FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
The following homeschooling tips will help you create the perfect homeschooling plan for your children.
Please check back regularly as this page is a work in progress.
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EARLY CHILDHOOD EDUCATION
I can’t tell you how many times people ask me what the best homeschool curriculum for young children is. I know exactly what they are asking and it’s a great deal more than what book should I use. They want a guide. A mentor. A “how to book”. An insurance policy. They want to know they can do this and how to do it. They want to know it’s going to be ok. And really, it is. But not because of any one perfect homeschool curriculum.
You know what the key to successful homeschooling young children is? In a concrete sense it’s mostly about leaving a variety of “resources” strategically around the house. In a philosophical sense it’s about simply allowing the child to learn which is exactly what they are wired to do. Don’t mess that up with work books and objectives and standards.
But what does that look like in real life?
This is where you are really going to get annoyed with me—it looks vastly different for almost every single child. I realize how “not” helpful that is to hear, but it really is true. You really have to figure it out for yourself and for each of your children. That being said I am going to pass on my baseline educational philosophy for homeschooling a 3-6 year old child. In following this process you will come into your own and grow to understand what works and what doesn’t. Your child’s job is to explore and discover and your job is to observe that process closely and learn how your child learns.
- Choose some themes. These can and should be guided by your child’s interests. Depending on your child’s attention span a theme can last anywhere from a week to a month, but the key is that each on interests your child and you. You need to be sure you aren’t bored either. Use one of the resources listed below if you need inspiration.
- Go to library. Check out every book you can find on the theme.
- Find a spine. A spine for early childhood is a book that includes both informational text as well as craft ideas. I will give some suggestions below.
- Choose some projects in the spine to do with your child. Their input matters, but before you ask for input be sure you are open to doing the project yourself.
- Make a shopping list and go shopping for project supplies. This is a great day to take your child out to lunch and make shopping day special.
- Decide on any related field trips. One or two a week is good. If you run out of related field trips just add in random ones (art museums, theatre, ballet, musical performances and anything along those lines are excellent add ins—it’s never too early to build some cultural knowledge of the arts), but just be sure you are getting out and about the real world at least once a week.
- Buy a large container of counting bears, pattern tiles, a ruler, and colored beads. Also get some skip counting music. And duplos, legos or unifix cubes. See the resources below.
- Get a series of birds/wildlife/wildflower/butterfly/tree identification books or cards for your area.
- Make a schedule.
- Everyday read to your child (at least one hour per day broken down into time segments appropriate for your child’s attention span)
- Everyday work briefly on the letters of the alphabet (pick one a week) until they know it well then start a gently reading and writing program when they are ready. (see resources below)
- Everyday do math (in my next post I will go into detail about math)
- Everyday do some active play (climbing trees, go to park, ice skating, sledding, etc)
- Once a week do nature study (simply take a walk out in nature and use nature guides to identify trees/plants/birds etc. Also keep a journal with drawings and observations)
- Once a week (or twice if you are craftsy) do a project
- Once a week (or twice if possible) take a field trip/outing
- Everyday do some quiet time (children sit alone in a set place—on the sofa or in bed—and “read” to themselves, color or listen to music for a full hour working up to two hours)
- Everyday have clean up time.
Your routine should adapt as you learn the ways in which your child learns best. Here is a sample of what your week might look like. I deliberately didn’t add in times because each day might be slightly different depending on your child’s attention span and what activities you have planned. This is more a routine and note a schedule, but I know you want to have a general idea of how to implement this so as a guide writing (or letters)/math should be fifteen minutes to half an hour each. Less is more. Give free time if you finish early and don't worry about it. Unless your field trips/projects take a long time lunch should be about 11:30 or 12 and quiet time should usually start around 1PM if you start at 8AM. This can and should change. If your child is tired let them sleep. If your project is involved skip some of the other stuff. If you want your nature study to be a trip to a state park that's a bit of a drive then just go and forget about the rest of the day. Just make it work and go with the flow.
