How We Pulled Off an Entire Year of Homeschool for FREE

How We Pulled Off an Entire Year of FREE Curriculum

Hi there! Join me this month for the My Journey to Homeschool series. In this series, I’ll be sharing the why behind our homeschool and the process it took to get there.

If you missed last week’s post Why We REALLY Homeschool |The Honest Truth, read it here.

This week, I’ll be sharing how we pulled off an entire year of free curriculum during our first penny-pinching homeschool years.

If you’re new here, welcome! My name is Nike and I’m entering my fourth homeschool year with a new kindergartner and third grader.

Nike Anderson

 

Can you believe I’ve never written a proper curriculum review? Well, you’re in for a treat because I’ll be reviewing our entire year of free curriculum for devotional, language arts, reading, math, science, and geography!

Basically, the first two years of our homeschool journey was a free curriculum frenzy. Before I invested money in a box curriculum, I first wanted to see what resources were available for FREE. I was shocked to find awesome quality resources for kindergarten through second-grade—and beyond! I’ve even made a few resources myself. Visit my FREEBIES page to check some of them out!

I was in resource heaven putting together a comprehensive curriculum for my then first-grader, but I admit it was so much work! Maybe I can help alleviate some of the workload for you by giving you the links to everything we used in one blog post? Of course, this is only helpful if you have a first or second-grader (or an advanced kindergartner). However, some of these resources have curricula available for grades up through high-school.

To make things even better, I’ll give you a brief description of each resource, as well as the pros and cons of each. Are you ready?

Here’s What We Used:

 

1. Devotional—180 Days of Memory Verses

About:

This resource is my collective 180-day Bible series for kids that covers 36 scriptures or one memory verse each week! I created this resource because we needed fun activities to accompany our memory verses. It includes 180 fun activities that are designed to improve cognitive skills by helping children to think, reason, and write for themselves. The activities also encourage children to strengthen fine motor skills, encourage creativity, and strengthen handwriting skills. The following topics are covered:

Obviously, this resource was free for me because I created it. However, I do offer the series “God Thinks I’m Awesome” for FREE, here!

Pros:

First, the activities for this resource are great for helping children learn edifying scripture. There’s an activity for each weekday, Monday thru Friday, that requires children to do the following for each memory verse:

  • Activity 1—Draw what the verse means to you.
  • Activity 2—Write a sentence about the verse.
  • Activity 3—Arrange the verse (cut-and-paste activity).
  • Activity 4—Trace the verse.
  • Activity 5—Color the picture.
180 Days of Memory Verse Activities for Kids
180 Days of Memory Verse Activities for Kids | Drawing what the verse means to them was one of their favorite activities!

Second, my boys loved learning their verses while doing these activities! The memory verses were a terrific addition to our family devotional time. They inspired my boys to ask questions and encouraged great conversation. The memory verses are also designed to be palatable for young children, as my youngest son was three-years-old when we utilized this resource. Therefore, the verses are kept short and sweet, and the activities provide lots of repetition for mastery.

Third, this is a top-selling resource at Nike Anderson’s Classroom. By the looks of the reviews, other teachers, parents, and students have been loving this resource, too! All the scriptures included in this resource are available for patrons to view before downloading the product, so it’s clear exactly what verses are covered and how they are worded in each series.

Cons:

The activities are designed for younger children from pre-k through third-grade, which means some of the verses in the activities have been re-phrased for palatability and understanding. You’ll mainly find this to be true for the “Our God the Creator” series, which summarizes some of the Genesis verses to “God created light on the first day,” “God created the sky on the second day,” and so forth. This hasn’t been a problem for us since we always read and review the verses straight from the Bible before completing the activities.

 

2. Language Arts—All-In-One Homeschool (Level 1)

About:

If you’re not familiar with the All-In-One Homeschool, it’s an online comprehensive Christian-based curriculum that is free to use!  While I’m going to talk about their level one language arts curriculum, this resource offers curricula for all core subjects for grades pre-k through high school. It even offers electives like Bible, Art, Computer, Foreign Languages, and more! As I mentioned, it’s free, but you’ll need access to the internet, computer, and basic school supplies to take advantage of this resource.

