There’s a lot of homeschooling blogs out there. The Screenwriter’s Wife blog is not one of them. While I might be homeschooling my daughter at the moment, I don’t really label myself as a “home school mom” either. I don’t know how long I’ll home school her or if I’ll also do so with the boys. I’m just doing what fits for right now. And right now, what fits is something I call “lazy homeschooling”.
I dabbled in homeschooling last year for TK (Transitional Kindergarten, a program here in CA for kids who turn 5 from Sept-Nov.), and will be doing it a bit more formally this coming year for the “official” Kindergarten year. I’m mostly using 1st grade materials though. One of my favorite things about homeschooling (so far at least) is that I can teach my daughter using whatever materials I think are best for her to learn. Since my daughter’s birthday is on the cusp of the “official grade level cutoff” anyway, I like being free from this arbitrary constraint.
However, I have to be honest. I’m kind of a “lazy” homeschooling mom. I don’t spend hours putting together lesson plans or prepping for activities. I just don’t have the mindspace for all that and everything else in life I want to think about too, ha ha. I suppose I might fall under the homeschooling method considered “unschooling” but tbh, I don’t even know how “unschooling” works.
I just do what I do.
And so far, it’s working.
This might not work for everyone else’s teaching or learning style. This probably will not work as my daughter gets older, or if I end up homeschooling multiple children at once. I’m just figuring it all out as I go on. Still, in case you’re wondering how I do what I call “lazy homeschooling”, here’s what I do:
(I should probably note in here somewhere that I hold two California teaching credentials, so I’m not just coming at this whole childhood education thing totally from left field, lol. 🙂 )
#1. Provide constant & easy access to quality educational materials – or in other words, be a “sneaky” teacher. I try to always put my kids into situations where they are growing academically even if they don’t realize it. The only apps I allow on their kindles are educational ones (real educational ones, not ones that are more game-play than learning). I have a whole cabinet of learning games and manipulatives. When my kids are bored, I tell them to go look in the homeschooling cabinet. They don’t always play with the educational toys in a strictly academic way, but either way, I try to keep them exposed to learning constantly. Here are some of the things we use in our house:
Starfall. My most favorite website/app for younger kids. As soon as they can handle a touch screen, I let them play Starfall. It’s the only kid app I put on my phone. I love Starfall. The kids just play. And learn. And then I later find out how much they know. There’s no pressure on them to reach specific accomplishments, so it makes them more open to discover at their own pace. There’s a portion of the website/app offered for free – but I think it’s well worth the $35/year for a home membership.
Preschool Prep Company – I first discovered Preschool Prep videos at my local library. And I’m pretty sure they are the things that taught my then-almost-4-yr-old how to read. Apparently my daughter is like me and learns visually – she learned all the sight words in all three videos in a very short amount of time. And from there, she just kept memorizing words. I’ve also used the Phonics videos with her and we’re doing the Math Facts now. With my son I’ve used the Letters, Colors, and Shapes videos. Basically, with Preschool Prep, I haven’t had to sit down and deliberately teach my kids any of this – they just watch the videos and learn on their own!
#2. Become familiar with the state standards. Here in CA we do Common Core, but if you’re in a state that doesn’t do Common Core, be sure to look up your state standards instead. I like to print them out and/or keep them bookmarked online so I can periodically review. I don’t feel pressure to follow them strictly – but it does help me know if my daughter is learning the same thing her peers in public school are learning. Also, because I’m homechooling through an Independent Study Charter School* and because I may one day decide to move my daughter back into the regular school system – I’d like to not be too far off from the norm.
If following the recommended state standards is not important to you, then you can skip over this section. 🙂
You can find your state educational standards online (there’s a huge list of standards by state here).
*What’s an Independent Study Charter School? I don’t know if this is mostly just a CA thing, but my daughter is enrolled in a special kind of public charter school called an independent study charter school. I meet regularly with a teacher and have to turn in samples of my daughter’s schoolwork. Because it is a public charter school, we are able to use school funds to purchase approved curriculum and participate in educational classes. However, my daughter WILL have to participate in state testing if we stay in this program…so keeping her somewhat aligned with what the public schools are learning each year is important to me.
#3. Be prepared to turn any moment into a “teachable moment”. Meaning that anything, any everyday interaction, can possibly become an impromptu lesson. Maybe this is the teacher in me, but this comes very naturally. For example:
- When I cut my kid’s sandwiches for lunch, I ask them questions about how many pieces make the whole sandwich. If my daughter’s sandwich is in fourths, and my son’s in half – who got more? What’s bigger, 2 fourths or 1 half? Or are they the same? How many fourths are there in a whole? How many 6ths would make a whole sandwich? I don’t quiz them. There is no punishment for wrong answers. I don’t expect them to officially “learn” anything – I just constantly expose them to learning ideas.
- If we’re outside playing in the kiddie pool and my kids are throwing in toys, noticing which ones sink and which ones float – I ask her if she knows why a certain one sinks. Or I pick a strange object in the yard and ask her what she thinks will happen and why. Can heavy objects float? Can light objects sink? Why? Again, I don’t make this into an official “lesson”; I don’t quiz her or make sure she can repeat what I just said. All I try to do is introduce ideas and get her to think.
