal time a breeze. The kids won’t have any trouble finding mom-approved items for snacks and lunch. And if you still prepare all the meals, you’ll feel so much better preparing them in an organized kitchen. I like the notion that a decluttered home helps declutter your mind, shifting the environment and making you feel more at ease.

9. Make the first day special.

Roll out the red carpet! Hey, why not? It’s your homeschool and you can be “extra” if you want to (you totally read that to the “It’s My Party” melody). At our home, we play music, take pictures, talk about what we’re most excited about for the upcoming year, and I even give my boys a special goodie basket filled with fun stuff I know they’ll love. I don’t spend much on the goodie basket items, as most were from Dollar Tree or Target. I probably spent $20 bucks at the absolute most. They’ve got stickers, markers, ninja turtle pens, color pencils, mechanical pencils, fun pencil sharpeners, paint sets, art kits, sketch pads, fruit snacks, and other little odds and ends.

Back-to-Homeschool Ideas

10. Read my previous posts on “Ready, Set, Homeschool!”

In my previous posts, I go over homeschool laws, free curricula and homeschool deals, homeschool must-haves, and more. I don’t want to sound redundant, so click the links below to read them!

7 Homeschool Must-Haves That Didn’t Make Your List

30 FREE Homeschool Deals That’ll Help You Save Some Coins

10 Things You Should Know Before You Homeschool

 


 

And there you have it! This is not an all-inclusive list, but it’s definitely something we do in our home that makes a huge difference in starting our homeschool year off right. Congratulations on your first year of homeschool!  If this is not your first year, welcome to a brand new year! I pray for much success for all of you reading this post. Let me know in the comments: How do you prepare for your homeschool year?

 

 

 

 

 

7 Homeschool Must-Haves

7 Homeschool Must-Haves That Didn’t Make Your List

We all know school supplies and curricula are a must when shopping for the upcoming school year. But, I quickly learned that’s not all I need to complete my shopping list. For those of you who are new to my blog, I am a third-year homeschool mom to my kindergarten and second-grade boys. Today, I want to share seven odd items that always make my back-to-homeschool list. The following items are totally preference-based, but sure do make our homeschool days more successful.

I won’t bore you with a long intro, so let’s get straight to the point!


10 Homeschool Must-Haves That Didn’t Make Your List


1. Fruit

Fruit of the spirit, that is.

“22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.” Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)

Unfortunately, these characteristics aren’t something we just have. They are muscles that need to be worked daily. The more you use the challenges of life as an opportunity to grow in these areas, the stronger you’ll become.

I think many homeschool moms would agree that homeschool would be a challenge without a great measure of love, joy, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These attributes are the foundation of a successful homeschool.

So, if you find yourself like me and need constant reminding to practice the fruit of the spirit, especially on those challenging days, print out Galatians 5:22-23 and hang it somewhere in your classroom.

Click here to download Galatians 5:22-23 for FREE!

Fruit of the Spirit

2. Music

If you have morning devotionals with your kids, don’t forget your worship music. There’s nothing like starting the day off singing and dancing. What tunes do we like? Newsboys! My boys also like tunes from “Our Daily Bread for Kids.” These tunes are available for download on Amazon. The songs are light, bubbly, and fun for kids—such excellent mood-boosters! Add them to your playlist and you’re good to go!

In addition, we also like to play light classical music as relaxing white noise while we do classwork. Classical music reduces stress levels, as well as boosts memory and creativity. In fact, university research in France, published in Learning and Individual Differences, found that students who listened to a one-hour lecture where classical music was played in the background scored significantly higher in a quiz on the lecture when compared to students who heard the lecture with no music. So there ya go!

 

3. Essential Oils

That’s right! Lavender, frankincense, and peppermint are our favorite “go-to” oils. Just place a few drops into your oil diffuser and enjoy a calmer classroom. Why these three oils? Lavender is known for helping with relaxation and improving mood. Frankincense is a great “healer” oil that also helps support brain health. Lastly, peppermint oil improves focus and boosts energy.

It’s not 100 percent foolproof, but it makes a difference for us. In fact, sometimes my kids ask to be rubbed down with oils when they aren’t feeling well. I like to use coconut oil as a “carrier oil,” add a few drops of essential oils, and rub the mixture into the soles of their feet. I also found that these oils help with relieving allergy symptoms for my children—especially coughing and congestion. So give them a go in your classroom!

