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?

 

 

 

 

 

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?