#4. Let the child’s interests determine what is taught. I don’t necessarily mean that if she likes princesses, that I print out a bunch of dull worksheets that have pictures of Disney princesses on them. I mean – if she’s interested in princesses, then we talk about what a princess is. What it means for a King/Queen to rule over a country. Go look at paintings from the medieval times. Teach her how to draw a princess. Practice etiquette skills. Read books about historical princesses. Teach her to spell simple words: king, queen, crown, etc. Sound out the words as we spell them. use them in sentences. Etc, etc, etc.
Does that sound hard to do? It’s not. I don’t pre-plan any of it beforehand or stress about if I’m hitting all the standards/subjects. I just do stuff as it comes up. If I didn’t get to much math during the ‘princess stage’, then I’ll try to incorporate it more when she gets into the “Egypt” stage, or whatever stage comes next. It’s all kind of fun. I get to learn so much with her.
Once I know what topic my daughter is currently into, I head to some of my usual places for ideas or worksheets (because I do have to have some actual “schoolwork” to turn in!). Pinterest and internet searches can be good, but typically provide more general ideas. When I have specific needs or topics that I want to find academic resources/worksheets for, the following are my go-tos:
Education.com. There are so many worksheets here, it’s amazing. You only get to download a certain number a day for free, but if you find yourself using it a lot, or if you’re like me and like to go on download-all-the-worksheets-sprees, the monthly subscription might be worth it for you.
Starfall’s Parent-Teacher Center also has a great collection of printable worksheets and worksheet generators for PK-2nd in ELA and Math. You have to have a home membership to access them though ($35/yr, mentioned above and recommended).
BrainPop‘s Activity Pages. So BrainPop/BrainPop Jr. is a website with cartoon educational videos for kids, not really a worksheet a worksheet generator. Still, my daughter loves BrainPop Jr., there’s a video for most topics my daughter is interested in, and often times there’s a worksheet or activity to go along with the video that she can do.
Teachers Pay Teachers. I haven’t used this site much, but I’ve found it to be a good resource if I’m looking for something super specific I can’t find elsewhere. Instead of making what I want on my own, another teacher out there may have already created which saves me time…say like a series of worksheets corresponding to one of the Life of Fred math books.
#5. Compile weekly worksheet packets to have on hand and work on as time permits. Ha, ok, I realize that at first glace this seems in direct opposition to everything I’ve written above, but it’s really not. This a new thing I’m going to try this upcoming year, so I’ll have to let you know how it works out. What I’m going to do is find a bunch of worksheets – especially in math and language arts – that I think my daughter would like and are easy for her to do on her own. Then I’ll compile them into weekly packets (I’ll try to make up a couple weeks worth at a time, but we’ll see how life works out).
Each week, I’ll keep the folder on hand and “assign” pages here and there. I put ‘assign’ in quotes, because I’ll most likely use the packets to fill time, or let my daughter earn rewards (like staying up after her brother goes to bed), or something for her to do in the car, etc. Right now, my daughter still kind of likes doing school work, so I’m hoping to be able to periodically tell her to go get her folder out and do 2 pages…or something like that. This way I’ll also have plenty of work to show her teacher at our monthly meetings.
Lazy homeschooling doesn’t have to equal total slacker homeschooling, ok? 🙂
#6 Fun Resources and Educational Materials. Because my daughter’s independent study charter school allows her to use educational fund for goods and services, we’ve been able to try out a couple of really neat things this past year! If you’re looking for some ideas or recommendations, here are some things (other than what’s already been mentioned above) that we’ve tried and/or checked out:
These are things I’ve personally tried out:
Little Passports – geography subscription box. Ages 3+ Travel to different countries/states each month.
History Unboxed – history subscription box for ages 5+. Includes crafts and lessons in each box. Somewhat advanced (One box had me teaching my 5 year old about Plato’s Allegory of The Cave, lol!), but I really liked these boxes.
Kiwi Crate – the pretty well know STEM subscription boxes for ages 3+.
Reading Eggs/Math Seeds – website and app. There’s a reading program and a math program, can be purchased separately. My daughter enjoys working through each level and earning critters. I like that it helps me know which topics she’s mastered.
Skitt Kits – homeschool science kits by grade level.
Around The World Stories – this was a bonus with the 2017 Parenting Super Bundle. They are new and I’m hoping that they are adding a few extra things soon (like story transcripts, more worksheets), but in the meantime, I think they show a lot of promise. They are audio stories from around the world.
Always Ice Cream/Clever Dragons – Always Ice Cream is for girls, Clever Dragons for boys. A play and learning website. We’ve just signed up for 2 months and are trying it out. I’ll update once I get a better feel for it.
I have not yet personally tried out the following, but I’ve looked into them, they seem pretty cool, and at some point we may use them:
Groovy Lab In A Box – STEM based subscription box. Ages 8+
Steve Spangler Science – other than just cool science expirment stuff, they also have a monthly subscription box club too (ages 7-14).
#7 Other Curriculum. I don’t follow any particular curriculum exclusively, but rather pick and choose pieces from all over. However, here are some curriculum that I’ve so far encountered and either have used or am intrigued by:
Starfall – Starfall is now more than just a website/app! They now offer a full Pre-K and Kinder homeschool curriculum. Last year, for TK, I got the Starfall Math and Language Arts homeschool kit for my daughter. I don’t follow it, per se, but we use the books and supplies, and online worksheets, and puzzles and games. My daughter (and now my son too) took to it really easily since she was so familiar with the characters and styles of the Starfall app already.