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Tips for Homeschooling Toddlers and Preschoolers

by Kim Menzel • December 10th, 2020

I worked in education for over ten years but when covid came and our family made the difficult decision to homeschool my own kids and nephews (ages almost 6, 5, 4.5 and almost 4) it was daunting.  I threw myself into research and reading – along with lots of trial and error.

I would love to share what worked and what didn’t work for me during our homeschool journey as an educator, but most importantly as a mom who has been where you are.  

Firstly and most importantly, I want to assure you that your kids are going to be okay. I hear a lot of anxiety from parents about their kids being behind academically but please remember practically the entire world is in the same boat. Teachers know this and are ready to meet your kids where they are when they return to school. Even for the kids who are in-person or doing  hybrid  schooling, this still isn’t a typical school year.  There are reduced hours, as well as  stretches of closures and restrictions that make this year incredibly unique and challenging.  Kids are remarkably resilient- especially our littlest ones-  and our primary goal needs to be taking care of our kids social and emotional needs.  Teachers understand this, they really do. 

I know that we are all in different situations with different time challenges. Perhaps you have an older child in school or distance learning, maybe you are still working yourself.  Maybe you have a baby or toddler underfoot.  We can troubleshoot all of these scenarios and I would love to be a resource to help you make homeschooling as successful as possible for your family’s unique needs. I’ve put together a short list of tips that made things easier for me this past year. I hope they are helpful to you, and I encourage you to reach out with other ideas, any questions, or just to connect with another parent who understands. 

1. Playing classical music in the background during the day can be really calming and soothing to our kids.  I was skeptical when I read this can be helpful but playing Bach or Tchaikovsky really helped to create a calm and creative environment. Ask Alexa to play “The Four Seasons,” by Vivaldi and melt into it.

2. It can be very beneficial to present your learning area in an inviting way.  Educators talk about creating ‘invitations to play’ to draw children in. Take the play dough out and make a face with some dried beans.  Arrange the worksheets in a pleasing way with colorful crayons visible. Put a few of the Magnatiles together on the table.  Make the environment welcoming and kids should jump right in.

3.  One thing that covid cannot take away from us are the changing of the seasons. Children love to learn about things like hibernation, days getting colder and shorter, upcoming holidays, and weather patterns.  Kids love rhythm and predictability so use the rhythm of nature in your activities.  Make paper snowflakes, decorate autumn leaves, use flowers found in the garden to glue to paper to make art work.  

4.  I do feel like I have a greater understanding of my own kiddos learning styles from spending this time with them.  Learning is important but figuring out HOW someone learns best is invaluable.  Some of us didn’t figure out our learning styles until high school or beyond, but one of the unexpected gifts of this challenging time is the opportunity  to observe our children engaged in learning for ourselves. The three main learning styles are visual, auditory and kinesthetic (movement based).  Take this time to observe what kind of learner you think your child is.  My youngest child and my youngest nephew are both kinesthetic learners so I found that having very active learning activities available was key for them.  Follow your child. Pinterest is an excellent resource for lots of engaging and creative learning ideas!

5.  Have fun!  If your child is rolling their eyes at learning the Aaa sound then stand up and have a dance break!  Read your child’s cues and try not to force an activity that isn’t working or doesn’t match their energy level.  Choose activities that are interesting to you AND to your child!

Most of us never intended to homeschool and stay home for months on end.  This is a challenging time and ending your day with a bath, a glass of wine, and some Netflix is also really important!  Take care of you and be gentle with yourself.  Connect with other parents.  Kids are resilient- we will all get through this, and there is a whole tribe of us who have your back and are cheering you on!

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