It may come as a surprise to some, but although I may be totally passionate about working with kids in the school system, working with my own kids in a home school type set-up is not something that I thought I’d ever want to do. The fact is, school is very structured, and kids go to school expecting to learn. For us, the summer months are a time to relax and enjoy endless free time without having too many expectations. Our home is a place to unwind and to find your own corner to do whatever it is that you need to do to feel calm and happy.
This is why it has been hard for me that school did not start on time this fall for us BC residents. I want to say right now that I fully support the teachers and I’m not complaining at all about the strike. But the reality is, I have children who will likely struggle to catch up if too much school is missed due to the strike. Therefore like many parents, I am choosing to do some educating myself at home with all 4 of my children who range from kindergarten to grade 5.
The curriculum isn’t the tough part for me; it is helping my kids to be well-regulated (calm, alert and focused) that is key and it’s harder for them to do while trying to learn in the context of our home, which they associate with playtime. So, I’ve been pondering how I’m going to get some good teaching done in the following days/weeks and I’ve come up with some tips for teaching sessions at home for all those who are going to attempt it.
1. Make a visual schedule.
This is key for us; my kids will do practically anything if it is on a visual schedule! There are many apps that guide you through making one and also provide great pictures. If you don’t use a tablet then it is easy to make one on word with clip art or pictures downloaded from the Internet. It is best to keep the pictures and wording simple. Your schedule should include breaks and snack and lunchtime and when you are reviewing the schedule before you begin the day, it is important for kids to know that sometimes schedules change and that is ok.
2. Make sure to include lots of movement breaks.
Kids need to move around throughout the day to help them stay focused and on task. You can usually see when a child needs to get up and move around, but sometimes it’s too late by then and they start to come undone. Make sure to take breaks often, whether it’s just a quick stretch or something more involved like jumping on a trampoline for 5 minutes, or helping you carry a pile of books that you coincidentally need moved to another room. These activities help to give the muscles a little workout after doing seatwork.
Some other great seating options that keep kids muscles engaged while they work is a hokki stool, or an exercise ball to sit on rather than a chair. To keep hands busy you could give the child a stress ball or other type of fidget toy to hold.
3. Why not include some social thinking in your lesson!
Superflex is a curriculum that a lot of schools are using now to teach kids social skills. Going to school and being part of a classroom group can be tough to get used to at the beginning of the year, and it’s nice to give our kids a little extra skills ahead of time. I plan on picking one of Michelle Garcia-Winners ‘Unthinkables’ to watch out for each day and to have them self-monitor to see how they are doing throughout the day. Some of the Unthinkables that come up a lot are: Mean Jean (who insults or criticizes others), Rock Brain (who makes you inflexible), One-Sided Sid (who only talks and thinks about himself) and Energy Harey (who is too silly when they are supposed to be learning).
At the start of the day you could introduce the unthinkable of the day and talk about examples of what it looks like and even have the kids come up with examples themselves. Children love the idea of these characters and it takes away from pointing the finger at them when one of these Unthinkables attacks. To learn more about Superflex and the Unthinkables visit socialthinking.com.
4. Use multisensory teaching techniques.
Children learn in a variety of different ways and what works best for one may not work best for another. When teaching kids it is helpful to use multisensory techniques such as tactile (touch), kinesthetic (movement), auditory (sound), and visual (sight). You can observe which method is the most effective for your child and then use that method more. Or if you have multiple children you are teaching, you can incorporate a little bit of each method. To get an idea of how to use each method, click here.
5. Use the child’s interests as a teaching tool.
Often kids on the autism spectrum have a particular object or theme that interests them a lot – you could say that they perseverate on it. My (almost) 7-year old is very much interested in snakes at the moment. I plan on using snakes wherever I can in his learning. He can add, subtract and multiply snakes, group them according to characteristics, read about them to gain facts and reading skills, write about them, draw them and use them for pretend play which is also an important part of his learning. He is far more motivated to learn when it is related to something that he loves, so why not make it enjoyable for him and less stressful for myself!
6. Let the child be the teacher for a bit.
People retain the most knowledge when they learn about a subject and then teach others about it. And what child doesn’t like to pretend that they are the teacher? Have your child read about a subject, or read to them if they are younger. Then depending on the age of the child, they could fill out a graphic organizer such as a venn diagram to help them gather the facts, or if they are younger they could draw pictures. Then have them teach you and your other children if there are siblings. They may choose to do a presentation, make a poster, act out a skit, or build a model to teach their subject (another place where multisensory teaching comes in). this is not only a fun way of learning, but it boosts the self confidence of your child as well!
I hope that you will try some of these tips if you are planning to do homeschooling with your child during the strike, and I would love to hear how it went for you!