School at Home

The world today…it really does feel like a new Netflix drama, entitled, COVID-19. Except, unfortunately it’s not…it’s our reality. So much has changed, not just for us, as individuals, but for our children.

While we, as adults (and parents) have struggled with the day-to-day wave of emotions, so have our children. It breaks my heart that I don’t have answers to give when my kids ask, ‘when can I have a playdate…a sleep over…go back to school and see my teacher…’

I have made it my mission to keep things as ‘normal’ as possible at home. While ‘home-schooling’ the kids has been challenging, I have found that the structure is working really well, for my kids. Since I do have 3 kids under 6, the range of learning is all over the place, so planning is everything!

I have tried to structure our day with a routine schedule to increase prediction and awareness that my kids can count on. With everyone’s lifestyle being so different, I am not here to tell you HOW to structure your day or WHAT to put in your schedule, but I am here to help with ideas to make your life a little easier while entertaining the kids at home.

If you follow along on my Instastories you know that I always try to include literacy, crafts, phonics/writing, math and science in our daily plans for school at home. Below, I have categorized areas of focus complete with easy-to-follow activities that are definitely crowd pleasers.

Phonics:

Letter of the day: Choose it in the morning and refer back to it at multiple times during the day. To choose, write letters on index cards or on popsicle sticks and put them in a bowl or jar and have kids pick a new one each morning. Make it visible so kids can visually refer back to it throughout the day.

Name hopscotch: using construction paper, or cardstock paper, cut out squares and write the letters of your child’s name on each individual square. Tape them down and have your child hop/jump on each letter while they say that letter in their name. This is a great exercise for letter identification with constructive application.

Letter freeze dance: Take an alphabet puzzle and scatter all the letters on the floor. Play your child’s most requested song. When the song stops have them pick up a letter on the ground. Depending on their ability, have your child either name the letter or give a word that starts with the letter.

Spring egg letter hunt: If you follow me you know how much I LOVE plastic (Easter) eggs for language activities. One of my favorite activities is to put those same alphabet letter puzzle pieces in the eggs. Each egg should hold one alphabet letter. Put all the eggs in a basket and have your child(ren) take turns opening each egg and naming the letters they find. For extra fun, you could have the kids search for hidden eggs before jumping into the activity.

Shaving cream letters: Using a baking sheet, layer with shaving cream. Have kids trace/copy letters into the shaving cream or practice writing their names.

Letter detectives: Have your child(ren) put on their favorite pair of sunglasses and sit down with a pile of age-appropriate books. Choose a letter, or two (maybe it’s the letter of the day, a letter in their name) and have them search through the books and point out when they ‘find’ a letter.

Sight words:

Sight word scavenger hunt: This is one of our favorite activities. On sticky notes, write sight words your child knows and 2-3 that they’re still learning. Hide them in a designated area (just remember to keep track of how many words you’ve ‘hidden’). Have your child search for all of the post-it notes. Once collected, have your child read each of the words to you.

Sight word writing: I have my oldest, Harper, write in her daily journal every morning. Usually it’s free writing, without too much direction to promote creativity. However, to target sight words in writing, give 2 sight words to use in their daily writing to promote learning and awareness.

Sight word sort: Write sight words on flashcards. Have your child read each card. Make two piles, words they know and words they’re still learning. Continue to practice all the words your child knows and work in 1-2 ‘unknown’ words into the stack. If your child gets discouraged, show them how many more words they know versus how many they still have to learn. To make this sort into a game, put the words on strips of paper and put them in the plastic eggs. Have kids open the eggs to reveal their sight words and read them.

Sight word Jeopardy: On an 8 1/2″ X 11″ piece of paper, make a Jeopardy game board. I can usually fit 3 columns X 3 rows on a single sheet. I write the sight words we’ve worked on throughout the week and cover them with sticky notes. On the sticky notes are points that increase by column (usually the first row is 1 point; second row 5 points; 3rd row 10 points). Kids can pick a square and read the word to earn points. My kids love this game.

Modification for young learners: use letters instead of words to increase letter identification and phonemic awareness skills.

Reading:

Kids should always be practicing reading at their level, daily. But, they NEED storytime from parents. My suggestion is to read chapter books that also have a movie version associated with the literature. In this way, once the book is completed, you can have a ‘movie night’ featuring the movie attached to the most recently completed book.