My first-grader enjoyed the Language Arts 1 curriculum. This curriculum offers a basic review of phonics before delving into the following concepts for first and/or second graders:

  • Nouns
  • Pronouns
  • Synonyms
  • Plurals
  • Punctuation
  • Digraphs
  • Literature (Poetry from Abroad, Crane)
  • Story sequencing
  • Writing
  • Spelling
  • And more!
All-In-One Homeschool Language Arts 1 | Cut & paste story sequencing was a huge hit!
All-In-One Homeschool Language Arts 1 | Cut & paste story sequencing was a huge hit!

Pros:

First, let me say that this curriculum was well organized and easy to follow. The author did a phenomenal job arranging virtual worksheets, games, quizzes, and activity ideas for each subject. It is no-prep and no-nonsense!

Second, I loved that this curriculum was comprehensive and covered all the key concepts for first and second grade. I felt pretty confident that my child was getting a solid foundation in literature.

Third, I loved that this curriculum sets students up to work independently. Provided your child has great fluency in reading, they can totally work independently on this curriculum.

Lastly, incorporating levels rather than grades is another great concept. If a level is too easy or difficult for a child, they can be moved up or down to fit their academic need. Since all the levels are available at your fingertips, you can actually skim through them and extract from each one. For instance, your child may be ready to move up to level two for grammar but may have to stay on level one for spelling. The flexibility is awesome!

Cons:

I had to supplement this curriculum to incorporate more repetition and practice for mastery with certain concepts. I also ended up using another curriculum for spelling, as I did not like AIO’s setup for learning spelling words. I want to stress that every curriculum has different standards and will cover different concepts and topics. It’s up to you to decipher which topics outside the curriculum you’d like to cover. For me, using extra worksheets and free printables wasn’t much of a problem. But it does mean you have to search them out, making it an extra thing to add to your to-do list.

 

3. Reading—All-In-One Homeschool (Level 1)

About:

This online Christian-based reading curriculum by All-In-One Homeschool is designed to introduce readers to full-length novels, practice narration and summarizing, and improve vocabulary and comprehension. The curriculum uses the following literature:

  • The Tale of Jolly Robin by Bailey
  • The Tale of Solomon Owl by Bailey
  • The Tale of Reddy Woodpecker by Bailey
  • The Adventures of Danny Meadow Mouse by Burgess
  • Buster Bear by Burgess
  • McGuffey’s Second Eclectic Reader
  • Beatrix Potter stories
  • A variety of other short stories and poems

This resource can be used primarily online or you can purchase the materials in book form for just $15.

Pros:

First, the curriculum had a great choice of literature with advanced vocabulary. The vocabulary is challenging, yet appropriate, and not too overwhelming.

Second, I loved the fact that the curriculum introduced my first-grader to chapter books. He really enjoyed reading the novels authored by Bailey.

Lastly, this curriculum was no fuss and easy-to-follow. There’s also an audio option available, which is great because children can listen and follow along with the hardcopy at the same time—giving them an ear for what proper reading fluency sounds like.

All-In-One Homeschool Reading 1
All-In-One Homeschool Reading 1 | Inference practice on the whiteboard to accompany our reading lesson!

Cons:

The major con was that this curriculum is online. If you do not want your child to read entire chapters on the computer, you must print out the chapters, which can cost you ink and paper. Otherwise, purchasing the materials in book form is the better bet, but that defeats the whole purpose of the curriculum being free. Still, I think it’s a wise investment if you want your child to hold a physical book while reading.

Another con was that there were very few follow-up questions for each chapter, which means if you’re keeping a reading journal you’ll have to think of clever entry questions yourself. Children are just encouraged to “tell someone about the chapter,” which is fine, but not very thought-provoking.

