As schools around the world are temporarily closing their doors due to current events, many parents have recently been thrown into the new world of homeschooling. Whether you will be teaching your child at home for a few months or a full school year, it’s still a new unknown for your family that I’m sure is accompanied by many nerves, and I’m here to try to help make that transition as smooth as I can.
Our decision to start homeschooling began a few years ago when our son was not getting the resources that he needed in our school system. The town where we live ranks with some of the worst rated schools in our entire state, and as a result, most of our community is homeschooled families. On our block alone, there are over a dozen homeschool students. I do not come from a background in teaching; I have my MBA in Finance and was a financial advisor and banker until last year…so the homeschool life was all uncharted territory for me, too, to be honest. I remember the early days of panic, research, and “how am I going to do this?”, but as we found our sweet rhythm over the years, I wouldn’t change this life for the world. We currently homeschool our 8-year-old and our two preschoolers, while the baby plays along as the class clown. Homeschooling takes a lot of trial and error to see what works best for your family, but I want to provide some resources that worked great for us over the years.
Homeschooling is typically centered around a curriculum. Your schools that have closed have probably set your student up with online learning, which will serve as your curriculum…the core of learning. Should anything happen to that or should you not desire to use it, you can always search for homeschool curriculum online. When picking a program, you have to first decide if you want religious or secular, online or textbook, hands-on or literature-based, etc, and then look up Cathy Duffy reviews for an honest review of EVERY program out there that matches your desires!! Once you have a program picked out, you should check eBay for great prices on gently used copies of the textbooks you picked (we sell our copies after the end of school-year too, so there is always a return on the investment!).
We use a curriculum called Oak Meadow, which is a Waldorf-learning program that is project-based and hands-on. We use the textbook version, but it is also available online with teachers, should you be more comfortable with that. I don’t want to pressure you into any kind of curriculum because it’s just such a personal choice depending on your child’s learning style–I just figured some of you might be interested to know what worked for us! Outside of the curriculum, you will want to have resources set aside, if possible, to spark your child’s other interests and keep them engaged in learning, too. During the current worldwide shutdown, I realize a lot of parents will be balancing working from home while trying to teach their students, and that is a life that I was pretty familiar with when I was working, so I’m going to try to include as many online programs as I can that are working-parent-friendly, too.
What Our Typical Homeschool Day Looks Like
I think this varies wildly by each family; so you honestly just have to try a schedule, and see if it works for you and your learners…then adjust it from there. Homeschool days are about half as short as public school days, which can be a little strange at first and leave you wondering “Are my kids learning enough??” in the beginning. Without roll call or administrative work or waiting on other students to finish as a group, homeschooling is extremely streamlined, and you will be amazed at how quickly your individual student will be able to finish their daily work. For us, a typical day looks something like this:
4:00 AM: Tom goes to work and makes a lot of coffee for me.
7:00 AM: Kids wake up on their own time, no alarms…just an easy start to a happy day
8:00 AM: Eat breakfast, brush teeth, get dressed and ready for the day. If we have to buy groceries that day, I knock this out during this hour, super early.
9:00 AM: Get started with schoolwork for the day (Lennox begins with independent learning, reading, online educational games, and following his textbook curriculum, while I teach the girls their preschool program for three hours a day)
12:00 PM: Take a break for lunch. The girls are now finished with preschool for the day, the baby lays down for a nap, and after lunch, I begin one-on-one lessons with Lennox (any science projects, teaching new material, hands-on activities, grading, etc).
2:00 PM The other homeschool kids on the street knock on the door, Lennox goes to play with them, the commotion wakes the baby up from his nap really grumpy, and I watch the day slowly dissolve into chaos. Half-kidding, but seriously 2-6 is what I call my kids’ witching hour. Things are just kind of crazy.
3:00 PM I set the younger three kids up with toys and games while I clean the house, do laundry, etc. We always get a few hours to play together as a family once I’m done, or if someone skipped a lesson that day, we go back and do it.
6:00 PM Tom comes home from work, I greet him at the door and say “Save me!!!!” and then usually can be found enjoying a glass of Cabernet while cooking dinner in peace.