Here is my list of books + film:

  1. Matilda
  2. Mary Poppins
  3. Charlotte’s Web
  4. James and the Giant Peach
  5. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
  6. Mr. Poppers Penguins
  7. Stuart Little
  8. Room on the Broom
  9. Cat in the Hat
  10. Diary of a Wimpy Kid (box set)

Math

We have been doing a lot of paper & pencil math work at home, but we have made it more interesting through the use of colorful spring eggs. My oldest (6) opens these eggs to find math equations for which she must solve, as well as base ten values for which she must determine. In addition to using plastic eggs for math, we have used a number grid to fill in numbers from 1-100, we have used a standard dice to create our own equations/worksheet (roll, flip, roll) and have practiced skip counting by playing our version of ‘hopscotch’.

My youngest kids (2 &3) work with counting and number identification using the eggs. They open the eggs to count how many objects are in each egg; items range from M&Ms, to bracelet beads, to small toys or soft pom-poms. We count them. sort them. Combine them. We use these math lessons as opportunities to integrate more basic concept skills (such as size, color and shape).

Spring egg equations:

What you’ll need:

plastic eggs, paper, pencil, tape/glue

Write out equations (addition and subtraction) on pieces of paper ( I use sticky notes and can usually get 4 equations per note). Cut equations into strips and put each individual strip into its own plastic egg. Have your child choose one egg at a time. As they open the egg and take out the strip, glue or tape the equation onto an 8 1/2″ X 11″ sheet of paper. This way your child can create their own math worksheet as they go!

Modifications for young learners: As described above, put objects into the eggs prior to the activity (like M&Ms). As kids open the eggs have them count how many objects are inside. After they’ve counted, have them point to the number they’ve counted (e.g. 3) written on an index card, number line, sticky note.

Roll, flip, roll:

What you’ll need:

a standard dice, a coin, paper, pencil

This is a fun math game to play. Before you begin, cover a coin with white paper. Make a ‘+’ sign on one side and a ‘- ‘ sign on the other. You will use the dice to ‘roll’ and the coin to ‘flip’. Kids alternate between rolling the dice for the first number in the equation, flipping the coin for the sign (+/-) and then rolling the dice again for the second number in the equation. Kids can write their equations on a standard 8 1/2″ X 11″ piece of paper I I can usually fit 8-10 equations on a single sheet). This fun and interactive math activity will engage your child while they practice, create and learn.

Modifications for young learners: Have younger kids roll a dice and count the dots on the dice to determine how many are represented. To play a matching game, write number 1-6 on index cards and after the dice is rolled, have your kids match the written number, on the card, to the visual representation from the dice.

Skip counting hopscotch:

What you’ll need:

construction paper, tape

To illustrate the idea of ‘skip counting’ using physical actions really help. My oldest loves jumping to the numbers as she looks and counts. She has learned to skip count by: 2’s, 5’s and 10’s in this way. To prep, I started with a small range of numbers (5-6 within a set). So, when she was learning to count by 2’s we only skipped from 2-12; when we were learning to count by 5’s, we only skipped from 5-25 and with 10’s we only skipped from 10-50.

To prep, I cut up generous size squares of construction paper. I wrote the target numbers on them. I taped them to the ground with some distance between (to illustrate that we had ‘skipped over’ some numbers) and had my oldest look at the number as she jumped. We repeated this activity over and over (at her request) as repetition is key to this skill.

Modifications for young learners: Instead of skip counting, have kids jump to numbers (for example, 1-5) and name numbers as they see them. This will help with sequencing and identification. Similarly, you could practice following direction skills. While the numbers are taped to the ground, have kids point to any of the numbers (point to the 3), knock on a number (knock on the 5), sit on a number (sit on the 2), stand on a number (stand on the 4), put a body part on the number (put your elbow on 1), find a toy/color crayon to put on the number (put the purple crayon on the 5).

100’s grid:

What you’ll need:

paper, pencil

Draw a grid (of 100 squares) and fill in only some numbers (or as many as your child needs based on their skill level). Have them count and fill in numbers as they complete the grid. We have taken out this grid to work on addition and subtraction equations (using a game piece as a marker to find the correct answer). This quick and easy, low-tech visual aid is very helpful and practical.

Modifications for young learners: Write number strips (1-5 or 1-10) and have your child identify the numbers as they count in sequence. You can teach counting forward and backward with these visual aids.

