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We had a question from the Facebook page, and as I began writing a response 1) I realized it was too long for a Faceboook post, 2) maybe there were other parents that have the same questions and 3) I thought this was a better forum to answer the question.  The question is as follows:

Hi , I found your page through the happy homeschool site on facebook.  I watched your video you posted about teaching with a toddler. It was very helpful. I will be homeschooling my 5 year old son starting in August…this is our first time ever homeschooling. also i will have my 4 year old little girl and our almost 6 month old baby girl at home too. I am a stay at home mom already 🙂    I was wondering do you have any tips or suggestions with teaching my son kindergarden plus my 4 year old being in our little classroom as well and what kind of things do i do with her as well? do i teach her the same things im teaching my 5 year old? or should i teach her something for younger children? this is our first time and there is a lot to take in and its all kind of confusing. I just want to make sure that I’m doing the best job i can at teaching both of them. Any advice would be great. thank you so much.

 -Jessica P.

Jessica, thank you for reaching out!

Your four & five year old are so close in age that you could really take advantage of that and pair them together a lot. When teaching your 5 year old determine what learning activities your 4 year old would enjoy as well. For example, Niara (3) joins us daily with our counting fun during math time (we begin each day going over the calendar, weather, and counting our numbers). In Language Arts she enjoys the read-alouds we do and in Science she always participates with our experiments. I also include her in our art, dance and music lessons as well. So as you are planning, plan with your 4 year old in mind.

A Little Goes a Long Way: What I found (and it took some time convince me) is that a few minutes a day goes a long way. Once I realized this it totally changed the way I schedule our ‘class’ time. I went from hour long classes to 20/30 minutes blocks. I found we worked smarted this way and it kept in step with my daughters’ attention spans.

1.  Set and Teach Boundaries: Spend some time at the beginning of the year (in August) to create and PRACTICE your class time rules. I think it works best when the children are invited in the process and when they see that you (mommy) will also make sacrifices to honor this special time. For example, one of our rules is when we are doing our ‘meeting’ time I will not take phone calls (nor text) unless it is an emergency. Other rules that help us:

2.  When mommy is working with one child the other child needs to work QUIETLY. This year my 3 year old is joining the table and so I am planning on using ‘CUE’ cards to help manage her needs with less distractions.  Basically, I will have 3 cards (I probably will laminate them so they last): Potty Break, Help Me!, Hug Me. Instead of speaking out loud that they need my help — all the have to do is give me a card. If they give me the potty card I can motion that it is ok to go to the bathroom silently. If they need a hug, I can quietly give them one. If they give me the help card, I know to check in with them as soon as I can (don’t wait too long). Make sure if you try this approach to use pictures and maybe color-code them as well.

3.   Another rule we have is: Clean up the Old to Get the New. My 3 year old likes to run through toys and you can imagine the mess she leaves behind her. This rule really helps keep our space orderly.

4.  Our Wiggle Breaks is an example of a rule the kids came up with. In our mid-section of meeting time–the halfway mark– the children get a snack (usually an apple) and they can turn music on and wiggle for about 15/20 minutes. They so look forward to this time (and I do too). It helps get their wiggles out by getting them up and moving and it also allows me time to: change the baby (I have an 11 month old), fold the laundry, wipe out the bathroom sink, answer emails, grab a cup of coffee, prep lunch, dinner–you understand mom–our list is endless!

5.  Offer activities: Throughout the meeting time I suggest having different activities to offer your 4 year old. Be sure these activities are ones that are only offered during your school time so they are ‘special’. Have a variety of them and a lot. Children’s attention span at this age is very short. Also, make sure that you stay in control of the pace of the activities–pay attention to cues and try to be ahead of your child’s desire to move on to something else. Activities do not have to cost a lot of money. Look around the house and your local dollar store to find fun things. Here are some things Niara (3) gets offered during meeting time:

  • Play Dough (luv, luv, luv)
  • Coloring Sheets (right now Dora is super popular so I always grab Dora coloring books)
  • Stickers (my girls love stickers, they can’t get enough of them and although I tend to find stickers in the most unusual places–it does occupy her, so it is worth it)
  • Nature books (I actually set out certain books ONLY during meeting time and right now the girls are fascinated with creepy bugs–they love looking at the pictures)
  • Pattern Blocks
  • Stamp Dots (this is GREAT–it is washable paint dot stamps)
  • Cutting (ok, my daughter can spend 10 minutes just cutting paper–yes a mess is made but I gladly let the vacuum cleaner take care of it!)
  • Computer Time (I do have ABC Mouse and my 3 year old likes it. Sometimes I will put that on with ear phones, or a video about something we are talking about). I use computer time when I need to really partner with my older daughter on something (let’s say if I am introducing new content)
  • Books on Tape (again with earphones, this makes a great quiet time option).
  • Math Mat (click here): This is a great game that one can play by themselves. What I like about this activity is that she can carry the mat to the hallway and set it up by herself and have fun with it—and it is an ACTIVE game.

Most importantly, have FUN, but do not let the plan determine your success. I remember clearly our 1st day of school with Niara (then 2). I had so much stress surrounding it and didn’t know how I was going to accomplish teaching Lela with her 2 year old sister running around. Actually, Lela calmed me down and told me her sister would be fine and that I was doing a great job. She was my teacher that day and for that I was grateful. Over time I learned to relax and embrace the natural flow of our day. Once I found that I was able to enjoy it.

Thank you so much for sharing your question with me. And thank you also for watching our video; we had a blast making it! I hope some of what I shared will help you. Please keep in touch and if I can help in any other way let me know!!

Chantel-LaVonne ~ The Muse

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