Morning Baskets: Educational Games for Schooling at Home

Well, it looks as if everyone will be spending the majority (who are we kidding? The WHOLE) school year at home this year. No one is thrilled – even us seasoned homeschoolers. But here we are, reliving Groundhog Day over and over.

I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not a huge “play mom.” I have five kids and they don’t need for me to crawl around on my hands and knees in their world of make believe. They have the greatest imaginations and there are enough of them for me to sit and sip my tea instead of playing. This also rolls into games. While board and card games are a lot of fun, I never seem to gravitate towards them on a regular basis.

Insert The Year of The COVID.

I needed to get my act together before we were waist deep in the quicksand of the school year – grasping at anything to just make it through. We love homeschooling, but I need to get out of this COVID FUNK and get my ducks in a row (all five of them) so that we actually enjoy this year. My goal is to not just survive until normalcy, but for us to thrive and find joy in our learning environment.

After talking with a few besties, I decided to jump on the “Morning Basket” train. What’s a morning basket, you ask? It’s simply a basket that you have ready each day (or week – because, well… I’m not a Pinterest mom) with things you will do TOGETHER. Throw away the morning word because you can do it in the afternoon or evening – or on the weekend.   What you put in your basket depends on the ages of children you have, but basically, you want a read aloud book, a little lesson, something fun (like a game), and maybe some copy work.

IMG_1686

We started using our morning basket this week, and I realized just how amazing it is and that YOU NEED ONE NOW. It helps get everyone on the same page and moves you through your school routine calmly. I pick a game, a book, a bible verse/motivational quote for discussion and copy work (on the top of the page, I have them write a word to describe how they are feeling that day), one of our Mrs. Wordsmith vocabulary words, and a calendar activity. (Because my homeschooled kids aren’t exactly on top of their days and months – haha)

If I have anything that can be taught to the whole gaggle, I do it at this point. (Think: History story can be read together and then the 6th grader can break off to answer her questions, review 1st grade spelling lesson because everyone needs to remember how to spell those basic words, etc).

I then put on a song and have them transition to wherever they want or need to be for their individual work. Thanks to HomeschoolPlanet.com I have my entire school year planned out, down to the page numbers for each day. I can easily bump things, delete things, add things, and merge things with one click, and at the end of the year, I’ll have a transcript for my 4th and 6th graders! (I only put in basics for my 1/2nd grader because he’s working between grades and somedays completes 4 days worth and others nada.)

So what are we loving right now for that morning basket, you ask? Well, HAPPY SHOPPING!!!!!  (as always, affiliate links are included!)

IMG_1646

I purchased a few fun activities and books that correlated with things we are studying this year (anatomy and astronomy) and a few great nonfiction reads, too. My oldest is choosing a historical figure each month to complete a biography on, so I included some easy read biography books, too. But, you can simply grab whatever books you know your kids will love! (I included a few new ones we just added). And if you are an Usborne Book lover (LIKE ME!!) then head over to my live link and grab something before it sells out!)

IMG_1642

Don’t forget to get a few little things for your toddlers to play with quietly… You’ll see I added the flower building kit at the bottom. Mine love this inside or outside on the deck with the watering cans!

So you may want to homeschool: curriculum help.

My Tools 4 Wisdom 2020-2021 calendar arrived yesterday and reminded me that this holding cell we have all been trapped in doesn’t mean time stood still. Instead, it has sped up – the months now ticking by as we slow our lives drastically down. But, there is a huge stampede heading for everyone in just a few weeks: a new school year.

I have had my e-mail flooded with questions from families considering keeping their children at home and opting out of any in-person or virtual schooling offered by their school systems. The emails generally read as follows:

“Please help; I’m overwhelmed with where to begin. I don’t know how to teach! We aren’t structured enough to do this, but I just can’t send them back. I’m scared. How will I know they are learning? What if they hate it! What if I hate it? Do your kids fight a lot? What about curriculum – how do you even choose one? How do I transition to homeschooling?”

Instead of answering every email and message, I thought I’d share some advice here on the blog. 

Breathe. 

I cannot tell you if homeschooling is the right fit for your family, but I can tell you that I understand why you are considering it. Know that you have the ability to re-enroll in the school system at any time, so why not just throw caution to the wind and join the homeschooling community! 