 

4. Early Finisher Activities

I purchase low-cost crafts and activities and place them into a bin for my kids. The purpose? To have “mom approved” items (quiet items) that keep them occupied should they finish their assignments early. I’ve discovered that if my child knows what to do after completing an assignment, he is less likely to interrupt me while I’m working with another child.

The Dollar Tree and Target’s Dollar Spot will be your bestest friend. Yes, I said “bestest!” Fill a plastic container with loads of coloring books, puzzles, art project kits, play foam (much better than Playdoh), and little odds and ends that you know your kids will love. Check out the goodies I picked up from Target and Dollar Tree!

Early Finisher Activities

The NASA activity books were given to me by a friend, but the rest of the items were new purchases I will add to my existing  “early finisher” collection. As you can see, some of the items I purchased are consumable, like the paint sets, stickers, and coloring books. However, I try to ensure I include reusable items like puzzles, games, and the like, to save money.

5. A “Feelings Chart”

Checking in with your kids before the school day begins is a great way to avoid misbehavior during school hours. We’ve implemented the “Feelings Chart” in our home. After devotional, we gather around and I have each child point to a picture that best represents how they’re feeling. This method gives my children a chance to express themselves and have their needs met.

You can get a FREE copy of my “Feelings Chart,” here! This chart, as well as the “Fruit of the Spirits” chart, are new additions to my online store, Nike Anderson’s Classroom. Be sure to follow my store to be the first to know when I upload new freebies!

How do you feel

6. Family Membership Cards

To your favorite museum, local zoo, learning center, or wherever! Family membership deals typically offer great admission discounts for up to one year. If you pay $150 for an annual family membership card to a museum, that typically costs $20 per person for admission, for a family of four you’ve already saved $10 after the second visit. The third visit, and any visit thereafter, are basically free for an entire year!

Even more? When you invest in family membership cards, you can use them to your advantage to plan fieldtrips and family adventures during low-traffic hours. That means you’re more than likely to get the entire place to yourselves. Not to mention on those “off” days (that we all know we have), having a family membership card to the zoo or museum can be a sanity-saver! Just pack up the kids and go. No need to worry about admission costs.

 

7. A Timer

Or anything that will sound when it’s time to move on to the next lesson. I personally use the alarm setting on my tablet. I set it for the duration of the lesson, and it sounds to notify me to move on to the next lesson. The timer is not to be militant with time but serves as a gentle reminder to wrap things up.

Before I implemented this method, I would totally lose track of time and got stressed out when I learned it was later in the day than I’d initially thought. Even with a clock in the classroom,  I sometimes forget to look at it when I’m in the swing of things. Having an audible signal is a great way to ensure I stay on track!



 

That’s it in a nutshell! I’ll spare you the outro this week. I want to know from you: What are your homeschool must-haves? Let us know in the comments below!

 

Youtube channels that made my child smarter

Toddler Genius | YouTube Channels That Made My Toddler Smarter

 

My toddler stood behind the black strip of tape and covered his left eye as the pediatrician directed.

“What do you see?” She asked.

“A pentagon!” He shouted.

The pediatrician chuckled with amusement. “Well, yea, I guess it IS a pentagon after all,” she said of the house pictured on the eye chart. “That’s the first time I’ve heard that. What a smart boy! Whatever you guys are doing with him, keep going!”

So, what did we do? Our approach to early learning was not that extensive. We relied on educational videos, one-on-one learning, and open-ended play to create a sturdy foundation for cognitive development. Today, I will talk about the role visual-learning played in the early education of my then toddler boys, who are now ages four and seven. Videos from awesome YouTube channels that helped my boys to recognize advanced shapes, numbers, phonics, and so much more. I like to think of these videos as “digital flashcards.” I originally wanted to list seven channels (I like that number!), but in reality, there were only six channels that made a difference in my children’s early learning.