My son was also disinterred in most of the literature selections and struggled to relate to the reading material. All-in-all, this was not our favorite curriculum.

 

4. Math—All-In-One Homeschool (Level 2)

About:

This is another curriculum from the free online Christian-based resource All-In-One Homeschool. This comprehensive math curriculum covers the following concepts for first and second graders:

  • Grids
  • Number lines
  • Graphs
  • Pie charts
  • Place value
  • Word problems
  • Money
  • Time
  • Measurement
  • Fractions
  • Fact families
  • Regrouping
  • Memorizing addition and subtraction facts

This curriculum comprises levels rather than grades, so it’s advisable to ensure the material is appropriate for your child’s mastery level before you begin. This curriculum is also set up for independent learning, so strong reading skills are required unless the child is accompanied by an adult.

Pros:

First, I loved the access to other free resources. There were a ton of free awesome math games for fluency practice! My son enjoyed playing most of the games and they really did help him understand and master the material.

Second, I loved that the first half of the curriculum focused on practicing mental math for sums up to 20, which is essential for advancing to a third-grade math level.

Lastly, I loved that this curriculum encouraged hands-on learning with manipulatives you can find in your home. Hands-on learning is so important at this age!

All-In-One Homeschool Math 2 | Hands-on practice with our lesson on money!
All-In-One Homeschool Math 2 | Hands-on practice with our lesson on money!

Cons:

This math curriculum did not cover multiplication. At least not to the degree that it should, considering it’s recommended that second-graders know how to multiply fluently by 2’s, 3’s and 5’s by the end of the school year. There’s some coverage on skip counting but not necessarily multiplication factors and products, so if this is important to you be sure to give your child more practice using supplementary materials.  There is not much material on adding or regrouping three-digit numbers, either. Again, I recommend supplementary materials if you wish to learn and practice advanced regrouping.

 

5. Science—The Magic School Bus (K-2)

About:

This is a comprehensive science curriculum that includes videos, lesson plans, experiments, and activity pages for pre-K thru second-grade. There are twelve units and topics covered:

  • Space
  • Forces
  • Weather
  • Energy
  • In the home
  • The human body
  • Animals
  • Reptiles
  • Birds
  • Dinosaurs
  • Fossils
  • Archaeology
  • Bugs
  • Water
  • Sealife
  • Rocks
  • Volcanoes
  • Habitats

All twelve units encompass a 180-day curriculum with corresponding episodes from The Magic School Bus. That means there’s something to do for every weekday of the school year!

Pros:

First, the experiments were easy to do and most of the materials needed could be found right in my home. I recommend printing out all the experiments for the week and making a checklist to ensure you have everything you need.

Second, I loved that the curriculum was no-prep. The lessons provided notations for the instructor explaining what students should learn, key terms, and what questions to ask the students, among other things. There was no additional research required unless my boys wished to advance in a topic.

The third thing I loved about this free curriculum was that it was pretty adaptable and I did not have to cover all the topics in sequence. There were many weeks where we jumped to other topics that were more relevant to my children’s current interests.

Lastly, I loved that this curriculum included a list of recommended books for each unit. That made reserving library books and planning ahead much easier. It also meant I didn’t have to struggle to find supplementary materials!

The Magic School Bus Science Curriculum
The Magic School Bus Science Curriculum | A fun lesson on constellations included making telescopes that looked like we were looking at the Big Dipper!

Cons:

While the Magic School Bus curriculum is great, especially for those moms who aren’t well versed in science, I do forewarn that older children (closer to second grade) may become bored or unimpressed by some of the experiments. This is definitely a curriculum for the younger ones who are new to science. My then seven-year-old, who took STEM classes at the time, started to lose interest in the curriculum by the second semester. However, he loved watching the corresponding episodes!

 

6. Geography—50 States of the USA

About:

I created this 50 States of the USA resource as a gentle introduction to geography for anyone looking to go through the US map state-by-state.  Each activity covers all 50 states, including the state capital, and aims to build and strengthen the following skills for grades pre-k thru first-grade:

  • Trace it—Penmanship.
  • Find it—Critical thinking and problem-solving.
  • Color it—Creativity and fine motor skills.

