I like using emojis in my posts, but I feel like they have a tendency to come out looking a little “Lucky Charms Essay.” Also it’s a lot of work to copy and paste them from the website I get them from when working from a desktop, so I haven’t really been doing it as much.
Hello, my Gals!
Since I am blessed with the opportunity to be a SAHM and to be able to do some work from home, I have been trying to make the most of it by giving my son some kind of enriching experience every day, and make every experience an opportunity for learning.
So having said all that, I thought I’d have this update’s topic be our “Home-School” plan. Keep in mind, every child is different and this is what worked for us. But if you’re looking to home school your little one(s), I hope that you find this post helpful in one way or another!
Never Too Early
I concentrated more so on fine motor skills with Vinny during his baby months. He’s always been just ahead of the curve when it comes to fine motor skills, and he was more or less walking by the time he was 10 months old (I might do a separate post on how I worked on fine motor skills using Mikey, as he’s going through all of that now).
However, I never realized how early I could really start him on learning all of the basics like colors, shapes, etc! I feel like a lot of parents don’t realize how early you can introduce their babies to these concepts, and how fun and (relatively) easy it is to do so!
So here’s a little more on how I got Vinny to master his shapes, colors, numbers 1-10, and the entire Alphabet by 20 months old. Which may be impressive to some of you, and maybe to others, as Hillary Duff would say, “So Yesterday.”
Here’s some videos of Vinny identifying some letters and shapes back in January, when he was 17 months old (they came out huge and sideways and I just don’t have the time to fix them so I’m sorry!)
But it’s like I read somewhere, you can’t compare the Sun to the Moon to the stars–because they all shine on their own time.
Intro To Learning
I feel like reading to our babies is so, so, crucial to not just their academic development, but their social and emotional development, as well. I’ve read that studies suggest reading to your child helps to strengthen empathy, as they’re hearing about and relating to the characters in books, and hearing the emotions come alive through your voice.
I started reading kids books out loud that we got at our baby shower while I was still pregnant with Vinny. And when he was a young infant, about 3-4 months, and he wasn’t trying to crawl/walk/run everywhere, I would read him mid to late elementary school reading level chapter-books. I knew he wouldn’t retain anything I read from them, but I like to think that he was watching my mouth movements and enjoying absorbing words.
Of course I would read him the cardboard baby books as well! The pictures and easy-to-absorb stories are essential for babies, I feel.
We started doing some type of definitive lesson “Plan” when Vinny about 15/16 months, with activities games geared toward different subjects. But before that, once he was walking around and a little more interactive, we did a lot of learning through reading and play.
When we played when he was younger, I always pointed out what colors and shapes certain things were, to kind of build a foundation of these concepts. And I still do now. I know this kind of goes without saying, but I think it really does make a difference in how they pick it up later!
Now, Vinny is obsessed with books! He could sit there and listen to someone read to him for hours. And each time we read a book, I try to point out different colors, shapes, animals, etc. I always look for something in the pictures to teach him about.
One of his favorite books is “Bubbles Bubbles,” an interactive Sesame Street Book we got for his first birthday. This is how he learned half of the body parts he’s able to identify, because we’ve made it a game each time we read the book.
Now when I read any of his other books (often 3-5 times each day), whenever they mention a body part, i.e. “Little Nutbrown Hare stretched his arms as wide as they would go,” I reach for Vinny’s arm and emphasize that that is his arm as I read the book. Once we do this enough times, I’ll quiz him after I read a sentence with a body part and ask him, “Where are your knees?”
Our “School Of Learning”
I have been looking into different learning/teaching techniques, such as Unschooling, Montessori, and Waldorf to see what would best fit not only Vinny’s unique style of learning, but my own capabilities and strengths as a home-teacher.
In as small of a nutshell as I can come up with, Unschooling focuses much more on real world and practical life skills than academic skills (think balancing a checkbook vs. Mitochondria is the powerhouse of the cell), and both Montessori and Waldorf focus on child-led learning, with the teacher being more of a coach and celebrating the child’s independence as he or she explores skills and education.
Click here if you want to see an awesome real-life Montessori playroom my SIL at Becoming Rivera has set up for my brilliant little niece!
The style I’ve personally gravitated the most towards is Waldorf, which involves a lot of teaching through storytelling (perfect since Vinny loves reading and being told stories so much), fantasy, art and music. It’s also very nature-focused, with a lot of their teaching material and journals being colored with natural watercolors and doodles, instead of the sterile, primary-colored, artificial aesthetic of typical schools.
However, the parts of Waldorf I don’t agree with are that full-fledged Waldorf teachers don’t believe in having a child learn to read before age 7, and they are completely anti-technology and screen-time.
Personally, I would love it if Vinny was interested in learning to read before this age, and I do rely on videos (sometimes more than I should) in teaching Vinny certain content, especially when I need to get work done and don’t have a sitter.
When I was pregnant, as much as I hate to admit, Vinny would sometimes get up to 2.5 hours of screen-time a day! *cringe* Now I try to limit it to 1 hour a day, split up throughout the day if possible. On days I have to work, he sometimes gets the whole hour at once. Maybe a little bit more…but, I always try to keep the sources strictly educational, forgoing the mind-numbing Saturday-Morning type cartoons.