I realize talking about toddlers and screen time is major taboo. There are strong arguments against image-focused learning. But the truth is educational videos can enhance cognitive development when consumed in moderation. I can’t deny that educational videos helped my boys to build vocabulary and recognize signs and symbols in everyday life, among other things. I mean, come on! My youngest son knew what a dodecahedron was at age two! And my first-born son would always point and shout the names of all the vegetables in the produce section of the grocery store. By age three, both of my boys were well versed in phonics, which made learning to read much easier for them. I don’t mean to boast. I just want to point out that image-focused learning can be helpful for some children, so long as you ensure that it’s balanced with language learning (language learning requires the brain to work much harder) and hands-on learning.

So, what are some of the educational videos I allowed my boys to watch during early toddlerhood? Before I tell you, I must mention a few things. First, pediatricians strongly discourage screen time before age two. Second, once your child starts screen time, I recommend ONLY allowing them to watch educational videos. You don’t want these videos competing with Bubble Guppies and other cartoons. Trust me! My husband and I didn’t have a television in our home until our eldest son was five-years-old. However, at age two, we started playing educational videos for him on our laptops. Our youngest son wasn’t as fortunate. He’s been exposed to the screen since he was one-year-old and he did have a period where all he wanted to do was watch Bubble Guppies. Hey, we’re not perfect people, here.

Lastly, I strongly recommend supplementing these videos with one-on-one lessons with your child. This is where quality time comes into play. You can get super creative or simply have a conversation with your child about what they are learning. Our favorite conversations are during car rides. My kids like to shout out the shapes, colors, words, and types of vehicles they see, among other things. I give them random pop quizzes on phonics (for my four-year-old), spelling (for my first-grader), mathematics, and fun facts we’ve learned. The pop quiz is like a game to them!

So, without further ado, here are my top picks for educational channels on YouTube for early learning. I’ve also included helpful books you can check out at the end of this post!


YouTube Channels That Made my Toddler Smarter

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  1. KidsTV123

It’s easy to see why this YouTube channel has earned over two million subscribers. KidsTV123 was the very first channel I found when looking for educational videos for my eldest child to watch. As a toddler, his favorite videos were the Phonics Song, the Number Song, the Shapes Song, the Colors Song, the Solar System Song, and the Reading Machine. That was nearly six years ago and now all these songs are among the channel’s most popular videos.

 

When my son was two-and-a-half, he pointed to all the letters on the chart in his bedroom and told me their phonemes without any prompting from me. He also knew planets, numbers, and shapes (including some advanced ones) fluently, primarily from watching these videos. I admit I was not in the “teaching mindset” during this time. I had no plans to homeschool and I just assumed my toddler would learn this stuff in preschool. However, when I realized all the knowledge and concepts my son retained at such an early age, I knew then that he was ready for formal learning. I began teaching my eldest son one-on-one, incorporating language and hands-on learning. My youngest son, however, had the pleasure of this one-on-one teaching much earlier.

 

  1. The Kids’ Picture Show

Okay, this channel is quite advanced. Not only does The Kids’ Picture Show teach advanced shapes, but also advanced colors, sorting, animal names, street signs, addition, science and nature, sight words, life instructions, and so much more! It’s no exaggeration when I say that my boys know advanced shapes and colors that I don’t even know! I found myself having to watch the videos with them the moment I recognized they were getting smarter than me (hehe)!

 

What I love the most about this channel is that it literally is like digital flashcards. I never expected my boys to like this approach, but they actually started begging me to play these videos for them—every day!  I think what they love the most is that they can identify these items and concepts in their everyday life. My children get so excited when they encounter a familiar street sign, vehicle, or advanced shape while we’re out and about—things they may not normally recognize had they not learned about it from these videos.  Not to mention, they’ve gotten very specific with their colors. No! It’s not just green. It’s emerald!

 

  1. National Geographic Kids

If you have animal lovers, or kids that have a bunch of “why” questions, this is the channel for you! National Geographic Kids is full of awesome videos of gorgeous animals as well as fun facts that young kids can digest and understand. I found these videos to be a perfect supplement when teaching my boys about animal classification. And that’s not all, this channel also comprises videos on weather, archeology, states, and how to make familiar everyday items. You’ll be surprised by the information your toddler digests. When my youngest son was two, he loved watching the Making Stuff videos with his older brother. They would watch how to make some of their favorite foods, musical instruments, and toys. Now, at age four, my son remembers how to prepare the pizza dough when making pizza from scratch—one of our favorite foods to make!

