We have two little girls, one is in kindergarten and one is in preschool. When the pandemic shuts down schools all across the US, our kids are stuck at home without a traditional classroom. We have homework packages for our girls, but no experienced teachers. We are now teachers and tutors. The subject of homeschooling came up for the very first time for our family because we don’t know when things will be back to normal. Since then we have struggled to teach our kids and also keep our sanity. So here are our top 5 tips on teaching kids at home based on our personal experience.
1. Don’t try and do this all by yourself, there’s more help than you know.
When we first started homeschooling we thought we were alone. We started googling everything and trying to piece together our curriculum, but we ended up lost in the confusion. One day we discovered social groups that provide support and tips for parents who are homeschooling. You are not alone, and you don’t need to reinvent the wheel. There are programs and curriculum that can be of tremendous help. The Home School Mom is a great site you should check out if you are thinking of homeschooling your child. It’s a great start for curriculums and finding support groups. The bottom line is “don’t try to do everything by yourself.”
2. Utilize technology available but don’t make that your primary teaching tool.
We use to hand our kids an Ipad with youtube kids so that we can get some peace. That evolved into more screen time and the kids’ dependence on technology. We learn to cut back because it is not helping their development nor is it an effective teaching tool when used exclusively. For example, you can’t teach them taste, texture, and motor skills from a video. The same principle applies to cognitive learning. Sometimes they have to get their hands dirty to learn. I find that activities, where they are hands-on, help them understand and remember better. Our 6-year-old daughter watched tons of instructional videos on how to tell time. She couldn’t understand the concept from the videos. We decided to use a clock and let her experiment with the clock hands. This allowed her to understand the concept of the hour hand movement relative to the minute hand. She understood after one session and now can tell time.
Check out our favorite quiet activity book that helps our 3-year-old ties her shoelaces
This is extremely important because it sets precedence for the rest of your child’s experience with you as a teacher. If your homeschooling time is equated to a chore, they are not going to learn. Keep sessions engaging and fun. Push your kids but don’t force them. Our 6-year-olds have a list of sight words from her teachers. Before we knew what we were supposed to do, we just made her memorize it. No one likes to memorize a list. She had a hard time and we kept forcing her to try and memorize it. “How do you not remember the word “she”? I've repeated it 50 times.” The experience was frustrating for her as it is for us. We’ve learned from our experience that she memorizes sight words faster and retains them longer if she can draw it, mold it out of a slime, or cut the word out of a magazine. If she thinks she’s playing when we are trying to teach her, she would absorb the material faster.
4. Consistency is key
As working parents, our schedules are hectic. But to be effective at teaching your kids, you have to establish a structure. We started out teaching our girls different subjects at all hours of the day. This erratic schedule caused our kids to be confused and distracted. The result is we lose track of our progress and waste time. Now that we have a set schedule, they are conditioned to learn a subject at a specific time. If it’s their time to do a reading, they would go and get their books ready. Consistency helps them stay focused and progress more effectively. Consistency also helps you stay in control of your teaching agenda.
5. Promote Independence
Teaching little ones is hard. Sometimes you get caught up in doing everything for them. We learn that if we spend more time letting them do something they struggle with by themselves, they learn to problem-solve. Our 3-year-old likes doing puzzles. She would spend a long time trying to figure out a puzzle at first. However, once she figures out how it works, she would adopt the same strategy to other puzzles. The same goes for our 6-year-old. She would have a hard time doing addition. Instead of telling her the answer, we let her figure it out. Once she figures out the concept from trial and error, she can then apply the same strategy to the next problem. Sometimes we just have to sit back and watch our little ones grow.