Equation detective:

What you’ll need:

sticky notes (with written equations), pencil

This is a math scavenger hunt. Write out a given number of equations on sticky notes and hide them around the house. When you’ve hidden them, have your child count to 3 and let them investigate to find the hidden equations. Once they’ve gathered them all (note: keep track of how many you hide and where…) have them solve the equations.

Modifications for young learners: Instead of equations, write numbers or visual representations of numbers on sticky notes. Hide them in the same way and when your young ones bring you their findings, have them identify and/or count the visuals to determine which number is written on their paper.

Two math websites we like to play on include: abcya and starfall. Starfall offers lots of different activities for skills that target more than math (reading, phonics, songs, rhymes, etc).

Crafts:

Foam Frames for hand-drawings: Have kids make a drawing. Frame it with a foam frame and hang it on a gallery wall to display their hard and creative work.

Finger painting animals: Using finger paint have kids create animals with their fingers, hands and even their feet!

Construction paper caterpillar: After reading the Very Hungry Caterpillar, make this craft. You’ll need to pre-cut construction paper circles in a variety of colors. Have kids choose their colors. When they pick their colors have them either make a pattern (red, blue, yellow, red, blue, yellow…) or have them think of different things that are also the color of the construction paper that they chose (e.g. if they chose orange, ask them ‘what is something you eat that is orange?’)

Chicka Chicka Boom Boom tree: Read the book, Chicka Chicka Boom Boom. Create your own tree using construction paper. Have kids write the letters of their name on their Chicka Chicka Boom Boom tree or identify the letters in their name if they cannot write them yet.

Fruit-loop color sort/necklace: Have kids make a pattern or name colors as they string the cereal on yarn or string.

Rock painting: On a walk, have kids find 1, 2, 3… rocks. Come home paint and decorate. Start a painted rock garden or deliver them to friends to brighten their day.

Symmetry art: Fold an 8 1/2″ X 11″ piece of paper in half to clearly show two sides. Have kids paint one side of the paper however they want. When they’re done, fold the paper in half (along the crease) while paint is still wet so that the art is symmetrical. Have kids discuss any similarities/differences they see.

Same/Different Art: After discussing words/concepts of same and different, have kids draw, color, paint two things that are related but that look different (cat/dog; different color flowers; different sports equipment/balls).

Nature walk painting: collect sticks and different leaves. When you come home, attach the leaves the end of the stick and paint a picture.

Sidewalk chalk messages: To spread positivity, have kids draw cheerful drawings or write inspirational messages on the sidewalk, on your driveway or throughout the neighborhood.

Coffee filter butterflies: Using watercolors (or water + food coloring) paint coffee filters or dip them into the food coloring + water mix and let them dry. Once dry, use a pipe cleaner to make the body and antenae by pinching the filter in the center and then twisting the pipe cleaner so that it is centered.

Rainbow fish art: After reading the Rainbow fish, have kids color/draw a fish and use tin foil on the fins to represent the fins from the character in the book. This is also an excellent book to read to illustrate the importance of friendship and sharing.

Textile coloring: Do this on paper, or a window with washable paint. If using paper, draw a picture (butterfly, turtle, giraffe, bird) and with blue tape, section off areas of the drawing. Once kids finish their masterpieces, the tape can be removed and a mosaic print will be exposed. If using a window, Simply section off areas of the window using blue tape and have kids paint in the exposed areas of the window to create their masterpieces (stained glass). Once complete, remove the tape to reveal their artwork.

Bookmark snakes: Use pipe cleaners and beads to create cute bookmarks to use during reading lessons/story time.

Finger puppets: Using an old cotton glove (not mitten), pom-poms and googly eyes, have kids create a hand full of finger puppets/characters that they can use to create their own (verbal) stories.

Tissue Box monsters: Using an empty Kleenex box, cover it with wrapping paper or construction paper. Cut a hole for the mouth and have kids create a face that fits their mood or their imaginations. Use construction paper to add teeth, eyes, spots, lashes, hair. Kids can use them to collect their favorite treasures from around the house or on walks.

Cereal box monster feet: Using empty cardboard cereal boxes, cover them in wrapping paper or construction paper. Using construction paper, add toes/toenails. Kids can wear them after and pretend to be monsters.

