For four weeks in October I had three young boys to homeschool for three mornings a week (9yo, 7yo, 5yo). Their mum had been through cancer treatment and though doing well needed a bit extra time to recover and get things sorted before she took on homeschooling again. It was a pleasure to help my friend this way – and yet there was a degree of playing it forward as I couldn’t help but remember, with thanks, my friend who looked after Josh and Jess while we went through months of treatment with Naomi when she was a baby.
The goal of having the boys was more about giving mum space than anything else but I wanted to make our time together worthwhile and enjoyable. This is what I planned:
- Character First lesson. They use Character First in their family as well so I just continued on with the next trait.
- Five in a Row. I will take any opportunity to use this resource – I love using it and I love seeing the kids interact with the stories and lessons.
- Living Math. We didn’t use their regular Math U See workbooks but instead touched on different math concepts using stories. Tallies, Roman Numerals, Perimeter, Regrouping. Some of these concepts were refreshers for the older ones, and new for the younger, and some were new for all.
- Drama. Once a week Naomi took the boys for about 45minutes for drama. They seemed to have a lot of fun. They played charades – working on using their bodies and facial expressions to communicate an idea
- Science and Art. I started off with an extra science and art lessons but it became too much prep and to be honest they were just as happy and occupied playing outside!! So I let that idea go. Then I remembered this is why I love FIAR – it keeps the variety without the big amount of prep so we kept up with art and science from FIAR and that was all.
- Games. They loved “Make and Break” but after a few weeks of that we played Sequence, Rush Hour, Othello, and Connect Four. They also enjoyed catching butterflies, riding scooters, bouncing on the trampoline and being in the cubby.
Having the boys around (as well as having Jess do much the same kind of thing with another family) made me remember a few things that help homeschooling this age group.
- If you get delayed or distracted have them read a book. This is the default setting for whenever they have nothing to do. This means they keep close and you don’t have to pull them back in from having left the learning area.
- Be prepared and if you aren’t prepared have them read a book, or play outside and get prepared. Don’t try and wing it!
- Bouncing on a trampoline helps a fidgety boy gain self-control and focus
- Having regular exercise/active breaks breaking up focus time helps everyone and gives me time to get the final details ready for the next lesson, or make a phone call, or hang out the washing.
- Short lessons work for everyone, though sometimes the older ones need a bit more time to finish their output (artwork, notebook page, worksheet)
- Having water bottles at their tables reduces a lot of wasted time
- When teaching multiple ages, know what the objective is for each child – depending on ages, it may well differ. The objective can be skills based or knowledge based.
- When asking for verbal feedback (narrations or answering questions) start with the youngest and go up to the oldest, expecting each person to add something more.
- When you teach a child how to use art materials then you reduce your mess factor. You can also teach them and expect them to be responsible for packing activities away themselves.
One of the things that caught me unawares and that was my tired levels. After they went home I needed a nap. I remember taking naps when my kids were this age. After lunch everyone would go to their bedrooms and have either a nap themselves, or they would have quiet room time. This would give me at least 1 hour where I could revive and refresh myself. Now I didn’t have the boys in the afternoon but mums do and if we are going to be intentional and directive in the afternoon (even if the kids do have free productive time) then we need to have the energy to be on top of our game. We may well need a nap!!
I enjoyed having the boys – they were keen to learn and do whatever I had planned and they were respectful and responsive. One of the things though that I considered before I offered to help was that Nomi and Daniel were able to stay on course with their studies. They have been working on independent projects and were not needing lessons taught by me at that stage so having the extra boys here worked in with our family as well. It was a privilege to be able to help.