Homeschool organization can seem overwhelming for both veteran and first-time homeschoolers. Creating a homeschool room in the space where you live, sleep, play, and eat requires time and careful planning. Having good storage in your homeschool is necessary to keep all your books, papers, and supplies organized. You also need to decide which furniture and setup work best for your space. If you’re creating a brand-new homeschool room or redoing one and need inspiration, we’ve gathered ideas from homeschool moms and shared some of their tried-and-true homeschool room ideas and organization hacks to help you get your space ready for the new school year.
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Have you ever considered homeschooling kindergarten? Maybe you’ve never considered homeschooling before, but you’re not quite ready to send your five- or six-year-old away to school. Or maybe you have homeschooled older children but never a kindergartener. Be encouraged. It’s not as scary as it sounds. In fact, homeschooling a kindergartener is easy and incredibly rewarding. Here are some tips to get you started.
How to homeschool kindergarten
Homeschooling kindergarten is a special privilege. During the kindergarten years, your child will learn a lot of concepts for the very first time, and you’ll be there to witness those special moments—when they succeed in writing their names for the first time, when they read their first words, and when they realize they can count to a hundred. You want these years to be years of wonder and joy, not years of frustration.
Here are 5 tips for homeschooling your kindergartener:
Learning experiences are the heart of teaching. A learning experience is any interaction with a student that leads to understanding new information. That may sound broad, but God’s creation is so wonderfully complex that learning can happen anywhere and at any time. Learning experiences aren’t limited to planned lessons; children can learn through spontaneous activities, dinner table conversations, grocery store shopping, or independent playtime.
Children’s minds are basically blank slates—they are constantly gaining new information. Education should gradually build on this foundation with new information and help children develop important learning skills. Successful learning experiences encourage children’s confidence and willingness to learn. Let’s explore some effective forms of learning experiences and tips for continuing successful learning.
Have you seen that brief animation of the learning process at a government school? I mean the one where a student, who’s sitting upright in a small, traditional desk, moves along a conveyor belt. At the student’s first stop, a robotic arms saws off the top of his cranium, revealing a light bulb. At the next stop, a robotic arm wielding a hammer smashes the lightbulb. And at the final stop, a robotic arm bestows a graduation cap. The process continues on and on with child after child moving through the “educational” process at government schools. This system was not designed for teaching children to take joy in learning.
This animation illustrates a critical fact: educational approaches have impacts on educational outcomes. So what outcome do we want for our children? We want them to think biblically about all of life. We also want them to receive the joy they can expect from their calling. In past blog posts, we’ve explored the scriptural reasons for expecting that our children can have this kind of joy. We’ve also examined reasons why our children’s experiences may be anything but joyful. While some of those reasons relate to factors inside our children, today we want to focus on the factors that we as parents and the educators of our children are responsible for. We need to create educational experiences for our children that most closely conform to how children learn.
When it comes to encouraging learning, I don’t have a comprehensive list of best teaching practices or foolproof methods. I hope to keep learning as my wife and I continue on our homeschool journey. But here are some effective approaches for teaching a joy of learning I’ve learned so far.
1. Teaching Joy with Understanding-Based Learning
Learning that focuses on understanding instead of performance cultivates joy in learning. It can be incredibly satisfying to have a child who performs off the charts on a standardized test or who can recite the Roman emperors’ names from memory. Your child might perform well on paper, but what about his or her understanding? If performance is what we’re aiming for, then we’re not concerned about children’s understanding, just their ability to memorize and regurgitate information. And what we get is children who do well on tests but can’t apply what they’ve learned. Unless they’re also focused on performance, then children who just learn for the grade get bored or frustrated.
Instead, we should be interested in comprehension. When a child understands math, it’s not only easier to learn, but the child has the tools to use math effectively. That’s why breaking out math manipulatives or engaging in other hands-on activities is so powerful. Understanding-based learning is the bridge to higher levels of learning. And Scripture reminds us that “knowledge is easy to him who understandeth” (Proverbs 14:6).
2. Sequenced Learning
Putting learning in the proper order, or sequence, prepares your child for the next step. When children have all the pieces they need for understanding at the time they need them, they’re equipped to find joy in learning. Has someone ever explained something to you, assuming that you already knew something that you didn’t know? Maybe there was important information that you’d never learned. When that happens to me, I get confused and frustrated. I want to stop.
In the kitchen, we wouldn’t ask our children to add three eggs to a mixture until we had taught them how to crack an egg. It’s often easy to approach learning by jumping around from topic to topic without a plan in mind.
