It’s been seven weeks since school closed. Sometime during week one, I woke in the middle of the night and caught the teaching bug. You see, our son attends a completely play-based preschool, and therefore writing, not even letters were happening for him in the near future. So, I stepped up to the challenge and gave the whole homeschooling thing a shot. Welcome to “Mama School.”
It worked! I believe it’s still working because it dawned on me that as a parent teaching a young child, you need to have a happy medium. Our medium is “kid’s choice.” Every Friday I let my four and a half-year-old son choose every day’s subjects for the following week. Nothing is gawked at, or off-limits. We use a single black and white notebook to keep it old school, inexpensive, and most importantly, we’ll save it as our quarantine notebook and re-read it together when he’s older.
Each day’s subject is written at the top of the page in my neatest handwriting (which doesn’t say much for a leftie). We start our lesson with his re-writing of the topic just underneath mine. Poof! He’s writing and reading the letters back to me. All of the ABC songs since birth are making sense to him now, and are finally being put to work. On the first day, he chose Jupiter as our subject (you can guess what the next two week’s subjects consisted of). Today, it was sailboats! And there’s been everything in between, from sunflowers to sharks.
He sets up our “Mama School” corner with pride and I grab my laptop. We even wear special necklaces for school time—his is an acorn on a string and mine is a pinecone. They’re self-made of course. Anyway, I google the day’s subject, for example. ‘sailboats for kids’ or ‘sailboat facts for kids’ and I talk to him about the main points from the best three or four webpages. If a fact is a number, I write the number down and he re-writes it underneath. Now he’s learning more about numbers! If I need to lengthen a lesson on certain days (due to weather or my husband’s home-work schedule), I simply click on any highlighted sub-topics. It could go on forever, thanks Google!
Our lesson can fill up to two notebook pages and lasts thirty minutes to an hour. Homeschool is “scheduled” for 10 a.m. with a snack nearby for full energy and a pleasant mood (wink). It helps to break up the day and set goals surrounding it—like walking the dog together beforehand or a chore. To close our lessons he gets two rewards, one that includes a video of the subject (always a plethora of choices thanks to YouTube). And that’s how I incorporate entertainment for his only screen-time on weekdays. The other bonus is a printed coloring page of the subject. There are so many free coloring sheets and even activities for parents to choose from and print at home.
My favorite lesson to date was New York because he wanted to see where mama was from. Lots of images to show, and stories of course. He knows a bit about what’s happening in the world, so I shared some of the city’s heroic tales during this pandemic. After this week’s boat line-up, I’ve already been warned—next week we’re covering insects. Sigh!
I shared this idea with our friends and classmates in quarantine and it’s been a cool success. Some families with older siblings have even joined in on the lessons or were able to incorporate participation with their curriculum. The simplest ideas can show beautiful results. My son might remember “Mama School” forever so that potential is worth sharing on my favorite family tool, Red Tricycle.
Stay safe, healthy, and full of love!