These activities not only help familiarize children with the US map, but helps children learn how to recognize and spell state names and recognize state flags.

Pros:

First, this product is wallet friendly. This product was only free for me because I created it, but I do have a freebie available, here, for those interested in trying it out. The freebie includes three states, Alaska, Rhode Island, and DC. If you’re interested in the full set, it is available at Nike Anderson’s Classroom and is extremely affordable. It is also currently my Best Seller.

Second, the activities in this resource not only helped familiarize my children with the US map, but also helped them learn how to recognize and spell state names and recognize state flags. It also covered state abbreviations and regions. My boys learned so much and enjoyed coloring the flags for each state.

Third, this resource is very buildable. I maximized this resource by supplementing it with other free resources. I checked-out books from the local library, I utilized the political maps in our classroom, and we watched National Geographic Kids’ YouTube channel that has awesome educational videos for almost every US state.

Lastly, this resource is no-nonsense and easy to use. It doesn’t bombard children with a bunch of facts and is a very gentle introduction to US geography.

See what other teachers and parents had to say about this best-selling resource at Nike Anderson’s Classroom!

 

50 States of the USA Geography | A fun activity to accompany our lesson on Illinois!
50 States of the USA Geography | A fun activity to accompany our lesson on Illinois!

Cons:

This resource is not a comprehensive curriculum, so you will need to supplement it. For a more comprehensive curriculum that covers regions, capitals, fun facts, and more, I created the All About the 50 States of the USA mega bundle.


Would I recommend these resources to a friend? I have actually recommended all of them to any friend that asks for curriculum advice. You’ll hear me mention often that it’s not the curriculum itself, but what you put into the curriculum that makes it effective. Where I felt a curriculum lacked, I simply supplemented. However, I’ve even had to supplement some of the boxed curriculum I purchased. Which goes to show that every curriculum will have “holes.” There’s no such thing as a perfect curriculum. If you don’t believe me, read the forums for some of the most recommended award-winning curricula and you’ll see not everyone is impressed by them.

I want to hear from you: Have you ever tried any of these freebies? What are your thoughts? Let me know in the comments!  


DOWNLOAD YOUR 50 States of the USA FREEBIE!

Geography 50 States of the USA FREE Download Activity

 

DOWNLOAD YOUR 180 Days of Memory Verses FREEBIE!

180 Days of Memory Verses for KIDS Free Download

 

GET FULL COPY of 50 States of the USA!

50 States of the USA Geography Activities for Kids

 

GET FULL COPY of 180 Days of Memory Verses

180 Days of Memory Verses for Kids

Fun Summer MATH Activities for First, Second, and Third Grade.

How We Practice Math Fluency | Grades K-3

Happy Teacher Appreciation Week!

Math practice may seem redundant but it’s necessary to build and maintain fluency. To minimize “summer brain drain,” I wanted to introduce my kindergartner and second-grader to a new way of practicing math facts. Typically, I require them to complete one small worksheet a day during the summer months to keep their brains sharp. This year, however, I’ll be shaking things up a little bit.

Math Practice Activity Binder

Allow me to introduce my latest product at Nike Anderson’s Classroom, “My Math Practice Activity Binder!” This binder is a comprehensive bundle of activities that help facilitate math fluency for first, second, and third graders, depending on mastery level.

This resource includes 43 hands-on activities. Activities include addition, subtraction, regrouping, Arabic and Roman numerals, time, temperature, money, fractions, conversions, rounding numbers, multiplication, and division. Read the details below.

Nike Anderson shares Interactive Math Activities for First, Second, Third Grade.

Math Practice Activity Binder for First, Second, and Third GradeBUY NOW!

What inspired me to create this resource? I purchased a similar binder for my kindergartner with the intention of using it for summer practice and my second-grader griped about wanting one also. I couldn’t find a similar product that included all the key math concepts he learned this year, so I decided to create one for his grade level.