Dream catchers: Using paper plates, cut out the center and punch holes around the border (leaving enough of the plate between the punched hole and the cut center so that when you weave the string through, the hole doesn’t rip). Weave string or wrapping ribbon through the holes creating your own web. Once done, tie the string (in the back, so it isn’t seen). Punch 3-4 holes at the bottom of the dream catcher and lip string through each hold. Have kids string beads on. Tie to secure and glue feathers at the bottom for an authentic feel. Have kids decorate the boarder of the dream catcher to express their creativity. I like to compare and contrast dream catchers to spider webs (read the book: A Very Busy Spider)

Firefly: You’ll need an empty water bottle, tissue paper, foam paper/construction paper, pipe cleaners, googly eyes and a glow stick. Have kids pick their tissue paper, pipe cleaner, foam paper color. Wrap tissue paper around the center of the empty water bottle and secure with tape or glue. In three spots (both outter edges of the secured tissue paper and in the center, wrap pipe cleaners around the bottle and twist at the bottom (as legs/feet of the firefly). Cut wings from foam/construction paper and secure at the middle of the bottle. Activate and place a glow stick in the bottle and close the bottle with the cap. Put googly eyes on the cap and another pipe cleaner around the cap for antennae. Turn off the lights and let kids see what their firefly looks like in the dark!

Toilet paper roll binoculars: Using two empty rolls of toilet paper (or one empty paper towel roll cut in half, have kids paint their rolls with bingo dotters or finger paints. Once dried, attach a string. Have kids use their binoculars when their being letter detectives, on walks, playing in a scavenger hunt.

Painting with cars: Using white paper, or a canvas, have kids dip the wheels of their favorite cars( trucks or trains) in paint and run the paint-dipped wheels onto paper. This activity is fun, uses texture and creates really cool, creative pieces that your kids can enjoy.

Bird feeder: Using an empty toilet paper roll, attach a sturdy string/rope/twine, spread on peanut butter and roll it in seeds. Hang it outside and watch to see what new visitors your family will attract.

Perler beads: using safe peg boards have kids create characters they can use in story telling or just as creative pieces to add to their art collection.

Delivery box coloring: When it is safe (after disinfecting and 24 hours) have kids color/decorate large boxes that would otherwise be discarded after delivery. you would be surprised as to how much fun kids can have decorating cardboard boxes!

Science

We love science experiments in our house. Not only do I find them interesting to research and carry out with my kids, but I love the engagement these experiments bring and the language they stimulate between my kids.

Together, we observe the contents and discuss what they may do and I like to try and link any literacy (books) or short clips that may be relevant to making connections to the experiment. Then, following our lesson/discussion, we fill out a 3 part form together, where I ask my kids to observe what they see; make predictions about the experiment and, following the experiment, we report what the findings were and compare them to our initial predictions.

Since our ‘school at home’ program has begun, we have had our fair share of favorite experiments, and some exciting ones in the works.

  1. Pepper + soap
  2. Sink or Float: Fun and easy. Fill a large bowl with water. Collect 10-12 items from around the house. I like to take the kids’ toys because it makes them more excited to guess the outcome. We made a large chart before dropping an item into the water and noted everyone’s guesses. When items would float we discussed why; and when items would sink we would discuss why.
  3. Rainbow fizzies
  4. Traveling Rainbow
  5. Melting dinosaur eggs: Take 6 balloons. Place small dinosaurs in each balloon and fill the balloon with water (it is easiest to fill the balloon by using a funnel. Freeze the balloons. Once the water has frozen, it will take the shape of an egg from being inside the balloon. Before cutting the balloons away from the ice eggs, we discussed what we thought may melt the egg. Each of my kids got 2 eggs to melt. Some choices made to attempt to melt the eggs included: fire, ice, salt, sugar. We put two eggs in a sauce pan and put the pan on the stove until the ice began to melt. While putting a cold popsicle against the ice egg didn’t prove to do anything, the salt was a fun and interesting choice to explore. We compared how heat turned the ice into water, where as salt made the ice slushy.
  6. Milk rainbow
  7. Ice cream in a bag
  8. Grow a gummy bear
  9. Volcano in an apple
  10. Lava Lamp
  11. Paperclip experiment
  12. Monster toothpaste
  13. Rainbow Clouds
  14. Tornado in a jar
  15. Rock Candy

Hopefully these tips, reviews and lessons will help guide and/or inspire your school at home lessons with your kids!

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