The moment a child is born, parents start homeschooling. A child learns from the very moment of birth, and what the parents do impact the child on every level. "Formal" homeschooling, in which a parent makes the intentional decision to not send a child off to a public or private institute of learning, can begin at any time, and often parents consider homeschooling during the preschool age, or between two and five years old.
Homeschooling children ages two to five, or even six, can be wonderful in that you as the parent get to instill the love of learning in your child, and you are the one to see the first light-bulb moments of understanding. I know when I first saw my own child understand that C-A-T made the word that represented our kittens Henry and Rosie, that was a glorious moment.
But, homeschool at this stage (between two and five years old) shouldn't be formal, as in, workbooks and tests and heavy curriculum. Here are six tips you can do to homeschool your preschooler and kindergartener:
Read, read, read
The very best thing you can do as a parent is to read to your child. Starting as a baby, building those building-blocks of words, sounds, and language is crucial to a child's development. A preschooler and kindergartener finally begin to understand that the words on the page correlate to the sounds coming out of their parent's mouth. Ask questions about what you're reading; even though your child is not reading, they are listening, and you can work on comprehension through the active reading of passages. Not sure what books to read? For babies and toddlers (especially those who are apt to tear things), board books are just fine. As children age, move on to larger picture books (but skip the chapter books for now -- they need the visual stimulation of pictures). Don't have the money for books? Visit the public library, or ask for books for the child's birthday and Christmas presents. Visit thrift stores, public library book sales, or yard sales to find books. Even when the child ages through elementary and middle school, continue reading--it's a wonderful bond-building activity.
All those toys you have for your child? Get a few out and get on the floor with your child, and play with him. Make race cars zoom around the rug, or make animal sounds from figures, or play with dolls. Interact with your child, saying things like, "What sound does the elephant make?" or "What makes the car go?" Ask your child what dress the doll should wear today. Be imaginative with your child and ask questions--see what answers you'll get. Go outside and blow bubbles and play tag. At this age, children learn by playing. Get age-appropriate board games and play with your child. Children learn turns-taking, sharing, colors, counting, and many more important developmental steps through playing.
Now, one may ask, "How am I to get on the floor and play when I have a baby to take care of, too?" Put the baby on a blanket beside you, on the floor. Put a couple diapers and wipes nearby, for easy changing access, and play. The point is to be intentional about playing: ask questions, ask your child's thoughts on what a toy should do next, and point out things like the color of a truck or what sound a toy makes.
Introducing Letters and Numbers
For children who show an interest in letters and numbers, buy some alphabet and number magnets for the refrigerator. Don't just stick them on and expect your child to learn them by osmosis. Show them the letters, in order, and be intentional with it. Sing the ABC song--in fact, buy a kid's CD and keep it in the car, to put in and sing while you're driving down the road. I used several different types of books to read to my children growing up that were fun ways to introduce letters, including Chicka Chicka Boom Boom, Chicka Chicka ABC, and Dr. Suess's ABC. These are classic books that are fun to read over and over, and use to interact with your children.
If your child is not interested in learning about letters and numbers, continue reading to him. Eventually, it will come. Children learn at their own rate and level, and a cookie-cutter approach will not work on children. All children learn at their own levels and rates, and forcing it only embitters them and makes them hate learning. Be patient!
Allow your child to explore his or her own world. As much as you play intentionally with your child, allow your child to have the freedom to play on his or her own. Put out paper and crayons on a kid-sized table and see what your child draws. If he draws a sun purple, don't correct him--there will be plenty of time for correction later. Allow your child to explore and learn, and this is often hard. Often, the lessons that stick the most are the ones learned the hard way: if a toy is dropped and broken, or if a finger is pinched in a cabinet door, or if the kitty scratches or hisses because his tail is pulled. Often, a child will learn through natural consequences.
Talk with your child. If you're changing a soiled pair of underwear for a child who is learning to use the potty, take the child by the hand and dump the poop off the underwear and into the toilet, telling her, "that's where the poop goes! Into the potty!"
Talk with your child. Explain that we wear rain jackets when it's raining, or we put up our toys at certain times of the day. Announce that it's snack or meal time. In effect, narrate your child's life for him or her. "It's morning! Sun is shining, time to wake up!" "Time to change our clothes! Your head goes through this hole, your arm in that sleeve," etc. Narrate what you're serving for breakfast.