For mothers who work you can adjust it to fit your schedule, but my only advice is put the time in with the kids when they first wake so they aren’t nagging you for attention. For me I would get started with my work at 5AM so that I could get in a good three hours before my children woke up and then work again starting at quiet time in the afternoon. Really, if you give your child 100% first thing in the morning for several hours then afternoons will be much quieter. I always said when my kids were younger that they were so sick of me by noon that they just leave me alone for the rest of the day.
|Active Play||Active Play||Active Play||Active Play||Active Play|
|Nature Study||Project||Field Trip||Free Time||Free Time|
|Clean Up||Clean Up||Clean Up||Clean Up||Clean Up|
|Quiet Time||Quiet Time||Quiet Time||Quiet Time||Quiet Time|
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What Your………….Needs to Know Series
Early Childhood Themes Throughout the Year
Teach Your Child to Read in 100 Easy Lessons
Kumon Books (use mostly with 5 and 6 year olds and only sparingly)
The goals of early childhood math is really to get a child thinking mathematically and keep them interested. It is not about memorizing facts. To keep it fun and interesting I suggest making a list of math activities on small pieces of paper and putting them in a jar. Everyday at math time your child can pick one or two out of the jar to do for math time. To maintain some degree of control you may want to add topics to the jar each week based on what topics you want to work on most. Some activities your child will like more than others and that is ok. You can add extra papers with the names of activities your child enjoys as well as activities that they need a little extra work on. Add in one or two with “Your Choice” and let the child choose if they pick that one. As they get older you also add in some Kumon workbooks and/or Miquon. The key is just exposure to mathematical thinking and keeping it fun so they don’t grow to hate math.
At the end of the post is a list of math resources and manipulatives are items I think you will use for many different activities and are worth purchasing. Other items might be needed for individual activity suggestions and those are highlighted directly in the activity for which they are used and not listed on the resource list.
Use these ideas below as a starting point for math topics and activities then come up with your own as you get to know how your child learns best. Many of these activities may seem random, but they are all the basis of mathematical thinking. Things like one to one correspondence may seem trivial but it is absolutely imperative your child understand these very basic concepts well before moving on. Taking the time to master skip counting will make multiplication and division incredibly easy as they get older. Focusing on the concept of making ten gives them clear insight in the entirety of the base ten system. Do not rush math. Make it fun and keep it simple. The day will come when they need to memorize facts, but that is not now. Now be creative and enjoy! I will continue to add to this list so if you have any good ideas please send me an email. email@example.com Once your child masters these topics and an handle a good amount of Kumon and/or Miquon you can move onto a more structured math program—usually around first or second grade.
- Basket Color Game: Get a basket and have kids run around the house and find everything they can that is a certain color.
- Find Ten: Find ten items of a certain color
- Toy Sorting: Put a pile of assorted colored stuffed animals (or other toy) in the middle of the room and have the kids sort by color
- Color Collage: Pick a color and have your child cut pictures from magazines of things that are that color and glue on paper.
- Bear Colors: Sort counting bears by color
- I Spy: Play I Spy with colors
- Red Rover: Play Red Rover with stuffed animals.
- Basket Shape Game: Get a basket and have kids run around the house and find everything they can that is a certain shape (Discuss the difference between 2D and 3D shapes and be sure they know the different names)
- Find Ten Shapes: Find ten items of a certain shape.
- Shape Cutting: Cut out shapes. (Children can trace a pattern if they need help)
- I Spy: Play I Spy with shapes.
- Shape Collage: Make a collage of pictures of a certain shape.
- Pattern Blocks: Discuss and sort the different shapes.
- Shape Talk: Discuss the likes and differences of different types of triangles or rectangles vs. squares.
- Have kids make a pattern of counting bears. Start with basic ABABA and then onto more complicated patterns. They can mimic similar patterns with duplos or unifex cubestoo.
- Give your kids two patterns either out of bears of duplos and have them explain the difference between the two patterns.
- Go on a pattern safari outside. Look for patterns in nature. Some leaves have large points and small points in a certain pattern. Or count the pickets in a fence—8 small pickets for every one picket. Look for patterns in the way branches grow on different kinds of trees.
