Getting into a Pre-K School Routine
Staying consistent might be one of the hardest parts of homeschooling. It’s hard to carve out time with toddlers to get into the schedule of regular lessons. But there are some simple tricks that have helped me stay on track.
Learning Can Happen Anywhere
My goal for this year was to do bookwork at least three days a week with Kniya. Most preschools have kids coming in for at least 3 half-days a week and most do about 5. We do a lot of educational and recreational activities that aren’t centered around book learning. She plays with other kids at the Y regularly (structured play), goes to story time at the library (classroom etiquette) and has learned how to do all kinds of things to help out around the house (responsibility, focus and practical skills).
Things like gymnastics classes might be great for her social skills and physical confidence, but it’s not the same as learning to read. Drawing a picture is great for learning pencil control, but doesn’t give her experience with new textures and following directions. We may talk a lot about numbers, weather or directions in the car, but that isn’t the same as teaching her to write a number 5. So, while I try to take opportunities to learn whenever possible, I’ve also tried to carve out times when we are specifically sitting down to “do school.”
Visible Reminder: Sticker Calendar
We started focusing on learning at home two years ago when Kniya was 2 and a half. Last year I was a little more relaxed with the bookwork part of school because the start of the year was going to be interrupted with Kamden’s birth and I also knew she was a little young at three to stress about the book part. So both of those years I didn’t want to feel bad about not doing enough, I just wanted to make sure we were doing something. I decided to hang a calendar for stickers in my kitchen to help get her excited and reminding me about school. The funny thing was, she did not care about adding stickers to the calendar at all. The person most impacted and motivated by it was me.
For that first year, every time we did any kind of learning activity, reading or learning conversations, I tried to remember to add a sticker to the date. If we did a lot (sang the ABC’s 10x in the car, read 3 books and talked about colors), then I’d use a bigger sticker. If it was a small task or activity, then I’d use a small sticker. I just needed a visual gauge of what I was doing.
Last year, when she was 3 and more ready for preschool, we started really only marking days where we did focused learning. The stickers are now only if we read books centered on education (like Dr. Suess’s ABCs or One Hundred Hungry Ants), work on school activities, or do a project that you might see done in a preschool. I still count library storytime and I still use sticker size to help gauge how much we did that day.
It is easy and fast. Every December, I look forward to picking out a new calendar to serve as decoration in my kitchen. Adding stickers isn’t hard (I keep them in a nearby drawer) and takes just a few seconds. Sometimes I list out what all we did for the day in my planner, but I usually get sidetracked and that can be hard to keep up with.
It serves as a great reminder. The crazy thing about the calendar is how much it keeps their school in my mind. As a mom, a week will fly by and you won’t even notice. I can’t even count how many times I mean to do something simple and realize it’s been on my to-do list for 2+ weeks. Having it right there in my kitchen means I think about those stickers quite often.
It gives you a visual aide of what’s getting done. Kids learn slowly but surely. Sometimes you might not feel like you are getting anywhere and sometimes you might feel like you’ve done a LOT. A sticker calendar for new homeschooling moms provides a visual aide that helps you really measure how much effort and time is going into their early education.
It uses up all the extra stickers. I don’t know about you, but I probably have more stickers than any family could use in a lifetime and they are continuously pouring in. Visit the doctor’s office or some grocery stores and the kids will get stickers. Grandparents and friends give them to them in gifts. We get them in the mail and they come with nearly every activity pack we get. They are fun, but how many stickers can you really use on papers, activity books, projects and shirts? This has been a great way to put them to use.
Setting Regular Days
Now, I will add stickers on weekends and week days alike when we put in the work, but a random schedule isn’t going to result in consistency or necessarily mean we get enough days in. It’s really helped to have set days of the week where we spend at least a half hour sitting down to work on strictly workbooks.
I take a few of their letter and number workbooks along with some markers to their gymnastics classes and will do school with one while we wait for the other to finish class. I typically have two other days in the week that we don’t have a scheduled event in the morning, so I typically aim for doing at least some kind of activity on those days as well. You don’t have to sit down for hours, just make sure you have a focused time for the kinds of educational activities that won’t happen otherwise.
We got today’s work in to start the month off right! How do you stay motivated to get into a routine for school?