Well, I know everyone thinks that they have the BEST best friend… but for real, I definitely do!! We met several years ago while going through the National Board process. If you’ve ever been through it, you know that there were a LOT of tears, a LOT of stress and a LOT of Growth! It was an amazing experience (not that I look back at it… and begin looking towards my Renewal… happening this year, yikes!) and I could NOT have gotten through it, without my (then) carpool buddy, turned into best friend!
Without even knowing each other before hand, we lived nearly a mile from one another, and taught at schools nearly a mile from one another (even though we both had 30+ minute commutes). We ended up sharing students (some transferred from my school to hers, and from hers to mine!) and did a LOT of talking, collaborating and general teacher supporting!!
Well, she is now a stay at home Mama to some AMAZING little girls (I’m a little bias…. being their “Auntie”) and her oldest daughter was able to participate in my Online Classroom as a supplement at the end of last year. Well now she is off to 1st grade and her Mama has decided to go ALL in and Home School this year!
I have LOVED hearing ALL of the crazy, funny shenanigans that they have gotten up to and her little ones LOVE for learning! I wanted to share a few of those things with you all, just incase it inspires you either in your own classroom, or your at home classoom!
Walking to “School”
Every morning their whole family (Mom, Dad, little sister, even the dog!) goes out and walks around the block to “School”. I thought this was an AMAZING opportunity to continue to set routines. Every other school year they would have been walking her to the bus, but this is a great alternative to still get the little ones “in the mindset” of going to school.
OK, this one is FUNNY and I LOVE it!!!! They have a set of Walkie Talkies that Dad (who is work from home in the office) uses to check in and say hi randomly when he is not on phone calls/web calls. They decided to do daily announcements using these Walkie Talkies once school started! How FUN is that!!! **Note: You need to know if the schedules change otherwise you might be giving Morning Announcements to an empty classroom because she was scheduled for Swim Class that day – oops! Lol!!
You can make it as “normal” (Pledge of Allegiance, School Pledge, etc) as you would like, or just announce random facts for the day. Making this a consistent part of the day lets everyone get in on the FUN of school!!
Setting up a Classroom Space
My BFF did a FABULOUS job setting up a space in her basement that can be “closed off” from her littlest one, so that her and her older daughter can do school. She has a table, some flexible seating options (these are SO important especially for little ones!), a space for a bookcase that houses their classroom library, and some math materials. Having a dedicated space helps students “code switch” to know that it is now school time, even though we are still at home. Also (if room allows…) I would avoid having kids hang out/play in this space outside of “school hours”. You want this space to still be “fresh” and a space that kids will want to continue to visit throughout their homeschool time OR school at home time.
She even covered one of her walls with 26 large construction papers and labeled them each with a letter. She is using this as her word wall and will continue to add words that they learn so her daughter will be able to find them and use them during reading or writing!
My BIGGEST suggestion for you is to MAKE IT FUN!!!!!!!!!! Make it fun for YOU, make it fun for THEM, HAVE FUN!!!! No one enjoys going somewhere that is boring, or stressful, or overwhelming!! If you need your little ones to practice a skill… play a game with it! Playing “War” (or we call it “Top It”) lets kids practice greater than/less than, Bingo is a great way for kids to practice number recognition (You can even create a Bingo board with letters or pictures for beginning sounds, or sight words).
Here her little one is using PlayDoh to build some sight words!
There are a MILLION different games out there – you don’t need to have tons of fancy things, just google it! Type what you’re looking for then add the word: Game! If you haven’t discovered Teachers Pay Teachers yet (its not just for teachers!) that is another GREAT place to search – I also suggest checking the FREE option, just to see, there are a LOT of free resources, teachers are pretty great about sharing!!!
Also REUSING your board games for another purpose is great too! You can use your Scrabble letters to let your little ones create and build their name, sound out words (cat, dog, yam, etc), sight words (the, to, you, etc). You can use Uno cards to play a LOT of different kinds of Math games (put numbers in order, greater than/less than, addition/subtraction, etc). The possibilities are really endless…
This is another amazing thing she is doing! WRITING!! It seems small, but everyone usually focuses on Reading and Math. But writing is such a BIG part of learning to read! Having students sound words out to write them (DO NOT TELL THEM HOW TO SPELL IT – MAKE THEM SOUND IT OUT – EVEN IF THEY ARE WRONG!!!!!!) it will help them when they come across a word they don’t know while reading! Writing helps kids tell a story, this also helps with comprehension skills when they are learning to read (being able to retell the story, or answer specific questions about what happened in the story).
Writing is such a fun and creative way your little ones can express themselves!
One BIG tip – have them point and read what they wrote back to you, EVERY DAY! Even if they didn’t really write words (just letters… all stuck together that to you look like gibberish but to them they worked really hard to write them!), it is important that they start by writing something, then pointing at the “words” and reading it back to you! You can also set a great example by doing this each day too! Write while they write, then you can point and tell them about what you wrote about! (I highly suggest you going last when sharing though… kids tend to “copy” what you wrote about if they forget/like your idea more! Lol!)
I hope these tips help you while you are doing school at home! If you have any questions or tips, please leave a comment below!