With sequenced learning, our goal is to challenge our children without frustrating them. We plan each step carefully so that they have prior experiences and the knowledge they need so that they can take the next step in learning. I love it when my daughter encounters a familiar concept that has added depth and complexity to it. She’s seen it before, but it looks new to her. The new information is more challenging than what she learned before, but it is simple because of her prior experience with the topic.
3. Authentic Learning
Another way of teaching a joy in learning by focusing on the purpose for learning instead of the test. Has your child ever asked, “Will that be on the test?” It’s often an expression of frustration. Instead of taking joy in the experience of learning new things, he or she just wants to know how to pass the class. At that point, your child is probably just overwhelmed by all the extra, seemingly unnecessary information. Children also express this frustration when they ask, “When will I ever use this?”
When we teach our children, we need to regularly show them the real world application of what they’re learning. When learning is relevant to their lives, it becomes real and authentic. They can use math at the grocery story. Or they can apply what they studied in science to make a ramp to move a heavy object. Or take spelling, for example. If we give our children a list of random spelling words to recite back on their test, they’re likely going to get bored or frustrated, and they won’t remember it beyond the test. But when part of their spelling assignment is to proofread someone else’s writing, it’s authentic. They see how spelling is relevant and useful.
When children start to use their learning, they’re exercising good and wise dominion in this world. That is one of the purposes that God has given mankind. And it is the reason we educate our children.
The choices we make in teaching our children will have an incredible impact on how they view learning. If we don’t aim for comprehension, if we teach things out of order, or if we don’t give them a reason for learning, then we won’t be teaching them to have joy in learning. We’ll be crippling their joy of learning, instead. We need to choose teaching methods that support our children. Then we will be able to see the light of joy in our children’s eyes as they’re learning.
Manipulatives and visuals, oh my! If you weren’t sure what all those books are for, then chances are you’re also not sure about all these extra homeschool resources, either. Do you really need them? Are they worth it?
Let’s take a look at some of the homeschool resources you might need on your homeschool journey.
Manipulatives are perhaps the most essential “extra” resource you can get. They’re incredibly important for young learners. Manipulatives give students a way to physically experience a concept that they wouldn’t otherwise be able to see, touch, or interact with. They give children an opportunity to experience a concept with all their senses. In other words, they’re using multisensory learning. For instance, how do you teach a child that one and one makes two? Most of us might take one pen, then get another pen, and then count again to find that we have two pens. Those pens become manipulatives that give meaning to the numbers. In math, manipulatives are a key components for helping children develop number sense.
Manipulative packets are specifically designed to match the scope of concepts taught in a particular course. They make life easier for you because, when you get to a new concept, you already have the manipulatives on hand and you don’t have to find things to use. BJU Press offers manipulative packets for math from K5 through Grade 6. Manipulatives also apply to other subjects, but on a much smaller scale than math. Cutouts and suggested items to use as manipulatives are available in the teacher editions and activity manuals rather than being available for separate purchase.
The most important thing is having manipulatives and using them regularly. That said, can’t you just use any old thing in place of the items in a manipulative packet? You could, but it will get harder and harder to find objects to use as manipulatives. What will you use for groups of hundreds, fractions, or unusual shapes? You may be able to save a little bit of money by not buying the packets, but you might lose what it was worth in time and effort.
Visuals may seem self-explanatory, right? They’re things for your students to look at as they learn. It’s another aspect of multisensory learning—learning by sight. But a visuals packet isn’t just a bunch of pictures that explain a Bible lesson or illustrations for a reading lesson. They’re packets of charts, graphs, and other visuals that help students interact with concepts in a different way.
For example, BJU Press’s Phonics and English 1 includes visuals for the phonics characters—the Shorts, the Longs, and others. The visuals packet introduces the student to the character and what the character represents. Then as they go through their workbooks, they’ll see those characters again to remind them about the different phonetic rules. Children often find it easier to remember stories than lists of rules. The visual characters weave together a story for them to use as they’re learning phonics. Other visuals might give a plot diagram for a story, a chart for creating paragraphs, and so on.
Most visual packets come with a subject kit automatically, but do you really need them? You’ll have to decide based on what you know about how your child learns. But remember: children don’t always learn just one way, and sometimes they learn different concepts in different ways. You might need visuals for one lesson but not the next. It’s important to have them available even if you don’t always need them.
Unlike the books, these homeschool resources aren’t typically core materials that you’ll need every day. And not every curriculum provider offers them. Whether or not you should purchase them depends on what you need to do to teach a concept effectively. And that’s a question only you can answer.