 

What’s essential to note is from preschool up until fourth grade is what is known as the “parrot years.” According to authors of The Well-Trained Mind, any information your child absorbs during the early years is stored for future use—even if they can’t yet understand it. Therefore, having a toddler watch channels such as National Geographic Kids will make learning about animals and other topics in the later years that much more meaningful to them because they have already stored information in their brains.

 

  1. Hooked on Phonics

While KidsTV123 was responsible for introducing my eldest son to phonemic awareness during toddlerhood, Hooked on Phonics was the resource responsible for introducing my youngest son to phonics. My youngest son loved watching videos on this channel so much that I decided to purchase the curriculum to begin formal learning with him. If you’re not familiar with Hooked on Phonics, it’s a 25-year-old, award-winning “Learn to Read” program. Their YouTube channel includes story-time, printing lessons, sample lessons, and catchy singalong songs (my son’s favorite!). It’s not an extensive channel, but you can find more Hooked on Phonics videos listed on other channels with a simple YouTube search.

 

I must say, my youngest son caught on to phonics rather quickly using the Hooked on Phonics program. I’m talking just two weeks. At age three, he read his first primer book from the Kindergarten level. I do want to mention that this was not primarily from watching the videos, I did work one-on-one with him often during this time using the lesson plans.  When I tell you that my son actually asks me if he can “do phonics today” it’s not an exaggeration. This program works so well with his personality and learning style. I’m so glad we found it!

 

  1. Mouk in English

Mouk is an educational preschool show about a bear who travels the world on his bike. I happen to have two boys who absolutely love geography. This show was perfect for introducing and reinforcing different continents and countries of the world, as well as their popular monuments. It supplemented our geography curriculum so well. And while I never expected my toddler to learn geography to the extent that his big brother was learning it, some of the information he retained was from watching this show.

 

The Mouk in English channel boasts of teaching toddlers to respect diversity and cultures. The characters explore countries on the continents of Africa, Asia, South America, North America, Europe, and the Oceana. Examples of some countries they visit are Senegal, Spain, Canada, Madagascar, Tokyo, Greece, the Himalayas, and much more! Because I’m half-Nigerian, and have friends from different parts of the world, culture is one of the topics we highlight in our homeschool. It’s never too early to teach your kids that diversity is cool!

 

  1. Kids Learning Tube

Let me just say that this channel is my least favorite because of the creepy graphics. However, my youngest son loved watching this channel as a toddler—and still does now that he’s four. The Kids Learning Tube channel comprises videos on basic learning songs for preschoolers, geography, the solar system, the human body, the periodic table, animals, and more. I don’t know what it is about this channel, but both my boys are quite fascinated by it. They are even watching it right now as I edit this post!

 

My boys favorite videos to watch on this channel are the ones about the solar system, the 50 U.S. states, and the countries of the world. These have also been my youngest son’s favorite videos since toddlerhood. The videos include catchy tunes and awesome fun facts. My toddler gained concepts like which planets are big, which ones are small, and which ones are closest to the sun. He could also name most planets, and even some countries and states at just two years old.


 

Curriculum Suggestions:

If image-learning isn’t your thing, I totally get you! I can’t emphasize enough that the YouTube channels I mentioned should be supplements only. One-on-one interaction and unstructured play is the best way for your child to learn during early toddlerhood. Other effective resources you can try out for your toddler are Slow and Steady, Get Me Ready by June R. Oberlander, What Your Preschooler Needs to Know by E. D. Hirsch Jr., The Instant Curriculum by Pam Schiller and Joan Rossano, and The Well-Trained Mind by Susan Wise Bauer, and Jessie Wise.

 

These books include great information and instructions on how to engage your toddler’s motor skills, imagination, self-expression, critical thinking skills, math skills, language arts skills, and much more. I found most of these resources at my local library! Stay tuned for an in-depth look into these resources in a later post.

 

Feel free to check out my Instagram where I share more fun activities and resources we’re using for our homeschool. I also dabble in Instastories, where you can peek into our lessons and life as a homeschool family.


Let us know in the comments:  What are your favorite educational channels on YouTube?