Our favorites are Jack Hartman, Bounce Patrol, Scratch Garden, Simple Little Songs, Go Noodle! Rachel and the Treeschoolers, Story Bots, and of course, the classic, tried-and-true, good old Sesame Street!
Some examples of “Brain Break” media that I like that are still enriching and educational but I don’t consider to be teaching tools necessarily are Puffin Rock, If You Give A Mouse A Cookie, and Hilda.
PSA: Please be sure to properly vet all of the content your children may see! Apps like Netflix and PBS are easier to trust, but YouTube can be extremely sketchy. If you use a lot of YouTube like me, please make sure the videos you show are from verified channels (not ones that have random numbers in them, etc). Try to make playlists for your children with videos that you’ve already approved, and turn auto-play off so that you don’t run the risk of any bad videos getting through!
Before Mikey came along, and before I had read about Waldorf’s “Block” system of teaching (more on that later), I had Vinny on a sort of daily/weekly home-school schedule. I personally think that this was helpful in accelerating his understanding of his shapes, colors, numbers, and letters at such a young age.
Here was (and still is, just modified very slightly for block learning) Vinny’s daily schedule. We try to keep up as much with this as possible, while still accommodating to Mikey’s feeding, tummy-time, diaper changes, etc. Most days we are successful! A lot of the time I can have Mikey do tummy time or play in his gym while Vinny and I are doing “lessons.”
7AM Wakeup, refresh (diaper and outfit change)
7:30 Breakfast (peanut butter toast and scrambled eggs)
8:00 Free-play and video playlist with subject of the day (Mom works during this time)
9:15 Story time, read books dealing with subject of the day, or use picture focus on subject of the day (what color is this? What shape is this? How many X are there in this picture?)
10:00 Playtime again, listening to music (Mom tries to get some chores done)
11:00 “Snacktivity” Time. Vinny gets a snack of bananas, fruit bars, or crackers.
11:15 Activity dealing with subject of the day
2:30/3 Lunchtime (usually some kind of nitrate/nitrite free lunch meat, cherry tomatoes, cheese stick)
3:30 More free-range playtime and story time, reviewing subjects of the day
5:00 Dinnertime (Some kind of protein and veggies, like shredded chicken and broccoli)
6:00 Bedtime routine begins (bath, teeth brushing, etc)
7:00 Time for bed!
Friday: “Science” (One “Science experiment” found on Pinterest)
Saturday: Music/Art (Water pad drawing, play-dough, play instruments, etc)
Sunday: Bible Study (Readings from Bible for Babies and child-friendly bible videos)
To save this post from being too long, I am going to refer you all to Pintrest for themed activities for your kids, since every child learns different anyway! For the majority of our activities, I literally searched, “Teaching Shapes/Letters/Etc Toddlers” into Pinterest and came up with tons of fun things to do! So just search what you want to teach for your age level and have fun!
Main Lesson Blocks
While I’m psyched that Vinny has picked up all of these concepts relatively quickly, at the same time I worry that I’ve overwhelmed him, and I don’t want him to burn out. To keep his love of learning strong, while at the same time not exhausting him, I’ve decided to gear more toward using Waldorf’s Main Lesson Blocks.
Main Lesson Blocks are based around topics that suit the child’s developmental stage and interests. For example, since Vinny knows all of his letters, and is completely obsessed with hearing the ABC’s being sung, I’m gearing our current Block towards phonemic awareness to help introduce how letters are used in words and to help him build his own vocabulary and say words properly.
Blocks are taught on rotation, and each “Block” lasts around three to six weeks. During this time, one subject is the primary focus, as mentioned before. The main lesson blocks are taught in the morning, with the rest of the day open for free play and other activities.
Here’s a helpful article that I found helpful in understanding Block style teaching.
I’ve also come around to weekly fine motor and life skills activities, something I see a lot of with Montessori. Truthfully, I probably should have started with fms activities sooner, but better late than never! And it’s still plenty early to do life skills activities.
Most recently, I’ve taken a Xylitol container and cut a slit in it for him to put all of my old credit cards into. He LOVES this, and took to it very quickly!
We also work on some day-to-day skills and get him involved in chores. Vinny loves wiping up messes he’s made at the table and sweeping, and his favorite chore is to help me empty the dishwasher. It’s so cute!
Another huge and sideways video of him when we first started with the dishwasher chore when he was 19 months:
Big Things Ahead
The daunting life skills challenge we have ahead of us is potty training! Dun Dun Dun!
Vinny will be 2 in August. We’ve already gotten him off of the bottle and the pacifer, so this is the next step!
My goal is to have him potty trained by two, or a little bit after two. So for a few months now we’ve been trying to get the hang of his bathroom cues, have him sit on his potty clothed and praise him for doing so, read to him potty training books and show him potty training cartoons from vetted YouTube sources. We’ve also had training underwear we’re excited to try! I’ll have a separate post on potty training when/if I’m successful. Pray for us!
But potty training is something basic around this age (more or less–of course every child is different! This age just happens to be the average, from what I’ve seen). My other practical life skill I’d like us to focus on this “block” is learning to recognize emotions and develop empathy.
So that’s all for now! I know it was kind of a lot. I’ll keep on experimenting and see what sticks! I’ll most likely have an update post later on on how Block learning has been working so stay tuned!
Are there any seasoned home-schooling Moms out there with more words of wisdom? Let us know in the comments!
Thanks for reading, my gals! 😘😘
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