This year I’ll be teaching six kids.
Let’s pause and let that sink in a bit.
This year I’ll be teaching six kids!
Don’t get me wrong. I love having a big family. I love cooking big meals. And I love getting to the bottom of that monstrous pile of laundry each week. (Yes, it does happen every once in a while.)
But, I’ll confess that teaching six kids has me shaking in my boots a bit. This year we’ve got 10th, 7th, 5th, 3rd, 1st, and pre-K grades going. So, you can just smell the crazy brewing in my head.
That’s last year’s first day of school picture. While I did six last year, too, the game is a little more intense this year.
Planning for the start of school
In past school years, I’ve used the slow immersion method for “back to school”. That means that we start the formal school year with a few subjects. The following week we add a few more. During the third week we add a few more and so on until we are (more or less) working on our full curriculum.
It’s a wonderful way to transition for the lazy daze of summer.
This year I’ve decided to take a different tact. My boys (ages 15, 11, 10, and 8) will start slowly with literature and math the first week, things they can largely do independently of me. I’m jumping right in with my girls (1st grade and pre-K) with both feet.
I want to make sure that my littler ones have a great start and don’t feel like “an add-on”. They are so excited that school is starting, demonstrating a “joie de vivre” that I wish their brothers shared!
Here’s what I’m doing to build a strong foundation for my younger students’ school year:
1. Have a plan for reading.
I’ve been blessed with six kids who love to read and/or be read to. Family read alouds have always been a big hit. I’ve even had much older children who think they’re too big for a read aloud drift into the room to listen.
This year, I’m going to work through 50 Books to Enjoy with Kids, a book that I coerced my mom to write. She’s worked in the field of Early Childhood Education for over 40 years and has a passion for teaching young children that knows no bounds.
The book is a reading list of 50 must-reads and includes extension activities to do after you read them. I think it’s a super tool to keeping you reading with your kids. (It’s similar to Five in a Row, but with more easily accessible books.)
While my first grader will have other reading and literature that we’re working on, this will be our “fun reads” together as well as the basis of my four-year old’s “school.” We’ll read at least one story each week and then do the accompanying activities outlined in the book.
2. Provide an imaginative play space.
I think most kids until the age of 8 or 9 love imaginative play. If they don’t have older teenage siblings to pooh-pooh the idea, they like it for even longer. And having a special nook or area of the home for this activity is a great addition to our school day.
Over the years, my kids have loved to have special reenactments of the historical events that we study. Role play is a wonderful way to learn.
We recently converted the cupboard under the stairs into a play closet for my girls. It’s like their very own play room — and quite honestly, a great place to contain the messes they make on any given day. I’m counting on this space to be a good spot for learning and play for them throughout the school year.
Photo by Janel Piersma
3. Set up a craft station.
While my first grader is going to have regular daily activities in reading, writing, and arithmetic and my youngest will be working through stories and hanging out with us throughout the day, they will still have a good amount of free time in addition to the time spent playing in their playhouse or in the backyard.
Having craft supplies organized and within ready reach is a must-have for this age kid. I love this craft center that my sister created and will be implementing one of my own. Simple collage supplies, crayons, and paper are all they really need or want to spend hours creatively occupied. We’ll have the Playdough handy as well.
4. Assemble daily activity boxes.
While I haven’t been able to tackle the work box thing, I do like the idea of jazzing up a kid’s day with different activities. I bought these storage boxes for my girls last year and filled them with different things to do each week. I’m going to do the same thing this year, offering them different coloring pages, stickers, activity books, and so on, to help them feel productive and purposeful.
Note: I feel pretty strongly that pre-K students shouldn’t be forced into formal instruction. Educational play has worked really well for us at this age. But, I notice that kids of this age really like to have these kinds of activities to do on their own and are generally eager to learn. So, we’ll go with it as my daughter is interested.
I’m sure that there will be plenty of days when these grand schemes fall flat. I’ve learned that — finally. But I’m excited to enter a new school year, thankful that I’ve got at least two very eager participants, and hopeful that we’re in for another year of learning.
Both for me and for my kids.
How do you make your younger kids’ school days special?