Working out five days a week. Eating clean 100% of the time. Getting to work early every day. Providing enrichment activities at home.
The task is a bit daunting. I know. They all seem to be easily achievable when we’re initially declaring them, but they tend to fall by the wayside where impracticability often awaits. I’d love to give you some pointers on how to get that fat-burning session, totally health-conscious diet, and early bird clock-in accomplished, but I’m focusing this post on the latter, which is something I know a good amount about: Providing quality enrichment activities in the home.
Below are some pieces of advice that I can offer you that will set you up for success as you work towards cultivating a learning environment at home.
- Make a schedule.
Having a dedicated time for enrichment activities shows your children their importance (themselves and the activities), teaches time management and organization skills (essential life skills), and offers you a point of accountability (specific amounts of time dedicated to the subjects). Check out my Sample School Week Schedule here.
2. Start small.
If your children are in school full-time outside of the home, you don’t have to provide a full-blown curriculum at home too! Save yourself some time and sleep. This is supplemental to what they’re already receiving at school. It’s also the perfect opportunity to empower your children and help them take charge of their own learning. Work with them to build their home activities around where they are developmentally and what they’re interested in doing/learning. Mix the subjects or focus on those that might cause a bit of struggle for your children in school. The choice is yours. One new activity every day or every other day is sufficient in the beginning. I promise!
3. Make time to discuss.
It’s not enough to give your children “extra work” at home. The internalization/learning occurs when they’re engaged in conversations about what they’re doing. Take a few minutes after work–perhaps during dinner or right before bedtime–and ask some questions about the home activity (even if you completed it with them). Here are some conversation starters for you:
- What was today’s activity?
- What did you learn?
- What did you already know?
- How did you complete the activity?
- What did you like about the activity?
- Is there anything you would have done differently? How so?
- How does the activity connect to what you do in school? (Skills, subject etc.)
I suspect that the types of activities to use can also be a bit of a concern for parents, especially as children mature. The answer is usually a vague “anything helps,” which is sort of true but still unhelpful. Ideas. Parents often need ideas, specifics…a pointed direction. That’s completely understandable, and it’s one of the reasons I created Scholars in Action.
Teaching Your Newborn-Age 4
Frankly, everything you do and say is teaching your baby and building “road maps” and connections in their brain. This is why we stress the importance of talking to your child even if the child is unable to speak back. They’re learning through our vocal intonation, facial expressions, and body language, so why not give them the best of us? Here are a few ways to be intentional in your teaching using everyday activities in your home:
- Talk your baby through dressing. “Let’s put your right arm through this little hole. Now, your left arm. Mommy/Daddy’s going to straighten up your onesie and snap the bottom before putting on your pants!” You might think it’s pointless, but your baby is listening. It teaches body awareness and sequencing early on. You’re also exposing them to names of clothing items. 🙂
- Count everything. No, really. Count the cars, mailboxes, people, chairs, blocks, carrots, etc. Draw attention to each one by pointing or picking it up. You want to plant the one-to-one seed early. By doing this, you increase your child’s odds of understanding number sense, which is important in computation.
- Read all of the things. I know it can be very difficult to read a book to baby every single day, but if you can’t do that, commit to reading the article on your phone or any print you see aloud. Research suggests that babies who are regularly read to/hear language develop more expansive vocabularies than their peers who did not hear continuous language. When you do read books, point to and say the parts of the book (spine, front cover, back cover, pages etc.). That is a key indicator that preschoolers are print aware.
- Identify everything your baby or toddler touches. Repeat it several times. Your child might try to mouth the words, which is great, but even baby is not speaking yet, you should still identify the items.
- Use flashcards. If you don’t want to expose your little one to electronics and apps yet, buy or make your own flashcards with the alphabet, numbers, shapes, and sight words. The earlier you begin, the sooner the automation will come. We want children to see those words or pictures and immediately know their names.
- Sing and play music. Children’s ears are attuned to music. It soothes them and can make it easier to remember information, which is why the alphabet, states’ names, prepositions etc. are songs. Teachers create songs to teach important information because the tune makes the info memorable. Make up your own using the same tune as other well-known songs. Have you noticed that the alphabet and “Twinkle Twinkle Little Star” are the same musically? Go ahead and sing it right now. See? You can teach any kind of information with music – primary colors, parts of the body (“Head, Shoulders, Knees, & Toes”), slope-intercept form (Y equals mx plus b)…anything.
Enrichment Ideas for Grades K-5
- Reading: Character “Dolls” or Posters for their favorite character in a book of their choice, News Reporting the 5 W’s for chapters/books read
- Writing/Vocabulary: Handwriting practice sheets, Parent/Child Journals, Pen Pal letters, Personal Dictionary Journals, Flashcards, IXLLearning.com
- Math: Minute Math sheets, Math apps, games, Patterns with Origami Paper, Using Legos to Build & Discuss Dimensions, K’Nex, Building Puzzles, Khan Academy
- Science: Time for Kids articles, Physical versus Chemical Reactions in cooking, Chem4Kids, NASA app, Digging/Excavation outdoors, Experimentation at home
- Social Studies: Classroom & Home “Laws” (rules) creation, Problem Solving for Community Issues, Mapping Where We Live, Scholastic History Activities for Kids
Art and music can be incorporated in any of these areas to address multiple competencies and interests at once.
Enrichment Ideas for Grades 6-12
In older grades, student interest should guide activities more often than in younger grades because foundational skills will likely have been established already. Additionally, topics covered in older grades can span so many areas. It’s a good idea to focus grades 9-12 enrichment on the particular course topics your children are covering.
- Reading: Designing a Book List via Goodreads, Book reviews, Podcasts or Vlogging on Favorite Characters/Series/Authors, Shmoop.com,
- Writing/Vocabulary: Freerice.com, Researching favorite authors, topics, careers etc. and practicing academic or journalistic writing, Flashcards for SAT prep, Personal Journals, Blogging
- Math: Math apps, online practice sites, Building items at home using math concepts from class
- Science: Online Science games, Environmental articles for blogging, BillNye.com, Student Science Enrichment Program
- History: Researching the history of their favorite topics, Scholastic History Activities for Kids
In my future posts, I will flesh out some of these suggestions, design some sample lessons for you to use, and eventually release a full curriculum program for the developmental levels (preschool, K-2, 3-5, 6-8, 9-10, & 11-12).
Choose a couple of the ideas above and try them on for size. Leave a comment and let me know what you liked/didn’t like or ask any questions for clarification if you have them. I welcome your feedback because I do this for you. 🙂
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