- Make beaded necklaces and bracelets in different patterns.
- Discuss tessellations and play with pattern blocks to create your own.
- Use a tessellation coloring book to color in different patterns.
- Design and sew a quilt with your child.
- Use beads and patern cards. Create your own pattern cards
Sorting/Likes and Differences
- Discuss the difference between animals. Start simple with something like bird and dog and then move on to dog and cat and eventually talk about different dog breeds.
- Do some scientific classification. Use a magnetic or felt board to cut out different living things and then starting with Plants and Animals divide them working your way through the entire classification system.
- Play a memory card game
- Play Old Maid
- If you have more than one child have each make an About Me booklet and include things like My hair, My eyes, My family, My room, Things I like, Things I don’t like etc and then compare how the children are like and different from their siblings.
- Listen to counting songs
- Play Chutes and Ladders
- Write numbers on cards and have child place the correct number of counting bears on each card.
- Go on a counting safari taking a walk outside and counting things.
- Make a number book.
- Cut out large numbers and decorate.
- Read counting books. Get at least one number book from the library each week and read together.
One to One Correspondence
- Use an empty egg carton to put one item in each hole. These items can be anything from buttons to counting bears. Then have them count the total number of objects.
- Have a pile of counting bears each find a “friend”.
- Have your child set the table and put one fork for each person, one plate for each person, one cup for each person etc.
- Have your child draw simple faces and each face gets one nose and one mouth. Then move on to two eyes and two ears.
Adding on and Taking away
- Tell math stories that “add on” or “take away” and use drawings or toys to act out the stories. (George had five cookies and then his friend gave him another one cookie how many cookies did George have)
- Build towers out of unifix cubes. “This tower has three blocks let’s add one and see how many we have” etc.
- Build consecutive towers where each on has one more than the other.
- Use small candies or cereal and give your child a certain number. Then let them eat on and say how many they have. Then you can give them 2 more and ask them how many they have.
- Listen to skip counting songs regularly
- Count things that come in pairs like shoes.
- Count things that come in fives like a pack of gum or small box of crayons.
- Count things that come in tens like fingers and toes
- Tie groups of markers together in groups and count.
- Put counting bears together in same size groups and count.
- Draw a series of something (like 20 hearts) on a paper and have them circle groups of the same number and count (Circle groups of five hearts—how many groups of five did you circle? Can you count by fives how many hearts are in total?)etc.
- If you think your child is ready you can introduce some basic skip counting with coins. Pennies count by 1s. Nickels count by 5s. Dimes count by 10s. etc. Some children may not yet grasp the more abstract concepts needed to understand this though so don’t confuse your child if they aren’t ready.
- Measure different things with a ruler.
- Measure longer difference with strides and show your child how your stride is longer so it’s not a good system of measurement.
- Cook with your child.
- Make a tower with unifix cubes and see how many duplos make a similar size tower.
- Keep a growth chart of your child and measure him/her once a month.
- Grow some seeds and measure each day or two. Sunflowers or beans work really well for this.
- Take a ten cuisenaire rod and have your child build different combinations of number that make the same height as the ten rod.
- Take ten counting bears and tell your child to divide it into two groups. Then see if they can divide it into two different size groups. Write down the different number combinations that equal ten.
- Have your child move groups of his or her fingers up and down to make combinations of ten. (four fingers down and six fingers up etc.)
- Make a “Friends of Ten” Chart listing all the number combinations that equal ten.
- Build towers of two colors of unifix cubes to create ten so when all the towers are lined up the colors make steps.
- Once your child has mastered combinations that make ten you can introduce them to a plus and equal sign and redo the above activity creating math facts that equal ten.
Counting Bears or Dino Counters or Family Counters
So get your supplies. Pick your favorite activities. Put them in a jar and you are all set.
ART, MUSIC AND OTHER ELECTIVES
Studying art at home should focus on the elements of art: Line, Shape, Form, Space, Texture, Value and Color. Work through these one at a time using the following process:
- Define the element of art to be studied. (Ask your child what is a line? )
- Doodle some ways the element can be used to express emotion or ideas. (Let’s draw some angry lines, sad lines, soothing lines etc.)
