As this school year starts winding down and we start getting ready for kindergarten (officially) I've been re-evaluating all the things we've done and all the things I've learned as a home educator. Home schooling for preschool was not necessarily something I had planned to do but I am so very grateful for the chance to experience it.
1. Try lots of different methods. You may think Waldorf is the best thing in the world. Your engineering minded son may not. One of the best methods I discovered for our family was Montessori. I was astonished how much time Barrett worked on pouring beans as our very first activity two and a half years ago. It was simple. It minimized my prep time. It made things fun again.
2. Find a rhythm. Do your kids work really well from 7-9? Do they work better from 3-5? Just because regular school starts at 8 and ends at 3 doesn't mean you should too.
3. Have a simple environment. I love the book Simplicity Parenting. Just because it's educational or the best toy ever doesn't mean it should be out. I have maybe 25 % of our materials out for the kids to access. If it hasn't been touched in a month, I take it away. It's OK to be minimal!
3. Live at your library. Know your librarians. Spend your afternoons there. Be regulars at story time. Our best lessons and memories come from picking out books that interest the kids and building extensions from there.
4. Read. This builds on the first but one of the pivotal moments in our home school was when we started reading for an hour together in the afternoon. Everyday. My son went from hating phonics to reading chapter books with little traditional intervention from me. We just read. and read. and read some more. I love the book, A Family of Readers. It's a book about what makes a good children's book with a few recommendations from birth to teenagers.
5. Utilize screen time to your advantage. Starfall and Reading Eggs have been lifesavers for me. Giving me a chance to breathe, catch up, or just drink a cup of coffee. There are awesome programs out there- use them!
6. Live your classroom. Our home school group is called the Living Classroom. I love this! Just because you are doing "school" doesn't mean it should be a mini school. Go outside. Read on the couch. Explore your local museums.
7. Give yourself a break. Seriously. I try to take time on Sundays to meander the thrift store. Or drive around in circles. Just something that doesn't involve kids. Anything.
8. Never, ever, ever cancel a play-date to work on a worksheet. Seriously!
9. Have a safe place that's not your home. For my kids it's the child watch at the gym. We can be having a horrible morning and I can take them there and it totally turns our day around. They love the ladies who work there and I can't imagine not having them in our weekly/daily lives.
10. Involve them in your day to day. They are around. So they can help. And yes, it can count as school.
We have good days and we have horrible days but I am in love with our routine and rhythm and wouldn't trade it for the world. I hope this ends up being a sense of encouragement somewhere. You are not alone!
And in full disclosure: during the course of my typing this, my daughter escaped totally naked- just boots, my son ate almost an entire bag of m&m's and I feel as though I may have a heart attack at the state of the school room.