Homeschooling as dynamically and offline as possible
March 24, 2020 3:04 PM   Subscribe

I know loads of us are in the same boat here, suddenly running homeschools. I'm eager for resources that help us novices BECOME the teacher, rather than setting the kid (age 6) up with online videos, ipad apps, or zoom classes. And workbooks are good but they're more suited to practice than actual learning. Of course, my time is limited so I can't fully devote myself to this by perusing pinterest for hours - does anyone have any ideas?

We subscribed to Kiwi Crate, we have a big list of science projects we found online (although many are hard to pull off at home), we have lots of great books... is there anything else that can supplement this? I know we're dealing with the art of the possible, but please humor my idealism here for a moment. Thanks!
posted by malhouse to Education (7 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
You're talking about methods of homeschooling. Teaching in a classroom is different from homeschooling because it's a group setting in a purpose-made building and involves many different children and annual turnover. At home, you have just a couple of kids max and a different space and schedule.

Homeschoolers generally fall into several methods:

Replicating school using a very specific curriculum and setting up a mini-classroom space. (Not common, as it is less effective without peers)

Classical Method - this is a very popular book, the Classical Education and there's a lot of value in it, facts, then logic, then exploration by age but it is Your kid would be in the "grammar" stage which is learning lots of facts. It is very western-centric.

Charlotte Mason - also a popular series of books. You do a lot of reading and nature studies and each block is based around a book. Fairly western-centric but it can be adapted to your own books.

Unschooling - you let your kid pick and design how they learn. You provide the materials and advice, teaching (some parents go socratic method with this) but they pick what they want to do each day. Works surprisingly well with some kids.

Unit Studies - you learn holistically through subjects. Say you decide to pick rabbits, you'd do biology, rabbit picture books, art on rabbits, rabbit multiplication maths, rabbit ecology for geography, etc - for about 1-3 weeks.

Hybrid - what most homeschool parents do. Pick what works from the different systems for your kid's particular needs.

I homeschooled at some point all 5 of my kids. What worked for one didn't for another. None of them liked Classical Education or unschooling, they had a sort of Charlotte Mason/Unit Studies with Singapore Maths (very popular books and I have to say we do math teaching well here) mixed with whatever they were interested in.

Teacherspayteachers is a great resource for readymade materials both specific to homeschool and things like unit studies. My 8 year old and I are doing an Alice in Wonderland unit study with the book that I bought from there, and it's saved me hours of prep.

If you google any of the methods above, you'll get more info. But honestly, it's follow what your child wants. Have a few small goals for the month: she reads X books, writes X paragraphs a week, she learns these new words and we finish this set of maths - and then let her explore with you.

Most of all, limit time and teach her to learn and play independently. This pays off in spades down the line.
posted by dorothyisunderwood at 3:30 PM on March 24, 2020 [7 favorites]

I'm going to crush your idealism ;) Homeschooling is not something you get good at in a month, or 3 months. It takes time for both the parent and kids to settle in and figure out what works. And when I say time I'm talking a year or two. And then when you think you've got it all figured out the kid changes and the math curriculum that worked great last year just causes tears and frustration this year.

Been there done that for 12 years X 2 kids, or more accurately my wife did all that.

Unless you are planing on continuing homeschooling next year, your goal for the next 3 months is just to make sure the kid(s) are learning something every day. It doesn't really matter what. Learning, and more importantly learning how to enjoy learning, is super valuable in itself and pays off many times over for years in the future. I've always felt the most important thing my kids got from homeschooling was the understanding that leaning is not limited to 8-4 at school, and that they are mostly in control of how much and what they want to learn. If the schools have given guidance then use that so that your kids don't fall behind expectations. If you are on your own, then the advice above is good - set simple, achievable goals and go with the flow. Kids are resilient, you really can't do any permanent damage to their education in 3 months.
posted by COD at 4:01 PM on March 24, 2020 [11 favorites]

Great answer by dorothy (and honestly a much kinder direct answer than I'm capable of at the moment).

Just wanted to add one thought: One thing that many homeschoolers end up learning is an invaluable strength is that it's FLEXIBLE. And not just in regard to the methods - or combination thereof - that you use to teach your kids. The real value is that it allows a family to adapt to whatever circumstances life is throwing their way.

Sun is shining? Take school to the park. Need to travel? Take the supplies along. Have a family member in the hospital (in non-pandemic times)? Do it there. Have to work odd hours? Adjust school hours.

Tragedy or crisis? High stress? Relax and take some downtime. This is when we resort to lots of reading, board games, educational videos...

Pandemic with the world shut down? Absolutely be kind to you and your child. Don't even think of trying to replicate school at home. Age 6? Practice reading, practice math, practice handwriting and storytelling. Do art. Watch age-friendly science and social studies videos. Play games. And stay healthy and de-stress.

We've homeschooled through severe health issues, court cases, homelessness... honestly, a pandemic wouldn't have phased me too much when the kids were younger, it just would have meant we actually stayed home instead of youth activities and scouts and sports and swim lessons and school at the park or riverside or cafe. (Though no library access would have been aggravating!) But it would have been a welcome break from a very busy, scheduled (overscheduled?) life.

