3 Things I'd do differently if I were starting home school today!
Updated: Jul 20
Everyone has something in life they'd do differently if given the chance to start it over. Home school is one of those things for me. I often sit and think about the first few months of "home school" with my then two and three year old. What on earth was I thinking? Trying to educate two kids that young, with a newborn, with worksheets and books was insane. My brain clearly wasn't quite clear from the after baby fog when I took their "my first day of pre-k" photos just a few months shy of their dad leaving for Basic Training. I've learned a lot in the last two years about how to educate my kids tailored to their needs, not mine!
If I can take my mistakes and better your home school experience, I will be happy to have made so many. Helping others is part of my passion and a list like this one is just what some mom's need during such a rough time as COVID especially. I pray this list of three things I'd do differently if I were to start over today will help you make the best possible decisions for your family moving forward.
First thing I'd do differently today is ditching the worksheets. It sounds insane, I know, bear with me. My two and three year old had no business sitting down with a workbook getting frustrated by concepts they didn't understand. Not only were they getting frustrated by the content, I was getting frustrated by all the work we were doing with daddy gone, the baby needy and both kids not understanding. To say we were worked up would be a massive understatement. Were I to do it again, we would go 100 percent play based, no exceptions. Number games, letter games, gross and fine motor skill games and more! Play, play, play!
Pinterest has so many free resources for play based learning, not only for pre-k but for most grade school age groups. I've spent an embarrassing number of hours stockpiling pins for play based learning. Some of my favorites don't even need any real materials! One I came up with myself is a letter find. I use a free printable version of alphabet flashcards, laminated of course, and tape each letter somewhere around the house. The more out of order the letters are, the better. When I call out a letter the race is on to find it, tag it and get back to mommy. First kid back wins. We may be too competitive. Oops.
Next on the list, I would organize my life first. It sounds silly to say that I forgot this step, but I did. Set up bins with their sensory play, set up a coloring station, put together a learning play schedule of sorts. Don't go crazy, and by all means tailor this organization to your own lifestyle. Just do yourself a huge favor and set your home school routine up before you dive right in! It will help maintain your sanity and your little ones.
If you're as big into bins as I am, I highly suggest Dollar Tree. You're going to hear a lot about my obsession with Dollar Tree, it runs almost as deep as my love for my lamintor. Fair warning. Dollar Tree's bins section is by far the best part of their stores. We color coordinate our kids things, blue, pink, green, yellow and it never fails that I find exactly what I need in the correct size, shape and color. Certainly the price can't be beat.
Thirdly, I would lower my expectations. Day one I really thought I'd have my kids reading within the first few months. Why I would think that, I don't actually know myself, but I really needed a reality check and I got one in a big way. Not only did my kids not thrive during the first "year" of school, I didn't either. My mental health and theirs suffered in a big way. Had I calmed myself down, played more and fussed less, we'd be two years ahead of where we are now. I may have actually accomplished early readers if I were a more calm parent. They still have plenty of time to learn to read, but somehow my own expectation for their excellence actually hindered them in a big way.
Most of my parenting journey has reflected this last point. I need to calm down! I need to let it go, live in the moment, give all of us a break. Calm was never a way anyone would describe me prior to having children. While I'm still a long way from total zen, I freak out quite a bit less than before. I do appreciate small moments quite a bit more now, in educating the kids and in life overall. My expectations set the tone and if they're low we all have a lot more fun. That's not to say I don't see us achieving big things, just that we're going to start with reasonable chunks first.
Those things may seem incredibly obvious to most people. As someone who was home schooled and grew up with peers who were almost all home schooled as well, I had a ridiculous scenario dreamed up in my mind. I envisioned crazy things like reading at age three, graduating high school at fifteen, doctorates before they were old enough to drink. Like, slow down Mom, really. I am eye rolling at myself right now, really. I knew even then I needed to settle myself down and let it go. What I know now is the more calm I am, the better they all learn. It's easy for me to step back and let them learn now, but before... that was just not the case.
My hope in sharing these regrets, for lack of a better word, is to encourage you to take a big deep breath, properly prepare yourself and your kids and never forget to let them be little as long as you possibly can. They'll be too grown up before we know and the more we allow them to be organically themselves, even in their education, the better.