While I chose to use Velcro fasteners for repeated use, dry-erase markers may also be used to complete laminated activities for those of you who’d rather forgo the cutting. My boys absolutely love the Velcro fasteners, though, which are used to attach the answers to each math problem.

As a simple storage solution, I placed all the answer tabs into an envelope and used Velcro fasteners on the flap of each envelope. This ensures secure storage and the ability to reopen the envelope when needed. I also two-hole punched the envelopes so that I could store them in the binder next to their corresponding activity. See below for details!

Interactive Math Activities for First, Second, and Third GradeUse RepeadedlyEasy Storage SolutionBUY NOW!

What skills does this activity binder help students develop and strengthen? Fluency in addition, subtraction, regrouping, Arabic and Roman numerals, time, temperature, money, fractions, conversions, rounding numbers, multiplication, and division, as well as the following:

  • Analytical thinking
  • Critical thinking
  • Logic
  • Problem-solving
  • Quantitative reasoning
  • Independence

Other uses for this resource include cut and paste, file folder games, math center activities, dry-erase workbook, interactive notebook, and more! You do not have to use this resource solely as an activity binder. Read below for details.

Activity BinderBUY NOW!


Nike Anderson's Classroom

Buy today and receive a 20% off discount on this resource! Missed the sale? Follow my shop to be the first to know when this item goes on sale again.

I want to thank all of you for supporting Nike Anderson’s Classroom. I truly appreciate everyone who has used my product in their classroom.

5 Chapter Book Series My Son Loves

5 Chapter Book Series My Son Loves

A while ago, I noticed the effort my second-grader once put into his reading curriculum faded. In fact, his spark for reading somehow disappeared altogether. While he’s had a love/hate relationship with reading this year, I can say for the most part that once my son started reading the required text, he’d actually end up enjoying it. But this outcome started becoming few and far between.

 

One day, instead of telling my son to rewrite his summaries, I simply read through some of the required literature for his curriculum. All I can say is, BORING! We had just read through a wonderful series by Thornton Burgess, which I mention below. Now, the curriculum was full of short stories about medieval history that my son struggled to connect with.

 

I finally asked, “Do you enjoy reading this?” To which my son replied with a defeated, “no.” It was then I decided to forgo the latter half of the reading curriculum and implement one of my own. Not because I believe everything my son learns should be “fun,” but because the curriculum no longer aligned with our vision for homeschool.

 

And what is our vision? Part of it is to foster a healthy relationship with learning that teaches and encourages our children to be lifestyle learners. In my opinion, there’s nothing healthy about forcing a child to read something they simply can’t connect with. Instead, I decided to find literature that would put that spark back into his eye.

 

Here are the ones that made the cut… and they all can be found at your local library!

 

5 Chapter Book Series My Son Loves

 

 1. Captain Underpants

Captain Underpants

This superhero series by Dav Pilkey includes 12 chapter books. Captain Underpants is the nice alter ego of a mean principle named Mr. Krupp. The superhero was accidentally created by two fourth graders, George and Harold, who somehow managed to hypnotize the mean principal and turn him into a superhero that mirrors that of their homemade comic books. At the sound of finger snapping, Mr. Krupp becomes the notorious Captain Underpants. He returns to an ill-tempered principle when soaked with water. The recommended reading age for this series is seven and up.

 

What does my son like about this book? If it’s not obvious yet, it’s names like “Captain Underpants,” “Turbo Toilet 2000,” “Doctor Diaper,” “Sir Stinks-A-Lot,” and the list goes on. The silly names and storylines are what make this series a winner for my second-grader. Not to mention, the comical blacklined illustrations that make the novels even more engaging.