- Look in nature for examples of the element. (See the way the veins of the leaf are lines)
- Visit an art gallery or museum and discuss the ways the different artists used the element in their works to evoke emotion or tell a story. You can also use online museum websites if visiting one in person isn’t possible. Older students can concentrate of art created in the time period which they are studying in history to give context to the art and the events of the time.
- Have your child pick one artist to research and report about how they used that element of art in their work. Younger children can dictate a sentence or two that you can write for them. Elementary students can write a paragraph, multi page report or oral presentation. Highschoolers should do more in depth research resulting in a paper or power point presentation. It doesn’t matter exactly what the project is—use whatever works for your child.
- Have your child work on an artistic project themselves focusing on using the element being studied. (see resources below for project ideas)
- Have your child discuss his/her art with you and explain how the element is being used.
This simple process can be repeated every year with different projects and focusing on different artists. Using this format will give kids a good basis to understand the language of art. Older students who are interested in an art career should begin getting professional instruction for technique in high school.
Resources for Teaching Homeschool Art
Top Pick if you prefer to have a full art curriculum:
Top picks for project ideas:
200 Projects to Strengthen Your Art Skills
My favorite place to buy inexpensive art supplies:
My general process for planning a travelschooling unit can be summed up in the following steps. Older children should be included in this process as well as in the actual unit. (In fact, for armchair travelers who can’t actually take the trip, the planning process is just as important as the actual trip in terms of educational value. I’ve done entire world cultures units with my kids just having them research and plan trips to remote parts of the world and then watching an educational video and cooking some local foods instead of actually taking the trip!)
Anyway, in short here is the planning process for the trip itself:
- Decide on your theme and establish your objectives.
- Make a map.
- Do your research.
- Make a list of highlights and plot on maps.
- Make a list of optional stops and plot on maps.
- Break it up into sensible days.
- Establish a budget.
- Decide on hotels.
- Decide on which paid tours/activities fit your budget.
- Determine coordinating curricula/reading list.
There is a little more to it than this. Click on the other questions below for more specific information on each step. Or contact Christopher Travel for help planning your next travelschooling adventure.
This sounds like “teacher speak” and it is, but honestly it applies to every single type of trip I plan. People have a million reasons to travel. Some are seeking adventure, while others simply want to relax. Honeymooners and couples are usually seeking romance. After I initially talk to a client about a trip I always jot down a list of objectives based on what they told me about their interests and reasons for traveling. It’s kind of my self-evaluation to be sure I am planning “their” trip based on what “they” want and not “my “ based on what “I” would want to do. For travelschooling the objectives are a bit different, but the process is the same.
A travelschooling trip ideally covers a variety of themes and objectives. For example, one of my favorite travelschooling trips we ever took was a Panama Canal cruise. It was a homeschooler’s paradise. I created a curriculum that covered everything from the history of the canal to it’s engineering to the biodiversity of the rainforest.
Objectives don’t need to be complicated. For the Panama Canal trip my objectives were a simple list:
- Briefly explain the history of the Canal and it’s importance to international trade.
- Locate the Panama Canal on a map and identify the surrounding countries.
- Explain some of the engineering challenges the canal presented and how those challenges were met.
- Describe what a rain forest is and why biodiversity is important.
- Identify and classify a wide range of flora and fauna of the rain forest.
- Explain what a cloud forest is and how it is unique.
- Understand how volcanoes are formed.
- Discuss the cultures of the native populations of Central America.
I also add in a few non-school related objectives because, of course, travel is about much more than just learning. Things like swimming at the beach, hiking, spending time together as a family are usually on that list. I always get the kids’ input no matter their age. I remember one time years ago my then three year old wanted to be sure to include pushing buttons on the hotel elevator. We added that to the list. It’s very random and to most of us insignificant, but it’s important everyone feel part of the planning process. Especially with smaller children it goes a long way to preventing meltdowns.
