PANDEMIC "HOMESCHOOLING" FOR YOUNG CHILDREN UNDER 2nd GRADE: A simple Primer for Sanity
Updated: Sep 16, 2020
This post would be for you only if you want to homeschool your young child for the duration of the pandemic and when its over, send your kids back to school. This is “emergency homeschooling” not true home education. If you want to homeschool over a longer period of time, you would want to do some more planning and look at your bigger picture. I'd point you to my other post about "What Type of Home Educator do You Want to Be".
The best piece of advice I would give for those that are thinking this way, would be to follow the school’s curriculum (or at least get a copy of the standards for your child’s grade level and teach from that) so they can be integrated back into their class easily. One thing you could do is set up a daily schedule around their teacher’s online time, giving your child time for homework. Then your afternoons can be for play, socializing, reading, practicing music if your child is into that...or doing projects based on your child’s interests. If you do your pandemic homeschool this way, try and make your child’s academic time outside of zoom class-time be as hands-on and personal as possible, to counteract the massive amounts of screen time.
If you DON’T want to use the online school presence and prefer to pull together your own learning curriculum – then read on. I believe that all that screen learning is not beneficial or helpful to children under 2nd grade so pulling your own learning plan is a better way to go. This does not have to be difficult and if you take it one step at a time, you and your child can have success and enjoy the time you have at home together - without all that screen time. Who knows, you may find a fresh connection with your child.
The following is a quick and dirty overview of what your child needs to keep up with what his/her classmates are doing but in a more more age-appropriate way than sticking your child in front of a screen all morning.
Play! Play! Play! Seriously, your preschooler needs to play, explore and have fun learning about the things they love right now. Forget formal lessons that are best left for when they are 7 or older anyways. Just let them play and explore!
Here are some learning themes that preschoolers love. There are so many resources out there to put together a play-filled learning environment. Ask your child (or observe them) What do you like learning about? Then google those themes and use that information for an exploration- filled, fun playful learning time. Use these themes to expand your child’s vocabulary and language skills. Use typical play-based preschool appropriate activities around a theme. A typical preschool-appropriate approach is hands-on, exploration, artsy and driven by the child’s interest.
Think about (and ask your child) about these fun themes:
Get inspired by the seasons.
The fall has leaves, the harvest, farms and wonderful smells and sights to explore and learn about.
Winter has Christmas...and snow.
Spring is all the life science your child could take months to explore
Make sure your child has access to:
Sensory materials like playdough, sand, and water.
Art supplies – keep it simple with paper, paint, colored pencils or crayons, scissors, glue.
Books – lots and lots of books! Read to them as much as you can!
Simple board games especially matching games, bingo, dominoes and co-operative games.
Building materials like blocks, legos, tinker toys
A yard, park or nature-filled area nearby.
You can (and should) set up a playroom that has centers or stations that your child can visit as he/she likes.
Read my posts on setting up a learning environment for preschool and follow my recommendations:
Set up learning areas – one for art, one for books (make it cozy - even cushions ont he floor and a basket of books will do), one for building activities, one for games and puzzles.
Use low shelving to display activities in an attractive way that gives your child accessibility. Keep them shelves neat and tidy and simple – that means only a FEW things at a time.
Cycle in and out activities every few weeks to keep it fresh and interesting, when you and you child have exhausted all your activities for a particular theme, then change the theme.
Your kindergarten child also needs to play play play! The preschool set up can be the same for kindergarten but you can begin to add some important beginning academic skills. Seriously, an hour a day in basic skills is all your child needs if you are supplementing “seat work” with lots of play-filled learning. Set up the learning environment the same way you would for preschool, only add maybe a little table or a desk for seat work. Add maybe a calendar, maps according to your themes and more writing materials like a journal, or little writing practice booklets, add some beginning readers as your child is ready and some alphabet games.