Is it hard?  Only if you make it hard.

Is there fighting?  Only if you and your children are on different pages.

Will you be overwhelmed? Yes. You are a parent. You are always overwhelmed.

However, you can do this. The transition is the hardest, as you need to take a few months to just be with your kids – without curriculum or expectations. Read together (at every age), play together, explore, and build. Give them freedom to explore and play without you, too. This time is to adjust to being together and filling the hours of the day without stress. Once you all can spend a week doing ‘not much’ without major complaints or 8 hours of screen time, you know you are ready to bring in some curriculum!

I’ll share our curriculum choices in a moment, but first understand that homeschooling does not take 7-8 hours of time sitting at a desk. Homeschooling is completed quickly (depending on your child’s internal motivation, of course).  My 1st grader finishes his entire day within 45 minutes most days! My 4th and 6th graders take longer, one finishing in about 1.5 hours and the other taking 3 hours, depending on the subjects/assignments of the day (but she is a very slow worker-ha!) The rest of the day is spent outside playing, doing legos, creating things, watching science videos, playing games, or whatever else they want to do!

As for curriculums – the selection is very overwhelming. You do need to decide if this journey will be short and you will be re-enrolling as soon as you feel it is appropriate, or if you will be sticking with this for a longer period of time. I say this because our math program does not exactly line with each grade level, as it is foundational and builds upon itself instead of introducing 15 new concepts a year and then reviewing them every year. But there are fantastic programs that allow for a more seamless transition back to school! 

Our choices may or may not fit with your family, but they may make a great starting point. I would recommend ordering ASAP because we expect there to be a great shortage with the number of families wanting to educate at home this year.

 

Preschool Level: (I have an almost 3 year old and a 4 year old)

Keep it very very simple and utilize learning videos with phonics and fun characters.

Great curriculums to look at:

Abeka: They have great options across the board, but we utilize their spelling, language, reading, writing for first grade – and their history and geography for middle school.

PR6sQSikRvmmo7QacKK+uw

Math-U-See or Saxon for math of all levels

W+CfXXbpTPKy31GfTHYK5Q

HAKE – Writing and Grammar 

hd8zAeg7RGyXVFwDR5ZhyQ

Science and Reading Detective – we start these in third grade. 

 

All About Reading – Great to start around kindergarten!

iVG4FH7QT9y4UROBTTxxdQ

 

Bob Books – Wonderful filler books for brand new readers.

dBddRXWJTKucCnkaDX8jfw

The Reading Lesson – This book takes 5 minutes or less a day and really helps the child’s fluency.

b1u6jyK2THWjoSEc1mbT+g

Evan Moore – Great workbooks, we use their spelling series currently (but may switch to abeka in the future!)

ullcKzkfRMOeGrXf19Pspg

180 Days of Workbooks – These are easy workbooks for all grade levels. They read a short passage and answer questions. If you choose these, you’ll want to check out some library books to really get deeper with the topics.

 

op4IZbqmSfuZF3fXmbSo0A

Handwriting Without Tears – We love these little workbooks! 

My First Reading Library (Usborne) – Great books the kids will work their way up with.

Brain Quest – These are great for road trips or dinner conversation!

Gakken Workbooks – For the little kids – cut, trace, count, etc.

Gifted Learning CogAT flashcards – Again, great for a quick 5 minute lesson or fun learning moment.

Online Fun:

Duolingo – Free language learning (Scarlett does French here)

Dave Ramsey Programs – You can get a great deal right now. Kids are never too young to understand the value of money.

GenerationGenius.com – This is our science program. You purchase for a year at a time and have access to lesson plans, experiments, videos, etc! 

BrainPop – A fun and educational app that let’s you grant guilt-free screen time.

MathPlayground – Another great app!

outschool.com – You pay by the class and can find a class on any and every subject you can imagine. The kids log into zoom and have a blast!

typing.com – A free typing website that tracks progress.

I’m sure there is more, and I’ll add it as I think about it! But this should be enough to help you start exploring. Look for any coops in your area, too – although ours were all cancelled, put online, or opening with very strict regulations this year, so we opted out and decided to just get together 1-2x a week with other like-minded friends! 