If a child has a learning disorder, such as autism or sensory development disorder, although the child may have a difficult time responding back, continue to talk/narrate. Continue to read and play. It's important to do so, even -- especially -- if a child has a developmental delay or disorder.
As for writing, you want to wait until the child can feed him- or herself with a spoon or fork and demonstrate decent fine motor skills. Then, introduce a big pencil that is used for preschoolers and kindergarteners, and let the scribbling commence! Pour flour onto a cookie sheet, and show how to write letters in it. Buy a dry erase board, as little or as big as you want, and allow your child to write letters on it. Don't try to force the learning, as it will happen. The older the child becomes, increase the structure and discipline of writing appropriately. Use the alphabet books mentioned above and trace each letter as you read them, and have your child mimic you.
Remember, each child learns differently and on his or her own time schedule. No child exits the womb quoting Shakespeare or knowing her ABCs. Read to your child, allow play (both with you and on his own), and encourage listening skills by explaining everything that's happening. Most of all, pray -- over your child, with your child, and by your child.
(C) 2022 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
April is coming and with that month the celebration of spring, new life, and the rise of Jesus Christ are at the forefront of everyone’s mind. As with every holiday, there are mainstream themes and there are Christian themes. Balancing how your family handles the two can be a challenge. However, Easter can be celebrated without the Easter bunny, and still include fun along with the important teaching of what Christ’s death and resurrection mean for us.
The Easter season is a vital part of Christian beliefs. This holiday is preceded by Palm Sunday where church go-ers recognize Jesus’ arrival in Jerusalem (Mark Chapter 11). The Holy Week that follows is time spent in remembrance of the last supper Jesus spent with his disciples, his betrayal, trial, and his crucifixion on Good Friday (Mark Chapters 14-15). Ultimately, Jesus rose from the grave and fulfilled the Old Testament prophecy by taking on the sins of mankind to provide a way for mankind to have a relationship and eternity with God in Heaven.
Brief History of Easter
The name “Easter” is derived from the Anglo-Saxon Goddess Eostre. She is the goddess of spring and fertility. The tradition of the Easter bunny is thought to come from the large litters bunnies would birth in the Spring as a sign of new life. Eggs were banned from being eaten during the Holy Week and instead would be decorated and gifted as a representation of new life, as well. As the years have gone by the two have merged into the tales of a bunny that lays special eggs and gifts for children resulting in today’s Easter basket tradition.
Activities for the Family
As Christians, it’s easy to get caught up in the traditions that aren’t rooted in the truth of scripture, but this Resurrection Sunday you can celebrate and teach your children about the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ. I’ve compiled a few fun and inexpensive activities broken down by age group. Each activity can be done at home.
Toddlers and Preschoolers
Play-doh Empty Tomb Play-doh tends to be readily available in any toddler’s home and is a great sensory activity to teach them the story of Resurrection Sunday. You and your child can craft a cross and a tomb and tell the story of Jesus’ death and burial.
Popsicle Stick Puppets If you prefer to have a printable option your child can color, this free printable provides all the characters to play out the Holy Week from Palm Sunday to Resurrection Sunday. You could even cut out the character and glue them onto popsicle sticks for more interactive play.
Tissue Paper Hanger You can create a simple window hanger with your toddler to symbolize the love and sacrifice of Jesus. This blog has a simple tutorial available using glue, black and white construction paper, and tissue paper.
“Stain Glass” Door This activity grew in popularity last year as families found themselves isolated in their homes as Covid-19 restrictions were in place. Using chalk markers and some painter’s tape, your children can create a beautiful stain glass look on a window or storm door. This homeschooling family shows how their doors turned out last spring.
Resurrection Egg Hunt This set is available online and in storefronts such as Hobby Looby or various Christian bookstores. It combines the egg hunts with the story of Jesus Christ’s crucifixion and resurrection with each egg filled with some pieces to represent different parts of the story. It also includes a booklet with corresponding scripture verses your family can read when opening the eggs. If you don’t wish to ship a physical set, you can also take advantage of this printable version.
Build a Resurrection Garden If your family enjoys hiking, gardening, or simply being outdoors this activity could create a beautiful addition to your garden with resources gathered on your outdoor adventures. Some families opt to use a small pot, cup, or mug for the tomb, while some families used a large hollowed-out potato instead of a small pot.
Resurrection Rolls Baking and preparing meals can lend themselves to quality family time, while also teaching important skills to your children. This Sunday, baking Resurrection Rolls combines a love of working in the kitchen with an opportunity to share the miracle of Christ’s death and rise. This recipe is simple and easy to adapt for family members of all ages.