 

2. Amelia Bedelia

Amelia Bedelia

This chapter book series by Peggy and Herman Parish chronicles the mishaps of a fun-loving maid named Amelia Bedelia. Employed by a wealthy couple called the Rogers, Amelia Bedelia never gets anything right due to her literal take on simple commands. For this protagonist, a request like “dust the furniture” may result in tons of dust being poured onto the Rogers’ expensive furniture. Since Amelia Bedelia never got the memo on figures of speech, asking her to “undust” the furniture would be better received.

 

What does my son like about this book? The comical effect of Amelia Bedelia’s incorrect actions. It’s just a fun way to explore figures of speech and to think of more precise ways to communicate with others. My son laughs out loud often while reading any book from this series. Again, this is another silly chapter book series perfect for ages seven and older.

 

3. The Cul-de-Sac Kids

 

Cul de Sac Kids Chapter Books

This fun series chronicles the shenanigans of neighborhood friends who call themselves The Cul-de-Sac-Kids. Each series shares a compelling narrative by introducing a new mystery for The Cul-de-Sac-Kids to solve. Written by Beverly Lewis, this chapter book series also incorporates invaluable life lessons like the importance of faith, friendship, and family.

 

What does my son like about this book? The presence of diverse characters, which is embarrassingly lacking in children’s literature these days. The diverse characters also mirror my son’s real-life friendships, making them super relatable. This chapter book series is marketed for ages seven and up.

 

4. The Stories Julian Tells

The Stories Julian Tells

This series is new to us, but I wanted to include it because it was one of the first books my son gravitated to when it came home from the library. The story is about a boy named Julian who uses his big imagination to tell amazing stories, causing some mischief along the way with his little brother, Huey. The book is written by Ann Cameron, who also wrote another series of books about Julian’s best friend, Gloria. If you’re looking for chapter books with black protagonists, check out these series!

 

What does my son like about this book? Right off the bat, my son likes that the male protagonist looks like him. I imagine it was one of the first books he gravitated to because of the colorful illustration of the smiling brown boy on the cover. There are also some great blacklined illustrations inside this book. We’re very interested in reading other books from the Julian series. The recommended reading level for this series is seven and up.

 

5. The Adventures of Jimmy Skunk

Adventures of Jimmy Skunk Chapter Books for Kids

I was not expecting my son to like these series of chapter books by Thornton Burgess. They are a bit old-fashioned, originally published in 1918 I believe. This chapter book series, along with Adventures of Old Mr. Toad, and Peter Rabbit, accompanied my son’s second-grade reading curriculum and he loved reading all of them. The stories take readers on an adventure of what life is like in the meadow for creatures likes toads, foxes, rabbits, skunks, possums, and so forth. The furry characters are funny, mischievous, and likable.

 

What does my son like about this book? My son really connected with the humor in this series as the characters were so set on pranking each other. He also learned about some of his favorite animals and what life is like in the meadow. I loved the awesome vocabulary used throughout this series. Very challenging, yet easy for children to use in everyday conversation. This series is suitable for ages seven and up.


 

That concludes our list of five fun chapter book series worth reading. Another great one is Chronicles of Narnia, but we’re using that for our read-aloud. I know. I know. It’s a shame we’re just now letting this series grace our learning experience. But my boys are mostly into comical books right now so that’s the genre we primarily read. They love to laugh, and I don’t blame them. Learning mixed with laughter is a great recipe for developing lifestyle learners.

 

Let us know your favorite chapter book series below!  

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!

 

Day in the Life of homeschool Preschool and Kindergarten

A Homeschool Day-in-the-Life of My 4-Year-Old | Teaching Preschool

One of the common challenges in homeschool families is finding the time to teach younger children when so much time is dedicated to helping their older siblings with assignments.

I have a four-year-old and a second-grader and, let me tell you, it’s tough! Even tougher for my friends with four children or more. Preschoolers often like to fight for your attention when they see you giving so much of it to their siblings. I’m here to tell you, that’s not such a bad thing and you can use this attention-seeking to your advantage.

When your preschooler sees that learning seems to get and keep your attention, they’re more likely to want to be included in whatever learning their older siblings have going on. At least this was the case for me. I know it’s tempting to let younger children go off and do their own thing, but try adding small assignments to their routine that help them feel like a “big kid.” You may find you have a little more peace during your homeschool hours.

