Where did the time go? When I look at the young families in our group, especially those of you with pre-K to early elementary, I become starry-eyed and remember how much fun we had at that age. Of course, I seem to have blocked the more difficult part of homeschooling at that time: not getting time to myself, always having to stay vigilant to dangers my young children were oblivious toward, and not having another adult to converse with all day long. Okay, it wasn’t all perfectly rosy, but oh, we did have fun! I do remember constantly reminding myself to “enjoy this time” in spite of the difficult stuff, and I am glad that I did.
Recently I came across a journal book that I kept years ago when my children were just that age. At the time, I was struggling with the quandary of how to make learning fun and interesting for them. So every time I thought of a creative way to teach something or heard of a unique way to present a lesson, I wrote it down in my journal. “I’ll use it later,” I thought. Many of the ideas did come in useful and we enjoyed lots of fun learning, but we never did get around to using many of the ideas, and they were good ones.
I hate to have good ideas wasted; consequently, I plan to share them with you over the next school year through this monthly newsletter section, in the hope that they may be a blessing to someone out there who might be struggling (just as I did) to fluff the nest.
Remember: “Enjoy this time!”
Through this simple, inexpensive lesson my older two students, age 4-5 at the time, were introduced to geography, foreign culture, the concept of history, technology, language, dictation, personal identity, and self-worth. It was a lot more fun than a textbook social studies lesson, and we have a lasting memory book entry to remind us of our exciting exploration.
First of all, pick up the DK book Children Just Like Me at the public library. It has full-page color illustrations of children from different cultures. Then obtain a map of the world for the wall (if you don’t have one already, then borrow or purchase one. They are inexpensive and you’ll use it over and over).
We read a double-page spread from the book together each day, taping a copy of the photo of each child profiled in the book onto the correct country of the map. We discussed the topography of the country and extended the learning by making clothes (out of paper), crafts or cooking related to that country. Pictures, instructions for crafts and recipes can be found online. We also prayed for the children of that country, especially noting when the book alluded to different religious beliefs. I tried to help the kids think about what it would be like to be that child.
After completing the book, we discussed what their “double-page spread” would look like if they were part of the book. We grabbed a large piece of paper and began creating a layout. I took a photo of my kids in a pose similar to the book; we printed it (talking about how digital cameras and printers work as we did it), cut it out, and pasted it down.
The kids had fun collecting their favorite things to represent themselves; all were photographed and pasted on. Finally, we wrote the “copy” for their page. I introduced a timeline by first drawing a simple line showing what they did today: woke up, brushed hair and teeth, ate breakfast…all the way up to making their page. They drew simple pictures to illustrate each item. Then we extended it to include a memorable occasion from the previous week. Then we added Christmas and their last birthday, any other memorable occasions they wanted to draw, and finally the earliest memory they could recall followed by a picture of each of them as a baby (pulled out of the photo box).
We discussed the special and unique gift God gave me the day they were born and how different they were then and how different and treasured they still are. Using the timeline as a memory queue, a personal autobiography was dictated by each child; I typed as they spoke. Then we printed it out and added it to the white background.
Don’t discard your timelines. We referred back to the timeline many times as we talked about history in the next couple of years, each time starting with their autobiography timeline and moving from there to the place in history that I wanted to discuss. We added mom’s lifespan, grandma’s, great grandma’s, moving from the personal and local to the larger world.
My students delighted in showing Dad their own page for the book, and they both gained a better sense of who they were and how they fit into the larger world, and we covered an amazing amount of school subjects.
“Enjoy this time!”
Try a unit study on the city of Lompoc (or wherever you live). Start with a field trip— walking is best—downtown. As you walk, notice businesses and talk about what they sell and where they get the things that they sell. This type of dialogue should already be a natural part of your homeschool lifestyle. I found that my children learned as much (dare I say more) from these daily conversations, than they did from our curriculum.
Give them a small amount of money and encourage them to make a purchase themselves for a small treat. Begin to differentiate between grocery, clothing, and household specialties. Go to a thrift store and discuss the difference between new items and used items for sale. Again, walking to the business is always best because the time spent walking and looking around is valuable in understanding how the city works. Walking also gives you time to answer any questions that come up and direct discussions about the people and places that you see. Be sure to visit a grocery, city hall/police station, a gasoline station, a retail store, a thrift store, a restaurant, a movie theater or other entertainment oriented business, the animal shelter, and if possible, even the landfill. Make a list of the places that must be included in any city.
At home use Legos, or whatever building toy is the current favorite and begin building your own city. Make sure each essential place is included. You can make your city layout close to our own, or create a brand new city based on the child’s name: Lisatopia or Janettown. Create a scenario in the town and through guided play have the mayor (hopefully they know who that is because of your walk to city hall) phone the police chief to plan a town hall meeting about installing a new stop light.
The owner of a grocery store could phone the animal shelter about a stray dog or cat and the county animal control officer could help the dog find its way back home. The possibilities are endless; just be sure that people in their town are interacting and the children are learning more and more about what real people interact. When questions come up, go for another walk and do more research.
Make a phone book for your town: the mayor, the grocery store, the police station, all of the places in Janettown. Then pull out the real phone book and notice all the entries and how the names are listed like the alphabet.
Take a photo of the toy town from the top and then trace the photo to create a map. Get a map of Lompoc (chamber of commerce or auto club) and compare the two. They can even make a map of their own street by walking outside and trying to imagine how it would look if they were looking down at it, like they look down at the toy town.
There will be many other ideas that come to you as you direct this play. It’s all valuable social studies. Let’s see how many disciplines we covered in our play town? Social studies, map reading and making, writing and reading (phone book and any signs you make), fine-motor skills (building), social skills (interacting with adults around town), practical math skills (store purchase), art, and science (how gasoline powers a car, why dogs get “fixed” at the shelter, etc.)
Elementary PE: Have some creative movement fun with a balloon. Start by blowing up a balloon and letting the air out slowly. Have the children match the movement of the balloon with their bodies. Repeat the exercise by blowing up the balloon again and letting the air out a little faster. Continue to repeat the exercise as long as their interest lasts, varying the speed of the air leaving the balloon and encouraging them to match the speed with their own movement. When their interest is just beginning to fade, release the balloon and let it fly across the room. It is best to have a large empty space to play this game!
Next, blow up the balloon and tie off the end. Have the kids try to hit the balloon and keep it aloft. Once they have the hang of it, make a new rule: no hands. Call out different body parts and see if they can hit the balloon with their knee, foot, elbow, head. When that begins to get out of hand (as it probably will very soon), do the same thing with an “imaginary balloon.” Call out a body part and have them hit the balloon so it stays aloft. You could add music to the mix if you like. Faster music means calling faster, and slow music means slower calling and slower movement. Allow the child to call for you, too. There should be plenty of giggles, and lots of fun.
Finally, blow up the biggest balloon you can find. Have each child hold the balloon while moving different body parts. Challenge them to sit, stand, lie down and get up without dropping the balloon (keep two hands holding the balloon). When you see that their attention (and maybe your own energy) is spent, you might let them pop the balloon by sitting and bouncing on it. Some children love popping the balloon, others are upset by it. You know your child best.
Most importantly: Enjoy this time!