Teachers are amazing and special people. I admire these individuals and appreciate them more than I can express into words, especially through times when my children are not in school. At home there are distractions everywhere. So when I say it is time to start math, science or thematic studies, my children will likely tell me they need to go do something else first. With distance learning, our household requires a routine while both my husband and I can continue working from home. To do this, I wanted to find a way to motivate our children to finish their school work and ignore the distractions.
Here are our five ideas we have used to help encourage learning while at home, amidst the distractions:
1. Math in the Kitchen
Measuring and fractions are easy to incorporate into cooking, baking and preparing meals. Doubling recipes involves some addition and multiplication. Often we need to take something out of the meal for an allergy or dislike, so now we have some subtraction and sometimes division if we split up the recipe for others! For my youngest child, we will have him count the number of ingredients and add them into the measuring cups. This also involves some sensory fun when mixing!
2. Add Phonics and Reading All Over the House
We decode words everywhere, meaning we are always attempting to read and interpret new words. The fun part is trying to determine the meaning, if it rhymes with any other words and then try to put the word into a sentence. Without forcing the work, we attempt to add this in whenever we can to where our children are eager to answer the question. We see something and we ask them, “How do you think you spell that? Can you use it in a sentence?” Our children love a competition and if we have the time, we may throw in a spelling bee!
Books are all over our house. Our oldest son enjoys reading to our youngest son out loud, which then encourages our youngest child to read aloud his book to us. For our youngest, it is more his interpretation of what the book is saying by pictures and some letters, but he enjoys making up his own story of what he thinks the book is about. If the teacher is doing an assignment on a subject matter, we make a point to find books we own that relate to that topic and keep them out and available. Our children get excited to read about that topic because their teacher just reviewed that same thing. They then become the teacher for us, sharing what they learned while reading at the same time.
3. Play Whenever Possible
Puzzles, dominoes, board games, obstacle courses and imagination play can relate to about anything the kids are learning at their school. I feel like I am being sneaky when I know that the dominoes are helping with the math lesson that was presented, but if my children are excited to do it and are learning at the same time, then we have a win! One child was learning about animals, while the other was learning about the letter Z and a Zoo. So we had them build a Zoo! We told them to find animals we owned already at the house and build them a habitat. This kept them busy and they loved explaining what they put together and how the animals would live, eat, and survive in the habitat.
4. Get Outside for Science and Physical Education Fun
Going outside resolves a lot of stress in our house. For lunch, we like to go for a walk to break up the day. Walking adds some exercise to our day, the fresh air is amazing and along the way, we like to incorporate some science. We found leaves on our last walk to do a leaf rubbing experiment, which turned into an art project. We talked about the changing of the seasons and watched a storm roll in. We then went home and found a video from Exploration Place that reincorporated and better explained what we just witnessed.
To burn some energy, we have learned from our amazing PE Teacher who loves to share with us things to do to incorporate learning and exercise. One easy idea is to have your children pick their favorite book and find a way to create an activity that relates to it! She even took a traditional sport and changed it up with a Star Wars theme. Our children played light saber soccer with pool noodles as the light saber, where each player tried to tag the ball with the light saber. The boys couldn’t wait to play!
5. Use Technology as a Supplement
There are so many amazing websites that help make learning fun. Ask your child’s teacher for suggestions or if they have any that they would like you to use. We have found success with Epic Books, PBS and Scholastic to partner with class lessons being taught by their teachers. Our children enjoy using apps like ABC Mouse, Khan Academy, Reading Raven Prodigy and Scratch Jr.
The amount of virtual tours and daily videos shared by local zoos and museums are wonderful too. While working on an animal project for class, our zoo featured a live video on that animal and we were able to learn facts and see the animal in its own surroundings . We may not be able to visit these places in person, but through technology, we can learn and see things from our own home. For another project, our children were learning about the continents. So we decided to let them pick a country and one type of food that is served there that they wanted to try, and we would make it together at home. They watched a video on PBS about the country of their choice, and picked a food that we would all make together.