So, here is my day in the life of my four-year-old on any given homeschool day. This glimpse into our world illustrates how I manage to balance time between my two boys. As a side note, you may notice on my blog that I refer to my four-year-old as a preschooler and kindergartner interchangeably. That’s because according to his age he is technically in preschool, but he’s acquiring many skills that meet kindergarten requirements in our state.


A Homeschool Day-in-the-Life of My 4-Year-Old


8:30 am: Devotional

Let’s start with devotional. We’re currently using Our Daily Bread for kids, which we love. The daily devotionals are short, sweet, and to the point. They also are a great inspiration to delve into the Word of God. Both kids enjoy me reading aloud and will sit quietly and attentively while I do so. In previous years, I made activities for my boys to do while I read the Bible aloud. Some days, my preschooler is just not into sitting still so he goes off and plays with his toys, which is totally allowed.  That leads us to…

Tip One: Let your little ones have off days. We all have days when we’re just not feeling something. Allowing them to choose something else to do instead shows that you understand and respect their feelings. It also reduces the likelihood of your little one making a scene which can cause disruption and set the tone for the rest of the day, making it difficult for you to maintain the patience needed to work with your older children.

Our Daily Bread Devotional for Children
My children love Our Daily Bread Devotional for Kids.

9:00 am: Basic Skills Fluency Practice

This is my second-grader’s designated reading time. Since I have him read aloud to me, I need this time to be pretty quiet. This is when I break out my preschooler’s favorite activities. We use the Hooked-on Phonics Fundamentals workbook, which is full of educational cut and paste activities that keep my preschooler busy and happy. During this time, my little one practices fluency with basic skills like letters, phonics, numbers, counting, shapes, and more. He is also engaging those fine motor skills necessary for handwriting. So…

Tip Two: Have independent activities on hand. Give your little ones activities you know they can do on their own to help build confidence, independence, and fluency while you take time to work with older children.

Preschool and kindergarten basic skills fluency practice.
Preschool and kindergarten basic skills fluency practice.

9:30 am: Reading Fluency Practice

My preschooler and I practice reading fluency while my second-grader works independently on to his spelling curriculum. We are using the Hooked-on Phonics curriculum and are supplementing with Bob Books. Hooked on Phonics has its own set of starter books, but he seems to like the Bob Books more. We borrowed our Bob Books from the local library and are allowed to have them for 6 weeks at a time. We spend no more than 15 minutes practicing reading. Another 15 minutes is dedicated to storybook read-alouds.

Tip Three: Schedule one-on-one learning time with your little one when older kids have independent work. 

Hooked on Phonics Reading Curriculum for Preschool
Hooked on Phonics is our curriculum of choice for preschool and kindergarten.

10:00 am: Handwriting Practice 

My preschooler practices handwriting while my second-grader and I delve into his language arts lesson.  I love dry-erase books for handwriting practice because children can practice as much as they’d like without accumulating paper waste. The books we love for handwriting practice are the Kindergarten dry-erase workbook and the Sight Word workbook. I taught my preschooler how to follow the arrows, and to always write from left to right to ensure he’s writing letters, numbers, and words properly. Now, he can pretty much work on his own. Therefore…

Tip Four: Train your little one to work independently during homeschool off-hours. On weekends or when all your older children have completed their homeschool assignments, take just a little time to train your younger children to work more independently on key skills. This may take time and patience but is well worth the investment when you find yourself running from kid to kid during busy homeschool hours.

Handwriting Practice for preschool and kindergarten.
Independent handwriting practice for preschool and kindergarten.

10:30 am:  Everyone takes a snack break at this point.

11:00 am: Geography

My boys do geography together. We use a curriculum base called Beginning Geography and supplement with YouTube videos, library books, hands-on-learning, and kinesthetic activities. This is a great time of day because my preschooler really looks forward to it. He may not understand everything we learn about, but he enjoys doing the corresponding activities.