Tie-Dye Hangers Coffee filters provide a classic simple science activity when combined with markers and water. Your children can decorate the coffee filters with scenes or scriptures from the Holy Week. After using a spray bottle to create a tie-dye appearance, the filters can be cut and attached to a string to decorate a window or room. Here is an easy tutorial for tie-dyed coffee filter art.
Bible Trivia Jeopardy This final activity can create fun for the whole family. Whether you simply want to use questions from the Holy Week or expand to more Biblical knowledge, the possibilities are endless. Create teams or play individually and enjoy sharing your knowledge about the importance of the resurrection with your family and friends. Prep can be easy such as this family’s or you can dedicate a large wall for a more game show feel. Here is a set of Easter-related questions for a Jeopardy game, if you don’t want to write your own.
I hope that your family’s celebration of Resurrection Sunday is blessed and focused on the most important reasons we celebrate as Christians. I also pray that these activities will help your children understand the Holy Week and look forward to learning more about the Bible and Jesus.
Many homeschooling groups and organizations are reporting higher-than-ever interest in homeschooling. With the rise of children being pulled from public school to be homeschooled, inevitably, there will be younger siblings who will want to "do school," too.
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The last thing parents want to do is discourage little ones from learning. Preschoolers like to imitate their older brothers and sisters, so foster a love of learning by incorporating them into homeschool too. Here are a few ways to do just that (and help you teach your homeschoolers at the same time).
Maintain a schedule
Most, if not all, children learn best when on a schedule. It doesn't have to be down to the hour or minute, after all, this isn't public school. For homes blessed with preschoolers and older kids, try to get the older kids up first to start their day. For little ones who wake with the sun, get the older kids up, too, and have "morning time." Incorporate a family read-aloud while you eat breakfast. You can include a devotional during this time, too. Make sure that naps for the youngest member of the family are not ignored or rushed, and mealtimes are on a set schedule.
Include reading time
For children learning to read, or to improve on their reading, have them read to the preschooler while other children do different work at the dining table or a dedicated homeschool space. This gives the reader good practice and involves (read: entertains) the youngest.
Reading to children, of all ages, helps them to visualize the words in their minds and learn them. Even older elementary and middle school students enjoy being read to (and so do your high schoolers, though they would never admit it).
Some precocious little ones will want to do their work, too. After all, they see their older siblings with workbooks and books and manipulatives, so why should they have all the fun? You can acquire pre-k workbooks for children so they can do their lessons, too. Age-appropriate puzzles, blocks, and educational toys are all great things to keep on hand.
It's important to remember that before the age of seven, kids learn mainly by playing. Even children in kindergarten need a great deal of play time -- that is how they learn best. So the educational toys, puzzles, and toys that boost the imagination such as puppets, kitchen sets, and dolls aren't just for "playtime" -- they're instrumental in learning.
Music and art
Music and art are crucial to mind development, in all ages. When writing, I often play Christian concentration music in the background to help me focus, and when homeschooling, I do the same thing for my daughter. Playing instrumental music softly in the background helps develop a peaceful atmosphere in which to learn. Preschoolers thrive in homes where music is appreciated.
Buy too-large plain tshirts to use as smocks, and let your preschooler paint with easy-clean paints in the kitchen or outside. Use brushes that are meant for little hands and be sure to display their artwork when dry.
If you can find a music class for little children, by all means, enroll him or her. Or, if you can't find a class, ask around and try to make one. Or, if all else fails, buy some kiddie instruments and teach them how to play. Recorders, drums, and little guitars are easily found.
Homeschool is all about learning
Your older children need to have some one-on-one time as you teach them, and your preschooler needs you too, and cloning can't be done. The best thing is to work with your preschooler's need to be included, and make sure your other kids know that any help they need that requires complete attention will have to wait for naptime. When homeschooling, it doesn't have to be between the hours of 8 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. Homeschool and learning can be spread throughout the day. The important thing is to cultivate a love of learning throughout the home and with all the members of the family -- even the youngest ones.
(C) 2020 Terrie Bentley McKee ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Terrie Bentley McKee is an author and speaker who homeschools her youngest daughter. Married to her husband Greg, they have four children, all of whom have special needs of varying degrees. Terrie is a follower of Jesus Christ and tries to glorify God in all she does. To read more about her testimony, click here.
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