This is Part 2 of a series about trying to figure out the whole work-from-home-learn-from-home conundrum that many families currently find themselves in. For Part 1, click here.
I get it. This whole work-from-home-learn-from-home thing is tough. I am currently trying to balance teaching from home while my two kids navigate online schooling. My husband is still working outside of the house, although he does work from home on occasion. Neither kid is particularly thrilled with the options they are being given online and both are spending significantly more time on devices than they have before. One kid gets pretty anxious if she doesn't know exactly what is required of her, while the other needs her learning embedded in play or she won't touch it. We have had meltdowns and outright refusal. Both kids have successfully submitted a few assignments, with some cajoling on our part. Thankfully, both of their teachers are very understanding and have given us the freedom to do what we like and leave the rest. Still, it's been a long week.
In my previous post, I talked about the mindset we need to have going in to this situation. I fully recognize, though, that mindset often isn't enough. Sometimes we just need someone to tell us what to do and how to do it.
That, my friends, is this post.
Below, I have 4 different examples of how you can set your children up to be independently learning throughout the day, every day. They are appropriate for a wide variety of ages, learning styles and home situations. Feel free to mix and match and add your own flair. Find a style & rhythm that works for your family and go for it!
My friend and fellow teacher created this fantastic system of choice for her son using coloured popsicle sticks and an empty picture frame. He chooses 1 popsicle stick in each category every day, plus "I-time", which are all independent activities so mama can work (cause, you know, work-from-home-learn-from-home applies to teachers too). I love that she has created a schedule for the day that isn't dialled in to the minute but rather moves fluidly around all-important meal times. Keeping meals and sleep schedules routine right now is so important for kids! Also, can we just take a moment to appreciate her kid-level command corner? So easy for her boy to feel ownership over his activities when the choice is at his level!
Next up, I was contacted by a literacy helping teacher from Delta school district here in BC asking if they could modify my work to hand out to parents. I just love what they have done with it and hope that parents & teachers in their school district find it useful. I am literate, I am numerate, I am curious and I am kind, indeed.
Finally, I would be remiss if I didn't share what we have done in my own household. I have two very different personalities for kids; one is absolutely a planner who likes to have a schedule to follow, the other is more of a free-spirit who wants to go where the winds take her (that and stay in her pyjamas every day, all day). The oldest has created a printable schedule for this week based on what her teacher has sent her, although she moved away from the strict times she had set for herself the week before. 5 things to complete a day, including outdoor time and free time.
For the older kids, I created a graphic with some tips on setting up your learning space and creating a routine that works for tweens and teens. You can download that here.
The youngest wanted the freedom to put together a different plan each day so we created this fun magnet board (based on this post from Craftaholics Anonymous). We spray painted a cookie sheet white but that was deemed boring so she added her own flair with acrylic paint. A little bit of washi tape divvied up the board in to To Do & Done.
The day's to-dos move over to the done side as she completes them, with no requirements for when they happen or in what order. The key to this plan is that my kiddo is in control of what her day looks like, from choosing which activities to do to when to do them. She chooses at breakfast each morning and then I check in with her throughout the day to see how she's doing on accomplishing her goals. We briefly discuss what each one is going to look like for that day ("What are you planning to read today?" "What is science going to look like? An explosion - oh...maybe you should save that for tomorrow when I can help you." etc.) but we stay flexible in case anything comes up during the day.
She gets to move forward one space on the "game board" at the bottom for every activity she completes for the day (I don't actually care if she gets one in each category tbh but if I don't put a bit of pressure on she will literally read all day. All. Day.). Since this one is motivated by incentives, we also put together a pompom jar; every time her mover makes it to the star (i.e. she completes all her activities for the day) she gets to put a pompom in the jar. When the jar is full, she gets a reward.
Here's a close up of some of the tokens. They are colour-coded to match the Literate, Numerate, Curious & Kind graphic that I created (download a copy here), with the addition of some free time and chores. We laminated them and the little one hot glued magnets on the back. Click on the download button below to grab an editable copy of the tokens & reward "game" board.
I highly recommend sitting down with your child and coming up with 2-5 activities per category that you know a) they can do independently, b) make sense in your household (no hogging the only iPad!) and c) are interesting to them. This doesn't really take long and practically guarantees a higher level of independence and interest when it comes to choosing and actually doing the day's activities. See "Learning At Home" for activities, tips and links to keep your child busy learning all day and have them choose with you!