If you’re wondering how I teach two grade-levels one subject, here’s an example:

This week we’re learning about reading directions on a map using a compass rose. My main objective is for my preschooler to understand that north is up, south is down, east is to his right and west is to his left. Aside from looking at real maps I had on hand, we watched a Youtube video that explained what compasses were used for and how to use them.  To challenge my oldest son, he watched a documentary on the history of the compass rose. Later, we made our own compasses using supplies I had on hand. Then we played a kinesthetic activity where the boys had to jump toward the direction I shouted out. It was so much fun and something both grade-levels could enjoy.

Tip Five: Don’t be afraid to include your little ones in on the lessons. This is especially true if the age gap isn’t that wide between older siblings. In my case, I can use a curriculum base designed for grades k-2 and it’ll work for both of my boys. Last year, we used a science curriculum designed for first and second graders and my preschooler was able to do all of the lessons and experiments with us. Children are sponges at this age. You’ll be surprised by what they pick up on.

Geography for preschool and early elementary
A kinesthetic game for learning directions: Jump to your North, South, East, and West.

12:00 pm: Science

Both my boys also learn science together. This year, we are really loving interactive science notebooks. This is actually my preschooler’s favorite part of the day because he loves cut-and-paste activities. Whenever we finish a lesson, he often asks if we can do another one. I use the same supplemental method for science that I do for geography. We read books, do fun activities, and include hands-on learning and experiments whenever possible. That points us to…

Tip Six: Interactive notebooks are a win for everybody. You can find free or low-cost interactive notebook lessons just about anywhere, for any grade, and any subject! This works especially if you have children with larger age gaps. Everyone can sit around the table with all their supplies and work on their interactive notebooks. Works for us!

Interactive science notebooks for preschool and kindergarten.
Interactive science notebooks are great for preschool and kindergarten.

1:00 pm: Lunch and Recess

2:00 pm: Math

I save math for the end of the day because it’s my boys’ strongest subject. Plus, it’s also a subject that my second-grader can do on his own unless he’s learning a new concept. I like to work one-on-one with my preschooler on the days when my second-grader isn’t learning a new concept. We use math link cubes to practice addition and subtraction. We also practice number sequencing and counting to 20, 30, and beyond. Every now and then we’ll go over basic and 3-dimensional shapes, but he pretty much has that information stored in his brain.

Additionally, I try a variety of hands-on activities that I just make up myself. Matching number quantity to the numerical value is one of the activities we do often, and we can use just about anything we have on hand to do it. I also make use of our addition and subtraction flashcards and have my preschooler use cubes to determine the sum or difference. So…

Tip Seven: Save your little one’s strongest subject for the end of the school day to cut down on frustration. If you happen to need to sneak away to teach your older children new concepts, you can start the younger ones off and they can hold their own until you return.

Math practice ideas for preschool and kindergarten.
Math practice ideas for preschool and kindergarten.

 

Our school day typically ends around three in the afternoon. This is not an everyday schedule as we have fieldtrip days, co-op days, and playdate days pretty regularly. This is, however, the schedule we fall back on to keep us on track.

I’d like to end this post by saying there will be a day when none of this advice works. Take heart, it happens to the best of us. I will say that each semester gets easier. Before our winter break, it was much harder to keep my preschooler engaged and occupied. After winter break, things seemed more manageable. Your family will live if you do away with curricula for a moment to meet the physical, educational, emotional and social needs of your younger children. A break from monotony is always a great idea!

Now it’s your turn: How do you balance homeschool with your children? Give us some ideas that have worked for your family in the comments below!


Need more ideas for preschool? Check out these posts:

Toddler Genius | YouTube Channels That Made My Toddler Smarter

Tot-School Tuesdays | Preschool Addition Facts

Tot-School Tuesdays | Number Matching & Sequencing

Tot-School Tuesdays | “I Can Count” Busy Box

Free Resources for Preschool