Friday, January 28, 2011

Learning Time

When my daughter was just under two years old I quit my job. I was expecting my second child at the time and decided I wanted to stay home full time. It was a big step for me, and since I loved my job very much I was worried about how I would feel about staying home all day.

Luckily it has been a good experience for me. There are definitely DOWN DAYS where I wonder what I was thinking and I miss teaching a lot. But for the most part we have fun.

I've found a lot of things to fill my day up with (but that's another post entirely). One thing that has helped me tremendously over the last 2 1/2 years is to spend time teaching my children every day. When my daughter was about 20 months old we started what I call "learning time." It has changed and developed over time as my daughter has gotten older and now that I have two it is completely different. But here is a rundown of what Learning Time might look like in my house.

First of all, I divide up each day into a different topic. When my daughter was very little this is what her schedule looked like...

Monday – Animals
Tuesday – Shapes
Wednesday – Numbers
Thursday – Colors
Friday – Letters/Alphabet

I would always start with a book on the topic, then give a short lesson with some practice, and finally we would do some type of activity. Learning time for my little toddler girl didn't last for more than 30 minutes, but sometimes it was as short as 5-10 minutes depending on her attention span that day. I've always tried to be flexible and when I see that it isn't fun anymore, we usually quit early if need be.

Now that she is 4 our lessons are usually 30-60 minutes. Her schedule looks more like this; I usually do a main topic for the day but also I do a quick review of another topic:

Monday - Letters/Words (Review: Math Facts)
Tuesday - Math (Review: Words)
Wednesday -Science/Social Studies (Review: Numbers/Shapes)
Thursday - Handwriting (Review: Letters/Sounds)
Friday - Music/Arts (Review: All topics)

We always start by doing a quick review of something (only about 5 minutes) then we read a book (sometimes on the topic, but more often now that she is older it is just a fun book). Then we do a lesson with an activity of some type.

My 2 year old son participates as well. Usually his "lesson" is the review part - or whatever he can understand of it. By the time we are done with the review and story he is usually bored and goes off to play. Sometimes he sticks around or comes back for the "activity" depending on what it is. His learning time is less structured than my daughter's, but when she starts going to preschool I will spend more dedicated time with him. It's amazing what he's picked up even by just watching his sister.

Sometimes I do these out of order depending on my mood, or if skip one thing I usually try to make it up the next week (since I rarely did learning time all 5 days of the week, something always comes up).

A few ideas of what I do. For reviews I do things like flashcards, or write them on the chalkboard/whiteboard, or we get on the computer and practice recognizing shapes (or whatever else) on the computer word processor. We've also done puzzles as a review, and sticky notes, or I just simply verbally quiz. I try to mix it up to make it interesting.

As for individual lessons.... that's a bit trickier. With math or letters I usually just try to come up with a learning objective for the lesson. For example, if we are working on numbers, my objective might be that she will be able to recognize numbers up to 20 (or for my son, up to 10). After we've kind of mastered that we do an activity with it. Maybe we draw the numbers/letters (whatever) with glue and pour glitter on them. Or maybe we go out in the backyard and draw shapes on the sidewalk with water and paint brushes.

When we do science or social studies I just think of something she should know. We might have a lesson on dialing her phone number, or a lesson on what types of organs are in her body (really simple, like heart and brain and lungs). This week we talked about directions and drew a map on a huge poster board with a compass. We've also practiced left/right, buoyancy in water, animals, and a myriad of other things.

With handwriting I usually just find some type of cute letter page online that she can trace and color. We also write in her personal journal. She dictates to me and I write down what she says, then she signs her name at the bottom.

When I do music/art we usually do either a BIG craft or we have little lessons on clapping rhythms or repeating melodies.

That is just a VERY rough outline of what I might do for learning time. Seriously - this is one of my children's favorite times of the day. It is so worth it! In order to be prepared I spend about 10 minutes on Sunday nights coming up with ideas for what I want to teach that week. This makes it easier for me each day.

So there you have it - my learning time ideas. I know that's a long post, but hopefully it sparks some ideas. If you have any ideas to add, please put them in the comments!!


Heather said...

Tannie, you're my hero! I don't know how you do it all, but I'm so, so impressed!

Laura said...

I have been looking forward to this post (ha, that's why I asked you to write it!). I often find that I get hung up on doing learning time "the right way" and I stress out too much about the little details. Unfortunately that means we end up not doing it at all most of the time. Sigh. You've made it sound much more possible, though, and much less intimidating. Thank you!

Rebecca said...

Thank you, Tannie! I have been thinking about doing something similar in a few months with my little girl...probably when she's 18 months or so {because right now getting through a whole board book is an accomplishment :)}. These are some really great ideas and I'm excited to start using them once my daughter's a little older!