Reading: Learning the alphabet letters, both letter names and sounds, lower and uppercase is what kindergarten is all about. There are so many ways to do this WITHOUT A SCREEN or even a workbook. Basically your child needs to know what each letter sounds like because remember, we read on sounds. We mostly read lower case letters with the occasional upper case letter, so concentrate on lower case sounds first, then move to letter names and upper case letters. At some point in this year many kindergarten kids figure out that those letters and sounds come together to make words. Word building and decoding games all play into this all-important skill. They may even start reading in books – easy readers like “Step Into Reading” or “Bob Books” – are easily accessible at the library or bookstore.
Writing: Have your Kindergartner practice writing letters so it is a smooth, painless process. You don’t have to make them copy letters over and over (that is boring). Instead find fun ways for your child to practice writing letters – chalk boards, white boards, chalk on the ground, paint – get creative!
Math: Kindergartners are learning all their numbers to about 100. Counting to 100 orally is a common kindergarten standard. This means learning all those “double numbers” – that 15 means one 10 and 5 units, or 45 is 4 tens and 5 units. Kindergartners also learn the basics of adding and subtracting. So using some hands-on counters , there are many different kinds of counters out on the market, show them first how to put two amounts together to make a bigger amount, or how to take away some amounts to make a smaller number. Then link that concept to the numbers. Play games to reinforce these skills – there are so many on the market. Above all, use hands-on concrete materials.
Projects in science, social studies and life skills (called practical life in Montessori): Pick themes your child loves to learn about and create “research projects”. This age group loves making posters where they learn about the subject and write or trace simple sentences about what they learn and glue them onto a poster board with pictures they either drew or printed and colored. You can also find great science experiments to do with your child to explore subjects like magnetism, properties of water or air, or friction. They can learn about life in other countries and make an exciting link to geography. Kindergarten children love learning about their world: animals, plants, volcanoes, rocks and minerals, the ocean, biomes (deserts, mountains, rain forests etc). The learning is endless if you follow their interests and choose projects they want to learn about.
Finally, kindergartners love art. Give them a chance to make things, teach them how to draw things and of course explore all the wonderful art mediums out there.
There is a big disparity at this age around the skills of learning to read and write, so go at your child’s pace and relax into it. Realize learning to write, read and make sentences and spell words correctly is a long process that takes many years. Some children get there relatively early and others quite late in the game. Despite what our public school system wants us to believe, it is definitely not a one size fits all approach.
It is very important for your sanity and your child’s happiness to go at your child’s pace, teach skills systematically and carefully and give them lots of time and opportunity to practice practice practice. This goes for all these foundational skills: reading, writing, grammar skills and math skills. Practice is the key.
Your set up is the same for kindergarten only with a little more seat-time, writing materials, and age appropriate reading materials.
Reading: 1st Graders big work is solidifying reading skills. Children this age are learning more and more double sounds like ea, ai, oa - and the rules surrounding them. I would suggest finding a curriculum or guide that systematically teaches these. Children will graduate from easy readers to more complex readers that incorporate these new sounds they are learning. Again, go at your child’s pace and remember that daily practice is the key to long term success.
Language: Grammar is a large part of learning how sentences are put together both for making sense of their reading material as well as their own sentences they are writing.
Math: They are beginning to be more fluent and competent in writing and working with numbers (especially arithmetic – that is calculation in addition, subtraction, multiplication and division)
Projects in science and social studies: 1st graders are still writing simple sentences, but you would want to see them being more independent with this, and writing longer more complex sentences. You also would see “invented spelling” give way to more and more correct spelling in those sentences. Keep with the idea of projects, just give children at this age the opportunity to go deeper and put more information on their posters. The subjects can still be the child’s choice.
Keep in mind that you as the parent of your child, know your child best and you do have what it takes to meet their educational needs. If you choose to do your Pandemic Homeschooling this way, I urge you to keep it relaxed, fun and take breaks for play and socializing. I would also urge you to keep your adult perspective out of the process and be led by your child’s interests and motivation. Good Luck!