I'm hoping you may have already read Part 1 of this post, but in case you missed it, you can find that HERE.
In the previous post, I chatted about different approaches that have worked for us over our homeschooling years particularly in regards to homeschooling a mix of older and younger kiddos. Continuing on in this post, here are some other examples that have worked for us in various seasons.
4. Solo activity time
Some of our kiddos loved (and needed!) solo time first thing in the mornings. This worked especially well for our eldest who loved researching things, reading and writing tasks. When she was quite young, I'd often have little worksheets printed off and put into a folder ready for her for the morning. Most often she'd just work on something that she had chosen for what we used to call our 'Friday Presentation Day'.
Projects + Presentation Day = Practicing Public Speaking Skills When we had 'Friday Presentation Day' running, we set out a research project at the start of the week. Sometimes we tried to base it on a stage outcome that we were wanting to cover and other times they just chose topics that they wanted to learn about. They researched during the week and then presented their 'findings' to us on a Friday morning in the loungeroom. They got a chance to practice listening skills as an 'audience member' and speaking skills as a presenter. It was lovely to watch them develop in this area and I can see now how those little moments weren't wasted. My older 3 kiddos have each spoken to address audiences (both formal and informal). Liji spoke to everyone at his solo art exhibitions at his opening and on TV, Ethan MC'D the Festival of International Understanding dinner one year when he was a Festival Ambassador, and Stassi has been called on many times to speak in her role as a youth councillor and most recently in her role on the Youth Advisory Council (YAC - which advises the NSW State Government on matters concerning our youth). They have told me that those little Friday morning sessions helped them prepare for those times that they didn't even know were around the corner when they were just youngsters doing homeschooling life!
"Public speaking has always scared me even when it was only done at home. But I can see now how that has prepared me to speak in front of larger audiences." -Stassi
As our kiddos got older, the projects took on different forms. They weren't always keen on research projects. I have a template I developed for teens doing projects that you can find in our THL Resource Library. It guides a learner through creating and making notations about their project. Here's an example from one of the pages:
Our older son also built a Gaming PC which I've written about before HERE. Having a project for them to tend to, research, learn more about is a great way to see connectedness and depth in learning.
If projects don't take their fancy, you could try lapbooking. We have created lots of lapbooks over the years. One of the best things about them is that they can be as simple or as complex as you like. Your kids can work on one whole lapbook or they could work on just one activity that you print off. It's a great way to set an activity, give some freedom (over how they decorate their lapbook or how they present the mini books within it). In that post, I've also linked to other printable unit studies that might be a good independent solo activity.
5. Outdoors First
In some seasons of our life and learning, we've made it a little habit to be outside first. This helped sometimes to get some energy out, to help us breathe in the fresh air and feel connected and alive in nature. In some seasons this was impossible but in others it was almost a necessity.
Trough. Rough. Tumble.
We had a great, deep water trough that I loved using for our younger kiddos. Ours was a little like this but green. In this, they did water play, made slime, made paper, washed their dollies, washed rocks, and so much more!
The trough was great for open-ended play.
Our older 3 kiddos loved to wrestle. We purchased some mats like these second hand from a mate and the kids often tried out jiu-jitsu moves, rough-housing away on the mats. Other times, this needed too much of my supervision (due to some impulsivity issues with some of our kiddos). Again, I'm not saying these are fool proof solutions - rather, I'm just explaining what we have used over the years.
6. Preschool Play
I've talked a little more about Preschool Play over HERE but I thought I would add some more activities for you.
Make some playdough together. We still have a little selection of playdough cutters that I can't part with yet. I know I'm a sap but I can't help it. Involve your little ones in every part of the process of making the dough. Show them how you read a recipe even if they can't read yet. Get them to measure, pour and stir. We kept ours in the fridge and it always seemed to last well. Add cream of tartar and salt to your shopping list if you have pre-schoolers ;)
Make Cloud Dough and play with it on a large plastic tablecloth outside. This was another fun one for us.
Play with a construction kit.
Match autumn leaves or whatever printables you can find (laminated these sheets first which helped them keep for years). I'm pretty sure I got this printable (over a decade ago from HERE).
Make your own matching game using things you already own. This was a similar matching game to the last one. We used a picnic set Zippi already had, traced around the edges of a few items, laminated the sheet and sat with her while she 'matched' them up. She loved this activity.
Matching colours. Another matching game which was simple was cutting up strips of coloured cardboard and buying little fluffy pom pom balls in the same colours from a craft store. These lived in a little box in our resource cupboard and was often the one that the kids chose to get out for themselves. As they got more competent with their matching, I'd add in a pair of tongs for them to use or a pair of tweezers. Other times we did colour matching using maths bears.
Megasketcher/Magna-doodle were faves. Big fan here of non-battery operated toys (extra points for ones that seem to be made to last!)
Aqua Mats and paint with water books. Another thing we seemed to use a lot were aqua mats (we had a smaller one that this but I'm sure it would work well!) and paint-by-water books. Do they still sell those? Oh yep! I found these and these. Our kids loved this sort of thing!
Mini metal buckets & more matching of stuff. Zippi loved these mini metal buckets and coloured magnets that she would stick to the bucket and then add in all the same coloured little items from the box: buttons, feathers, pom poms, etc.
Threading of any kind (wooden pieces like these) onto string or even pipe cleaners being threaded through colander holes were always a big hit.
Magnet play. Magnets. Fridge. Match made in heaven! Even for little ones (I think Zeeki was about 20 months old here)!
Bonus: Instead of trying to just 'occupy' kids, INVOLVE them in whatever you are doing. Life is learning.
Involve them in your life - whatever that is you're doing! Baking, gardening, hanging out washing (they can pass pegs), pairing up socks as you fold laundry, helping to prepare lunches, etc. Sure it might be quicker if you just do it yourself, but by involving your kiddos in your daily life, you're sending them the message that they are worthy of your time, energy and effort (of course they are!) Doing life with them is a chance to put those words into action. The added bonus is that you are also equipping them for life. You are giving them a chance to learn skills that will help them in their future. And when I say 'involve them' I don't me you can't have a second to yourself! Of course you need that (speaking for myself I need lots of minutes each day to myself and that is ok!) I'm just saying, don't limit yourself to thinking that 'the most important learning' is done when it resembles what you remember school to be like. Life is learning. Learning is life.
Some days we were able to do activities around the table together (see very last photo in this post).
Here were 4 of my kids in 2013. One was down for a nap I think.
But here's the thing. Those days of baby rockers with crusty bits of rusks on them, the days of nappies, and toddlers on tables, of a son making a paper funnel for sherbet, another with his hands on his hips with that cheeky little grin and a daughter going to the resource cupboard....those days are well and gone now.
As I type, one child is currently assembling an IKEA wardrobe with her Dad and brother for her new place. One son was talking with the two youngest about a Minecraft spin off world as they recover from a mighty awful round of Influenza A. Our days involve the older kids going to work, being asked to move their cars so they don't park us in and the younger ones are even fairly self-sufficient. These days feel like yesterday but they went by and I can barely recall them.
Wherever you are in your journey, I pray you make the most of the millions of moments you have to connect over. I hope your days are many and long together and that you are able to find the encouragement you need to be able to run the marathon race that is the homeschooling (and indeed the parenting) journey.
More another time, Lusi x