It's also an excellent time to learn how to do chores, start learning to cook, and answering all those random kid-questions that come up.

Relax. And if you're not being forced to adhere to busywork a public school is sending out - enjoy this time, and fill it in a way that both you and your child can enjoy. And maybe, your child will learn to love learning - and that's really the most important thing you can teach.
posted by stormyteal at 4:15 PM on March 24, 2020 [2 favorites]

There are a variety of homeschooling resources and discussions posted at the MeFi Wiki Disaster Planning & Recovery page, Medical/Pandemic section, specifically in the AskMe section.
posted by katra at 4:24 PM on March 24, 2020

Are you looking for ideas about what to teach, tips on how to teach, materials to use when teaching, or all of the above?

If your kid is 6, my feeling (as a parent of teenagers homeschooled since kindergarten) is that you can do absolutely nothing intentionally educational for the rest of the school year and your kid will be just fine. So if you're feeling any pressure to get this right for your kid's sake, you have my permission to stop worrying about that.

But if you want to do some learning activities, here are my thoughts. At 6, there are two main things kids should be learning - reading and math. Sure, there are all kinds of useful social studies and science concepts they can be learning, but it really won't make any difference to their lives if they learn those things at some point in the future instead of now. (It probably won't make that much difference in the long run how early they learn reading or math skills, either, but it could make some difference.)

If your kid is already reading well, just give them books at their level. If they're still learning, teaching some phonics is probably one of the most helpful things you could do right now. Does your kid know the basic sound each letter makes and understand the concept of sounding out a word? If so, go beyond that and teach:
- Silent e at the end of the word makes the vowel say its name, as in lake or here.
- When two vowels go walking, the first one does the talking and says its name, as in mean or road.
- oo and ee
- th, ch, sh, wh, ph
- any other rule you realize your kid doesn't know based on what they get stuck on when they read aloud to you

I'm sure there are zillions of phonics resources online, if you need them. I had fun making my own badly drawn easy reader comics when my kids were learning to read. You could try that, and encourage your kid to draw some too. Or invent a "read it and do it" game where they have to read commands like "get on the bed" or "pick up a pen."

For math, your kid needs to understand the concepts of addition and subtraction and should ideally be starting to memorize all the one-digit addition and subtraction facts (4+3, 8-5, etc.) and learning which combinations add up to 10. You could also work on telling time, coins, fractions, or counting to 100 or 1000. There are plenty of games that use math and just playing those games would be as helpful as anything else for a 6 year old. No need to do worksheets unless your kid likes it.

If you want to do some learning activities, any random thing you feel like teaching is really as good as any other thing. Pick something you know a lot about or are interested in yourself, or something your kid is fascinated with. A few ideas:

Molly Bang and Penny Chisholm wrote some absolutely wonderful picture books about how energy from sunlight fuels life on earth: My Light, Living Sunlight, Ocean Sunlight and Buried Sunlight. They're simple enough for a kid as young as 6 to learn from, but most adults would end up learning from them as well. They could easily be the basis for a whole year's worth of science learning. Libraries in my area are setting up ways for people to request books and come and get them even while the library is closed. So you may be able to get specific books from a library.

Molly Bang also wrote a very cool book called Picture This: How Pictures Work that anyone from about 6 to adult could learn from.

You could make any book the seed for the week's learning. Where is it set? You could look up information about that place. Are there any foods that place is known for or any food the people in the book eat that isn't something your family usually eats? You could try making that food. Does the book take place in the past? You could look up more about that time period. Who wrote the book? You could look up information on the author. How were the illustrations done? Could you try making pictures in that style or using that medium? Is the book about an animal? You could learn more about that animal.
posted by Redstart at 4:48 PM on March 24, 2020 [5 favorites]

One thing my kids liked was to let them take a turn to be the teacher and you be the student. Use role play to make it silly with voices and facial expressions. Misbehave and let them discipline you. It feels like a game but you are assessing their knowledge and asking leading questions to make them think a little farther down the path than they started.
posted by CathyG at 10:51 PM on March 24, 2020

Relax, your kid is 6 years old. Missing a few weeks or even months of school at that age is not going to have much effect in the long run. (I'm a grandmother of 5 kids, have taught and been certified by various US states to teach K-12, and have a doctorate in history and philosophy of education.)

What does child do on weekends or during school vacations? Do some of that if it does not involve staring at a screen or going somewhere you can't go.

Do some cooking together, let your child measure ingredients, stir stuff, even cut up fruit. That's nutrition and math skills. Build an indoor playhouse with cardboard and duct tape, math and physics. Child can make puppets and create puppet show, art and language arts. Or child can write a story and illustrate it. If possible, scan it and send it to relatives. Discuss how they're related to kid, make a family tree: history and language arts.

Do 30 minutes of phys ed a day together, yoga, jumping jacks, whatever.

Screen time should include documentaries. If you can, watch them with kid and discuss.
posted by mareli at 11:34 AM on March 25, 2020

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