Make a map
Or two. I usually use My Maps by Google in one tab for a final product that can be saved and then I have just regular Google maps open in another tab for planning purposes. I can then juggle between to two and try out different routes in google maps adding final decisions to the My Maps that will be saved. This is a great exercise for older children to help with their geography skills. In this day of GPS so many kids just simply don’t have a clue when it comes to plotting routes on a map.
Do your research
- The BEST option is first-hand knowledge. If you or someone you know well lives or has travelled to an area recently ask them. There is no better research than this.
- Also very helpful are tourism bureaus and similar government run websites. You can call/email if you can’t find what you are looking for on the website. I have found tourism bureaus to be one of the most useful sources
- Blogs and Travel Magazines also can be helpful, but always ensure you are getting multiple sources of information on a single location before deciding on a highlight. Not everything you read on the internet is true.
- A site like Tripadvisor also is a good resource, but take it with a grain of salt and support any findings with additional resources. Like blogs and travel magazines just be sure you have multiple sources of info. As I said before not everything you read on the internet is true.
- Look at Project Expedition and/or Get Your Guide. We use both these companies for our clients. In addition to booking trips through them they are good also just to see what there is to do in an area. Many of the activities on these sites can be done on your own with a little research if that is what you prefer.
As I described above you can toggle back and forth to plot out points of interest you discovered during your research on your map and determine the most sensible path to take.
The term “sensible days” is highly subjective. I have planned a great deal of trips—road trips and otherwise—and what is sensible to some seems impossible to others. That being said usually we find for road trips people are happiest with keeping long driving days to the first (second if you are doing a fly/drive) and last day with all other days in between maxing out at 4 hours of driving which gives you half a day to explore. For every 7 day/8 night itinerary we also aim for two locations to be two night stops so you aren’t driving every day. Like I said though this is really a personal decision and it also varies based on location.
Key to keeping everyone happy is reducing stress and keeping to a budget is paramount in this regard. You have to be realistic about what things actually will cost and adjust your itinerary to be sure you won’t be stressed about money the entire time.
Choose your priorities wisely. Some people want top notch resorts where they can just relax and stick to the free activities. Other people want to stay in the least expensive hotel they can find and spend all their money on experiences. Most people are somewhere in between. Whatever type of traveler you are be honest with your travel companions about your priorities and plan the trip accordingly.
Prior planning keeps reality in line with expectations and ensures you get the vacation you want. I think it’s important to book the more expensive items ahead of time so that you are less likely to fall prey to incidentals and last minute spending that will kill your budget and prohibit you from doing those things that you really have your heart set on doing.
I like to list before, during and after materials.
Doing the bulk of the learning before you go gives kids an edge with visiting historical sites or nature study on the road. It gives them context for what they will see and do so it sinks in. Finding a spine curriculum to guide you helps, but if not then just mix up some reading with projects and local field trips that support your learning objectives.
During the trip I like to keep things simple. I include a gentle pace of audiobooks and/or regular reading and journals. My kids have a love/hate relationship with trip journals, but I think they are very important. Just have them do some writing every night and it will reinforce what they are learning. If you want to give them questions or writing prompts to help get them started that is easier for some kids. Younger kids can just draw a picture and then dictate to you a sentence about the picture to copy into their journal.
After the trip you can have them do a final project of their choosing. Kids who like to write can do an age appropriate report or term paper. Some kids might like to build a model of something they saw. Cooking a meal, drawing a picture, writing a story etc. Really this is where they can use whatever their passion is to communicate a bit of what they learned. We also conclude by going through my objectives and having each kid relate how well they did in terms of meeting that objective.
Easy Peasy. Now you’ve got a great plan.
Still feeling overwhelmed?
Shameless plug: use a travel agent. Especially one who knows how to plan a travelschooling trip. Like, Christopher Travel for example. Hint. Hint. We offer preplanned trips as well as custom and semi custom options. We don’t charge a planning fee for cruises, tours or preplanned itineraries! And I will always help you find the right curricula to support your trip! firstname.lastname@example.org