EFBCE144-B17B-4B4A-B7A8-24373A6B1BA5

A Letter to the Make-Shift Homeschooler

B6FB827C-85B9-48C8-B1A5-C0C602CCE7BF

To the make-shift homeschool parent-

Welcome to the homeschool world! I know you never thought you would be here, but here you are. I wanted to take a minute to let you know that those of us doing this for some time now, we are here – utilize us! 

We are here to let you in on all of the secrets.

Put away those schedules floating around on social media. They only set you up to feel like a failure. 

Your child does not spend 7+ hours a day at school receiving a one-on-one education. Please do not try to give him this at home. What is covered in those 7 hours inside of a school can easily be covered before lunch at home with you – and in even less time the younger the child! 

Do not stress over ‘teaching.’ Teaching does not equal learning. Lecturing does not mean your child is absorbing. Checking the boxes does not equate to an education. Let this time be a time in which you learn your child. Let him guide you, have conversations instead of lectures, and work together to reach daily goals.

Your daily goals should not be the same as what a teacher would be doing at school. Your goals should include bonding, sharing, learning, and letting your child play. There is so much research about play-based learning. Let him collect sticks and rubber band them together. Let him build forts. Let him be bored to death until something creative comes out. Turn off the screens and eliminate yourself from the equation. You are allowed to walk away from your child and let him figure things out. Do not provide constant entertainment or offerings to him – let him figure things out! 

Cooking, cleaning, creating art, listening to audiobooks while playing — these are all wonderful ways to spend the day. Remember that the best way to teach is to set the example yourself. If you want your child to read, he must see you reading throughout the day. If you want him to clean up after himself, make conversation and do it with him a few times, he’ll pick it up.

You can get through school work without losing your mind. This one sounds crazy, but it’s true. Take a deep breath. Take breaks whenever needed, make things fun, and take the pressure off of getting it all done. The beauty in doing this at home is that you are in charge… even when the school wants you to turn it all back in. You can include a note that includes all of the other learning opportunities you are providing!

Don’t be afraid to ask for help! There are hundreds of free apps and websites offering services right now, use them! Set up an email account and give your kid pen pals to write to. A successful day is one in which you and you children are happy and growing together. 

Supplements and Curriculums We LOVE For Homeschooling

We are a year-round homeschooling family. I take the kids on too many road trips throughout the year to finish anything in a timely fashion. We take a month off to drive across the country at least once a year, another week here and there just so we don’t burn out. We like to camp mid-week and explore everything possible when there are no lines and as few people as possible! Education is a never-ending process anyway, so why shove it all in 180 days?

We’ve dipped our toes in many curriculums, but I’m going to share with you what we have stuck with and what we are adding in this upcoming year. I’ll have a 3rd grader, 1st grader, and a pre-kindergartener… along with a toddler and newborn! Holy crap!

I also wanted to share the items that get the absolute most use throughout our schooling days.  I’ll continually add to the list as I think of things – so come back and check for future ideas.

You don’t have to homeshool to benefit from these ‘toys.’ They are great additions to any family home! (affiliate links are included if you would like to add to your educational supplements!)

Curriculum:

Math-U-See: Alpha and Beta will be used by my oldest two this year. We absolutely LOVE this program!

All-About-Reading: Pre-reading, Level 1, and Level 2 will all somehow be happening this year. My 7 year old is not a natural reader, so we are continuing with a reading program so she grows to love to read!

All-About-Spelling: Just the oldest will start spelling this year.

Handwriting Without Tear: All kids benefit from this quick program.

Science:  Scientists & Inventors

Geography: Road Trip USA   (oh you know we had to do the road trip version! #Roadschoolers)

We also supplement with the following workbooks:

Supplements and Educational Items We LOVE:

 

Magna Tiles

32-piece set

But just go ahead and get the 100-piece version – TRUST ME.

 

 

Anything Usborne — We love Usborne books. Every one of them is amazing. Look what we did last month after reading A ‘Look Inside Space’ Book!

 

We love making volcanoes and this model has made it even more realistic!

 

This is just the start… I’ll be back this week with a much more detailed list of everything we use and love.  For now – I’ll be nursing a toddler to sleep!