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Kerry Moore was the lead teacher and Director of the Los Altos Parent Preschool, a cooperative, play-based preschool for nearly 2 decades. She homeschooled her daughter for many years as well. Though her daughter is grown, and she is retired from teaching, you can still benefit from her wisdom. As a special needs family, we value these ideas even more – especially the active ones. Mr. Diggy will have difficulty watching his teacher online for the next month.
Coronavirus what to do at home:
I’m seeing a lot of friends who are newly finding themselves homeschooling, and are maybe a bit apprehensive about how to keep the kiddos busy while isolating. Thought I’d volunteer a few ideas from my time as a teacher and home-schooling mom.
Around the house:
Put ’em to work:
If your child already does chores, work to up their game. Teach them some household tasks that they haven’t yet learned to carry out, then let them practice! Laundry, vacuuming, washing the little fragile ornaments or collectibles, changing the oil in the car- the sky’s the limit.
Have ’em clean:
Have the child draw up a checklist to thoroughly clean a room which they are already responsible for. Have them use the checklist to clean, then either self- evaluate or you check their work. When they are satisfied with the checklist, have them start competing with themselves to clean the room faster and faster while still properly completing all items on the list. Improving your time without reducing the quality of the work, wins an award– you get to choose dessert for the night, or choose the next book the family will read aloud, or choose the after dinner game, something like that.
Have ’em cook:
Put each child in charge of one meal per week. They have to come up with a menu (using what you have available), prepare and serve the meal. For smaller children or beginners, you can walk them through each step; for older kids, help as needed but let them make their own mistakes too.
If you have a yard, order some seeds and let your child start a plot. Radishes are wonderfully quick and rewarding; spinach, and sugar peas are delicious and tolerate cool weather.
Study nature, in your own backyard:
Again, if you have a yard, send the child outside with some sticks (chopsticks work great), string, and a yardstick. Have them choose and lay out a square foot of yard, putting the sticks at the corners and attaching string around them. Then have them carefully study that square foot, maybe photographing or drawing all the plants and animals (insects, arthropods, etc.) that they can see on it.
Have them observe it on multiple days and at different times of day to see how it changes. A magnifying glass is great for this. They can then use the photos/drawings to try to identify each species they saw, and create a way of documenting it and sharing it with the family. They could draw and label it, create a paper or clay model, a book, etc. Encourage them to learn and share some facts about each plant or animal, not just learn the name.
If there’s a bit of bare earth included, have them scoop up a little and test it to figure out what type of soil it is (there are lots of instructions for doing this online.) They can also put a thermometer and rain gauge next to their square, and create a log or graph of daily temperatures and precipitation. There are some great, cheap min/max thermometers available online.
Make Learning Fun:
Have the child write down either the names of people they’d like to know more about, or categories of people. (For instance, inventors, scientists, the person who invented the yoyo, women soldiers in history, etc.) Put the slips of paper in a jar, and each week the child draws out one slip, then uses the internet to research that person or people, and create a way to tell the family about them at dinner. Could be a written report, but it could also be a clay or paper diorama, a play to act out, an illustrated book, etc. The family listens with attention and asks further questions.
Connect with historical fiction:
Ask your child what interests them in history, and look for historical fiction about that person, era, or event. Good historical fiction is, in my opinion, the best way to build interest in history as a topic. Once a child is interested, from having read or listened to a great book, then they can research more about the topic.
Make your own book report:
Have your child choose a book (from an approved list, if you want) read it, and write a book report. Specify that the report shouldn’t be a synopsis of the plot, but should share how they felt about the book. What did you really like? What parts were boring, or scary, or sad? IF you were in the character’s place, what would you have done? What parts of the writing seemed the best to you? How did you feel about the illustrations?
Where in the world is…?
Play geography games online– it’s fun and children usually beat the adults. You can identify all the states, the countries in Africa, etc. and try to improve your times.
Read a family book:
Choose a family book (if you don’t already have one) and listen to it together or take turns reading it aloud. Talk about it the way you do at book club– not in a “schoolish” way. Taking time to listen to and talk with your child can make this time at home one that you will always remember.
Have a Little Fun:
Create a game:
Invite your child(ren) to invent a game. Extra points if it pertains to something they are studying! They can draw the boards, create the pieces, make up and test the rules. Play the game as a family after dinner, and ask the child what they liked about it and what parts weren’t as fun as they’d hoped. Have them make changes and then play it again.
Learn a new craft or hobby together– sewing, felting, beading, making lego models, building cardboard dioramas, painting in acrylics– order supplies online if you aren’t going out at all. Get out glue guns (low temperature) and assemble a bunch of recyclables, natural objects, stray bits and pieces, for building stuff. It can be fun to create a jar full of ideas (a giant hand, a chair, a suit of armor, an apple-machine, etc.) and then someone can draw a slip, and everyone can make their own example, and then you can demonstrate them for one another.
Don’t forget puzzles (real-life and online), word games, card games, building toys, etc. Teenagers can be surprised at how fun legos are even when you’ve “outgrown” them. Draw and cut out paper dolls and their clothes.
If you (or your child) likes computer games, sit down and play one together. Share a game you love and talk about why you like it. Let your child teach you about one that they love. Watch Netflix together, or listen to music and dance or draw to it.