I'll borrow and add to a favorite quote of mine.
"We teach our kids at home 'til we send them off to school and then it's still constant teaching on our part." [Going Public]
Elijah is enjoying and thriving in first grade this year in the public school system in SF. Sam just turned 5 and Asher just turned 3 and are with me at home. I do my best to do preschool activities 3 days a week with them. Here's just a few of the things we do. Nothing elaborate. Nothing that requires an education degree. And all accomplished in about 30 minutes.
These books I've picked up at Borders and Barnes & Noble. They have a collection of them and and are simple tear out pages that are basic in skills such as tracing letters and progress at a slow pace through the book. Sam does one sheet per day on his own and I check over it. He gets a sticker for completing the worksheet. While Sam is working on this worksheet, I do worksheets with Asher from a simple preschool workbook. It teaches shapes, colors, size, and introduces letters. Asher usually only has the attention to do this one worksheet and then I give him either:
a blank notebook where he can doodle
paper and a pair of kid scissors that he practice cutting
or he plays with his trains
While Asher is doing his independent thing, I do the following book with Sam.
This a great book!!! It requires commitment. It literally is 100 lessons that you work through with your child. It literally tells you as the parent what to say in red print and what to do in black print. It teaches sounds. Usually you teach one sound on one lesson and then review it on the next lesson or two. The lesson takes us about 15 minutes. It's broken down into several exercises which keeps Sam's attention. The last exercise per lesson has the child write two of the letters they have been learning. Because this book takes the whole school year to complete and requires commitment and determination from Sam, I had Sam think of a toy that he wants from the toy store. We wrote that item on the back page of the book and he knows when he accomplishes the book, he is rewarded with this toy.
I got these wipe off boards in the Target $1 bin at the beginning of the school year in August. I write the letter twice and have Sam write each letter 10 times. Then for fun I ask him to circle his favorite one that he wrote. It challenges him to do well.
I usually do 'school' after breakfast and after I've started the dishwasher or the washer/dryer. When the workbooks are completed, I set out another learning tool for the boys to do while I get ready for the day. This activity has to keep them engaged, but encourages me to come back to them and see what they've done.
These geo-shapes above are great for the imagination. Sometimes I give them a theme like nature or outer space for them to work towards. They see what they can build. Other times I start a pattern for them and they try to complete it.
We recycle, but before I take it to the bin, I let the kids have at it! I pull the items out onto the floor. Egg cartons, cardboard boxes, and toilet paper rolls can spark a child's creativity. They stack and build forts and towers. When I'm around, I let them cut and tape.
I've learned that if you set out toys/activities occasionally, they will not be as easily bored as if you just told them to go and play. So sometimes I set out puzzles or audio books.
A few other goals I have during my days with the kids at home:
I try to read at least one book to each child each day. Elijah reads to me.
I try and do one outing a week with the kids that is for them. Sometimes it is tempting to count 10 minutes on the toy aisles at Target as their outing! Story time or craft time at the library is an easy and convenient one for us. Choosing a park in the city is a favorite of theirs. Setting up a playdate requires scheduling on my part and the part of another family, but is a win-win. We are blessed to live in a city that offers free days at museums and brings in lots of talented people and exhibits.
And finally, when we are all back together for the day, we ask the boys to share their high/low. The high is their favorite part of their day and the low is just the opposite. It's a quick way to hear about their day and lots of times it gives us insight into their friendships and joys and struggles. We always turn these conversations into celebrations or stop and pray for their hurts and others.
This is how we do school in this season for our family. It works. It will change as Sam goes to school in the fall and as our boys become more involved in extra-curricular activities. But for now, with two kids at home, this is how we do school.