Remember, these options are here to help you frame your child's day, not recreate a school environment. They provide a structure that is manageable for working parents; allowing your child to have voice and choice in what they do and when they do it gives you the freedom to work around Zoom meetings, phone calls or urgent emails. Empowering your kids with a sense of independence and control goes a long way to making them motivated to accomplish the day's learning goals. I can't promise that every day will be sunshine and roses with one of these systems, but my hope is that you find some ease and flow to your days and that you are better able to cope with, and maybe even enjoy, working and learning from home.
See Part 1 of this post - all about shifting your mindset as your family works and learns from home - here.
In my quest to find ways to motivate my son to write, I have stumbled upon some very interesting articles. There are LOTS of opinions about literacy and boys and whether or not it should even be something we expect from them (because with technology they may not actually need to know conventions or how to form simple sentences). The teacher in me insists of course this is something we should expect and not only should we expect it we can help them even enjoy it (some may argue this is wishful thinking). However, this week we had a bit of a breakthrough at our house.
When I say I’ve tried many tactics with my son to get him to write it would be a gross understatement. To date, none of them have really managed to capture his attention or his interest. Until now - my son loves Lego! His imagination with Lego is so much fun to watch and he and his younger sister can amuse themselves for hours building scenes. One day while trolling Pinterest I saw a woman with a post about a Lego scene writing idea and thought it was genius. I introduced the idea to my two kids, told them to go and create scenes with their Lego and then take pictures of it with the Ipad.
My daughter decided this would be tons of fun with Barbies. They had a great time setting their scenes and then taking pictures of them. I was amazed at what they both came up with. Then I put the pictures into a document and printed them off. The kids then spent the next couple of hours writing their stories to match their pictures. When I told my son that he only had to do the first two pages (six pictures) he told me he wanted to keep going (insert Mom fist pump here). The stories they came up with were adorable and they are already planning their next ones. Now I’m trying to come up with other things they can photograph and write about. I have already thought of ways we can adapt this idea into the Lit Pit’s writing station and am so excited to try it out with my students.
I would love to hear about any ideas you’ve had inspiring your students to write!
Fourteen years into my teaching career and Literacy has always been my primary love. Teaching little people to read and write and seeing the world of books from new eyes brings me an immense amount of joy. I have spent many hours discussing how to get students who are reluctant readers and writers to be engaged. I have given ideas and activities to encourage parents who are at their wits end.
This year I’ve met my match.
He’s an incredibly bright little boy who reads above grade level, his oral comprehension and imagination are exceptional. Getting him to write however, is like pulling teeth. He comes up with every excuse in the book and truth be told our writing sessions are looking more and more like wrestling matches.
As irony would have it, this little boy also happens to be my son.
So this past year I have been on a mission to come up with inventive and exciting ways to encourage my son to write. I’ve tried video prompts, engaging hands on activities, lists, letters and stories. We’ve run laps between sentences, had writing breaks and tried every time of the day.
Writing is still a struggle. He has a million ideas but trying to get them on paper is hard. He immediately becomes tired, grumpy and is distracted by the smallest of things. Even though attention can be an issue for him at times if I put a math sheet in front of him or a book or Lego he’s able to focus for hours.
So this summer my task has been reading everything I can about boys and literacy. It seemingly has become a theme for me; people I hardly know have come up and asked me about getting their boys to read and write. Dinner party conversations have taken a turn to our education system and boys and the question of does our current system meet the needs of busy boys. I’ve begun asking myself, what can we do differently at our school to engage our boys and not only teach them to read and write, but create a culture where they choose to?
I believe things begin to change when we not only recognize the problem, but begin asking questions. I don’t think it’s coincidence I have a son who is demonstrating these challenges. It’s motivating me to find an answer. I would love to end this post telling you I’ve discovered a quick fix, but we’re definitely a work in progress. My son and I are on a quest to find ways to engage not only him but other boys like him. At the end of his school career I would love to be able to say that I’ve helped him not only learn to read and write, but Love to, and Choose to.
Stay tuned as the questions turn in to answers...
I'm Bryn, teacher, mom, book lover, athlete. I am passionate about living life with my family, teaching and learning something new all the time. I hope you find something that speaks to you here on my blog and would love to hear from you too!