Every day is different, though. Sometimes Lennox gets ahead in his studies, and we take a day off (like today, which gave me time to write this!). Or sometimes we have big homeschool field trips or we have family in town or someone is sick or the world just feels extra crazy that day…the beauty of homeschool is that it’s extremely flexible. We homeschool throughout the summers, too, so it gives us a ton of flexibility with taking random days and weeks off during the year. You have to find what works best for YOUR family!!
Learning Resources I Love For Preschoolers
For an online program that’s very fun, we use ABCmouse! They typically have their sales and promotions around holidays, but it’s always a great deal (as I write this today, they are 49% off, it looks like). They have a ton of games and a learning path to monitor progress for your preschoolers and early elementary students. We use them on the girls’ Amazon Fire tablets, and it’s a lifesaver on crazy days where I’m feeling pulled in a lot of directions. Here are the hands-on resources we use together, too:
Counting Bears! My girls absolutely love these and use them for counting, sorting, learning colors and numbers, and just playing with them for fun. To be honest, you can also just find different colored items around your house and sort and count them similarly (we used to do it with buttons, before we bought the bears!), but the bears were a fun touch that the girls appreciated.
This is a fun preschool kit that includes every preschool resource you will need in one place! If making your own activities is overwhelming to you, this eases the nerves and has everything already in place.
This is a super fun game to teach letter recognition! We used flashcards to teach our capital letters, but the girls struggled with the lowercase letters until we got this game.
This set is another great resource for hands-on letter recognition! The girls could play with these for hours and still be entertained.
My girls love playing with these Shape Bean Bags! Great resource to teach colors and shapes at the same time.
This book is an incredible resource!!! There are soooo many activities to do with one child or twenty children, and they involve very few supplies.
This is the girls’ favorite puzzle! I love how complex it is with so many parts, while still being cute and fun. Puzzles are always a fun learning tool!!
Dollar Tree also has amazing educational products for this age!! We love their choices in Flashcards (numbers, sight words, alphabet, colors, etc) and the girls have started writing using their lined paper. They also sell classroom learning posters so you can have a visual hanging at all times for your learners. If you have a store nearby, definitely stop in for a supply run TODAY!!
Learning Resources for Elementary Students
I cannot recommend time4learning.com enough!! This is an incredibly thorough online resource for games, curriculum, quizzes, lessons, tests, everything that you pay a monthly fee for. It can be used as a curriculum by itself for preschool all of the way to high school, but it is also great as an added resource that is extremely working-parent-friendly to involve in your student’s day!! Here are some other manipulatives we use for our fourth grader, in addition:
Sylvan Learning sells amazing flashcards on Amazon! I would link these, but they are specifically for fourth graders; so it might be better if you just searched Amazon for your child’s grade and purchase from there. They have them for every elementary grade.
I remember these from when I was a kid, and it’s funny because our son loves them just as much now! They sell at any bookstore or Amazon for pre-k and up. They are full of fun facts in every subject.
This is our son’s favorite game!! Lennox has been playing it since he was in first grade, and it’s fun for all of us, especially the parents. It teaches US geography and state capitals.
I seriously debated if I should put this as preschool or elementary school, but I love these Create A Story cards! If your student is struggling to write or just needs a creative break, these are a lot of fun to get the words flowing.
Bitsbox is an awesome program that teaches kids how to code their own apps! This entertains my son for hours upon hours, and it was a lifesaver last winter when I had a spine injury and needed a way to keep the kids entertained without being able to leave the house. This would be amazing over the next few weeks of lockdowns. If it is unable to ship, try Googling other kid coding sites online!
This BaseTen set is a great hands-on tool for math. I love the workbook that it comes with, containing a lot of fun math problems to solve. Lennox has been using these since last year, and he still learns something every time we pull them out.
****In the interest of being as ethical as possible during such a fragile time, none of the links above are affiliate links, and I have disabled ads on my page so that I won’t get paid for clicks for this. These are just honest, sincere, unpaid resources that I use for my kids that I am hoping can help ease the nerves of some of you who have been pushed into homeschooling because of current events. PLEASE LET ME KNOW HOW I CAN HELP ANY OF YOU!!! I’m always an email away or you can find me on Instagram @ cbchatman.