The love of learning was one thing I noticed about my kids early on. They explore. Find things. Wonder. Point. Furrow their brows. Smile with understanding. Ask (500) questions. They love learning!
Being a stay-at-home mom (SAHM), I’ve been able to take the time to hone in on this and structure this inquisitiveness in the form of what we call “Education Hour.” Ideally every day, we take the time to help our toddler learn things that will prepare him for preschool – oh – and life. We even do education hour when our kids are in preschool.
We started Education Hour when my oldest was about 2-years-old and have loved trying it out on him for the last three years. We now also have our second child doing education hour, and they both find so much joy in the focused attention from mom or dad.
For most parents, “homeschooling” is a big word with a lot of connotations, most of which are either overwhelming or off-putting. My husband and I believe, as a parent, we should be involved in our children’s education; it’s our responsibility, not the school’s, to raise our children. But it doesn’t have to be this big ordeal, or even super formal, especially at these young ages! I’ll try to help with the creativity part of starting your own education hour, and even relate our struggles with fitting it into our schedule. But ultimately, it’s up to you to have the discipline to stick it out. And we’re perfect, just so you know. We’ve never missed a single day… *Cough*
Activities to Start With
It’s actually pretty easy and fun to put together. Just think about the things your kid will have to learn first in pre-school or kindergarten and organize activities around that. For instance, they’ll have to learn to read. Let’s make letter flash cards! How to write. Start with mazes to work that hand coordination, then move on to tracing letters. Math? Let’s count things and identify numbers! Life skills: Let’s learn to tie our shoes and identify coins.
Activities are simple and if you struggle after reading this post, then use the power of Google and you’ll find plenty more. Of course, there was structure and I had an agenda of what I wanted us to get through, but it’s easy to put a damper on learning when you force it. My son enjoyed himself early on because I let go of what I wanted and let him enjoy the process of learning, as aggravating as it was for me. I still have to breathe slowly through the thought.
Sometimes the table we were working on got marker on it, and the flash cards were bent or destroyed. Sometimes, instead of looking at them, he thought it was way funnier to throw them around the room.
But it passed and as my son got older, he got used to it. The things we worked on together got more complex, so I put together a box of hanging folders to organize all of our supplies. This was essential! It helped me stay organized and get a variety of skills into his repertoire. I could also easily store the box out of reach of curious hands (also crucial). Here’s how it looks:
I made a file for each subject we tackled, and placed all the tools pertaining to that subject inside. Any bulky items just went in the box itself.
My files were: life skills, shapes, colors, letters, numbers & counting.
I made extra files as we discovered things that he liked to do, like: mazes, connect the dots, and time. It was easy to find free printables online. I would do one of these activities at the end of education hour to hold his attention and give him incentive to complete his other subjects!
I also had a folder at the back for stickers and a small clipboard + chart. Each day he completed education hour, he got to put a sticker on his chart. Yippee!
Let me show you what’s in each hanging folder!
- Practice shoes for tying (found here, printed, colored, and laminated)
- Coins (for him to identify and tell me the value of)
- A small ruler (for him to practice measuring things)
- Shape flash cards (made in Microsoft Word, printed, cut, and laminated)
- Blocks (which are also good for color practice)
- Just color flash cards! These guys are so crumpled and we’ve ended up with duplicates since some were lost and had to be reprinted.
- Traceable uppercase letter flashcards (made in Word with a dotted line font, printed, cut, and laminated) – dotted line fonts can be downloaded online.
- Traceable uppercase and lowercase letter flashcards (made the same way, of course)
- Traceable version of his own name
- Letter die (I’ll let him roll it and tell me what letter is on top)
- Number flash cards (again, made in Word)
- Traceable number flash cards
- Numberless cards (made from an old deck of cards we cut the corners off of; these were great for counting practice)
I also included a notebook for general writing practice and a pouch with dry erase markers (for all the traceable flash cards), pens, and pencils.
The biggest challenge with education hour is finding the time. I’m a SAHM and I still struggle to commit time every day! Life changes so often, especially for young families. So, start by giving yourself some grace. Every time life changes, just take a deep breath, take a break from it if you need to, and try to find the new time in your schedule that works. If you do the same time every day, you’ll get triggered and remember it easily. Here are some suggestions:
- Right away in the morning: after breakfast when everyone is chipper, and you have a cup of coffee in your hands!
- During naptime: the older kids can do education hour with mom while baby naps
- Immediately after lunch: when they’re freshly fueled
- After dinner with dad: while mom cleans up or vice versa
- In the evening after the younger kids go to bed: this can be a privilege for older kids
Education hour is well worth the initial effort. You don’t have to build everything at once; we’ve been building our supplies and ideas for three years and are still adding to it. Try it out with your child! I guarantee you – once they get used to the structure – they’ll love the time spent with you learning new things. It’s good for them and it’s good for you, however you choose to make it happen regularly.