Since leaving the public school setting I’ve become aware of what I’d been doing wrong as a teacher. As a homeschooler, I’ve had more time to observe my students’ learning styles instead of conducting endless assessments. I’ve had more time to create and plan individual lessons for each student instead of spending my energy grading papers and recording data. I’ve had more time to realize public schools are expecting unrealistic academic achievements from our children. What I’ve had time to realize is I had been cutting vital developmental opportunities out of my students’ school day.
1. Let Them Be Social
Many kids can be a little anxious or tired when they begin school in the morning. By allowing students 15-30 min. to read a story of their choice, to work on a puzzle, or to eat a snack and reconnect with their friends, you are allowing them to prepare their minds for the day. School should be peaceful and welcoming.
When I taught in public school, children were not allowed to talk for the first 10 min. of their lunch period. They would often get reprimanded and moved to another table if they were talking. So when do kids get to be social? If they have to be quiet in class and they have to be quiet at lunch, when do they get to talk to each other? The biggest argument against homeschooling is the lack of socialization. To be frank, my kids are getting better socialization being homeschooled than being sent to public school. Want to read more about the myth that school is good for socialization? Check out Penelope Trunk’s post, “It’s a myth that school is good for socialization.”
After two hours of learning, it is time to recharge and reconnect with each other. More snacks and more conversation keep our energy up for more learning throughout the day.
2. Let The Students Lead
During a traditional school day it is hard to fit in everything. Hurry up and learn! Hurry up and learn! We have to move on! Teachers can get into a panic mode which causes a lot of anxiety and stress in the children. I am learning to let the children take the lead during our instructional time. If every student wants to use the cool hand pointer to read our sight word poster for the day, then I will take 10 min. out of the day to let every child feel successful.
3. Let Them Explore
In the public school system we were provided with science kits every 6 weeks. Sadly, very few of us teachers ever used ours because we felt it took time away from our reading and math requirements. Now I see when children are allowed to explore there is no limit to their learning. Exploration and learning should go hand in hand. Free exploration fosters creativity and problem solving. So how much time should we allow for free exploration? Free exploration should be never ending. It shouldn’t be something we do just get the playing out of our children. We should be life-long explorers.
4. Let Them Outside!
Kids are in school 7 hours a day. Most kids are lucky to be outside 30 minutes of that time. At my previous school, teachers didn’t let their students have recess if they didn’t get everything accomplished that day. That happened quite a lot. “In order for children to learn, they need to be able to pay attention. In order to pay attention, we need to let them move.”
After snack we go outside. It has been hard, but I let the kids stay out until they are ready to come inside. That may be 10 min, or it may be 45 min. But on beautiful fall days it is hard to justify keeping the kids cooped up inside to do more math or reading.
We don’t have a playground. Instead we use nature to play and explore. This week I took the kids out to a soccer field. They were beginning to get bored after 10 min. until one student found a big log and declared that they should all make a fort. 45 minutes of fort building was the perfect amount of time to get fresh air and connect with nature. It also helped build communication and problem solving skills, enhanced imagination and creativity, and gave each child a sense of being part of a community.
We were then ready to come back to the porch for individualized lessons and activities. Evidence has proven when kids are allowed to have undirected free play they have better attention spans. I believe it!
Want to read more about the benefits of outdoor play in Kindergarten? Read MindShift’s post “Let ‘Em Out! The Many Benefits of Outdoor Play In Kindergarten.”
5. Get Rid Of the Workbooks!
I’ve never liked worksheets and workbooks. Thankfully, I no longer have to follow a curriculum full of workbooks. Although we do practice sitting in our seats and writing with pencil and paper, the majority of the time we are participating in play based learning.
When you are filing out a worksheet there is usually one right answer. When you are using play based learning children are applying skills in meaningful situations. This week we used puzzles to practice number identification skills in preschool. In Kindergarten they sat on the floor and worked together to find the right letter to build word families.
It hasn’t been easy to shed my anxiety and fear that I’m not putting enough rigor into our school day. However, after the first couple of weeks of homeschooling I saw creativity in my students I never saw in my public school children. I saw them using that creativity to solve problems throughout their day. The most important thing I noticed was my children were happy. They loved school and they were loving to learn.
Students should be excited about going to school. They should be always asking, “What are we going to learn about today?” as my Little Red asks me everyday. Children should be valued as individuals and be rewarded for being who they are and not for how well they do on a test.