6 TBSP cocoa, 1/4 C butter, 1 C sugar, 1/2 tsp vanilla, 1/3 C flour, 2 eggs, Cook 350 - 25 mins.



I was recently asked to give some advice about home educating Kindergarten boys. At first I wasn't sure I had any insight to give, but then it dawned on me; I have home educated 5 sons so far and I do have a few tricks up my sleeve to create a happy, fun homeschooling environment.

My best advice is to teach in short bursts for the written work and spoken lessons. Boys, especially, have a natural tendency to zone out or begin “playing” during long, boring lessons. When the child is doing worksheets or listening to his parent teach, it helps to allow the child to roll a car under his foot or allow him to hold a squishy ball or toy in his hand. It actually helps the child focus on the task at hand, longer.

Just think about yourself during a long boring meeting at work or during a lecture. How often do you fiddle with a pencil or jot down a note just to pass the time and allow your brain to zone for a second? Now imagine you are held "captive" and cannot leave because the speaker has forbidden you to move, make a sound or even look away for a second. THAT is how our children feel if we make them "sit still," "stop moving around," "stop playing with that pencil," "stay in your seat!" We are holding them captive, for all intents and purposes. In allowing the child to have a release for their mind, a little zone out toy like rolling a car or moving around a little bit, we are actually creating a more conducive learning environment. They are learning more because they aren't focusing on how they will "move" next, without getting caught.

Our children are people, just like us. And, just like us, they need freedom to learn. Our "sit still" tactics only make them want to move around more. (Just like I feel when church service lasts way longer than I had anticipated! LOL)

One of my sons actually sat on a large exercise ball while doing his written work. He would move about a little bit, but the work was completed in a better, quicker fashion because he could use one side of his brain to think and the other to move.

Now, mothers, remember that we are teaching, not dominating our children. Our focus in home education, hopefully, is to instill a love of learning for our children. We need to lose the notion that our kids will sit, listen and focus at all times. It's not going to happen. They will bounce on the ball, fall over and laugh their head off. That is part of the fun. At some point you may want to sit on the ball and fall over too. Having fun with our children and acting goofy with them, and in front of them, helps SO very much to lighten up our homeschool day. It shows the kids that we aren't stuffy, boring people and also creates an environment of relaxation for the kids to do work and feel comfortable doing their work at home.

Expect some play, expect some focused lessons and expect to value the time spent with our children. They are home for a very short time, and then they are grown, gone and on to live their lives. Along with reading, writing and math, hopefully they are learning a great sense of humor and a relaxed, stress free focus to carry into their lives.

Incorporating video games and computer time also help most children to keep focused and not “zone” out during school time. Games and computer time are great motivators when used as positive re-enforcement. When given more game/computer time for focusing during written lesson time we are encouraging education for longer periods of time in both the written lessons AND the game/computer lessons! That being said, it is important for us moms to play the games they are playing. We need to play the video games and the computer too. This is important for two reasons.

We need to know what our children are playing so we can assess how to "save" the game when "time is up" and how long a person needs to play the game to get to each level. Setting a timer for 15 minutes and expecting a child to turn the game off "right now" is truly frustrating if it takes 30 minutes to reach the next level or cut-off space so that all of their hard work can be saved for the next day.

Just imagine...We are baking a cake. (go ahead...imagine that you are making your very favorite cake and you have all the ingredients just waiting to be put together...Oh yummy!) We have been working on this cake for 10 minutes now and we have JUST tasted the mixture and it is SO good! All of the sudden, just as the oven is at the perfect temperature to put the cake in, we hear a timer (bell) go off. Then we hear our boss say that we have to stop baking the cake right now. Why?! Because...well, because time is up and baking a cake is fun so we have to be timed ya know! But, but...hey! We explain to our boss that it takes 30 minutes to bake the cake so now we have to throw out all of our hard work because the boss says we should only be allowed to do this fun activity for 10 minutes...even though it takes 30 minutes to actually DO the activity! Not only that but the boss won't even LISTEN to us explain WHY we need 30 minutes to bake the cake!

Too bad. We have to toss the cake in the trash and go to time out because we are being unreasonable and won't stop trying to explain. Yes, that's frustrating!; And guess what! Tomorrow, when the boss tells me I can have time to make a cake (have computer/game time) if I do my work well...I'm going to mess up my work on purpose and be a pain in my boss's hiney because making a cake (playing a game) is NOT FUN if I can't actually MAKE (play) the cake (game!!!)

The next reason we need to play the games our children play is so we understand the lessons our children are learning while playing the game. If it's educational, we need to know what is being taught so we can incorporate those lessons into the school day. If the game is a shoot-em-up, tactical game, we need to understand the reasoning and strategic skill our children will develop while playing the more fun games.

Even the most "fun" games have value. It's our job as parents to find the value and understand the appeal of the game for our children. Let's not forget that they are a wonderful way to bond with our children. My 17 year old son STILL speaks fondly of the times I would play Metal Gear just to beat his score when he was a pre-teen. Oh yes! I beat him and beat the game and I still rock! He has never forgotten those bonding moments.

For Kindergarten, written work for more than 1 hour per day is usually fruitless. Video lessons, playing outside, climbing…etc…are really the main focus for young children. Gross motor skills rule in Kindergarten. Fine motor skills will kick in as they get older and play video games longer. Using a pencil and crayons will help those fine motor skills develop, but over-use can really deter the child from wanting to do it for the rest of his life. Short, 15 minute, writing and coloring sessions are key to developing skills without creating a hate for using the skills.

I wish I had been taught in this fashion. I would have probably spent way more time doing work and much less time standing in the corner at school for “acting up.” :o)


Crazy Working Mom said...

Great advice! As a mother of a four year old who will be starting Kindergarten next year, I can totally relate. We do HIPPY now and it's very important that we do short lessons as it's hard to keep is attention for too long!

Heather said...

My big goal for kindergarten is learning the importance of Finishing the Page. The material need not be hyper-academic, wonderfully challenging, intellectually stimulating, the whole rot; it actually helps if the work is "too easy"--I just aim for a habit of completing what you start.

That's just me, though.

Author said...

Heather, That's one way to teach them to finish what they started. Another would be to ask them to play the game until they beat the game. :o)

mom2ahrj said...

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Christy said...

I have 5 boys also and I smiled the whole time I was reading your post. I almost could have written it myself. :) We have also used the exercise ball for fidgety boys and believe in short lessons and lots of free play time for little ones (Charlotte Mason). Glad I found your blog!