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As a teacher, you know your energy can be swallowed up by other people’s children. By the end of the day, it can seem like you have little energy left for your own kids at home. This was one of my biggest fears going into parenthood. Through a lot of trial and error, I found it doesn’t have to be that way!
You know that you are your child’s first teacher, but you don’t need to quit your job to homeschool your own children. In fact, homeschooling can happen anywhere, anytime. Quite frankly, it’s a ton of fun to spend quality, structured time with your own kids just like you do with “your kids” at school.
At our home, we make time for a bit of Montessori and Reggio-inspired homeschooling, which are two of my favorite Early Childhood philosophies. Yes, running AOE is a full-time job. However, incorporating these philosophies can become a way of life, not just blocks of time devoted to certain activities.
A few years ago, I wrote the article titled “Doing Montessori at Home with Your Baby,” and it was popular with art teachers and non-art teachers alike. Today I want to share an update from our household and give you some tips to weave in education at home with your own young kids, even with a busy art teacher schedule!
When I started this process, I thought I needed days of free time in order to be a true homeschool mom, but in reality, I didn’t have that kind of time. So, I have found pockets of time that fit with our schedule. For us, it looks like a few hours a week with occasional hands-on field trips. The summer is also a great opportunity to beef up your homeschool, especially for teachers who often have this time off.
There are two types of space in our home: play space, which is a traditional playroom with dolls, a kitchen set, blocks, and other toys, and what we call “The School” which has taken over a corner of our dining room. The School is a more structured place that we go to work together. It is important to dedicate a space and make it visually appealing.
I have found working in themes helps me stay motivated and organized. I try to choose themes that fall into one of two categories.
1. Something of interest to my child.
Choosing things kids are interested in is the cornerstone of an Emergent Curriculum. It involves listening, asking questions, and watching the child, then shaping activities around their interests.
2. Forgotten Subjects.
Foreign language, arts, music, theater, drama: All of these areas are undervalued at most schools, and, in my humble opinion, kids don’t get enough. Here, homeschooling can help fill in the gaps.
I also keep a tub of real art supplies on hand. For young children, it’s enough just to introduce the media. Structure can come later. If you’d like some ideas for different art trays, check out this fantastic post from How We Montessori.
In addition to the space for traditional learning, I have made space for our 4-year-old in the kitchen. One low cupboard is just for her, and she can help herself to cups, plates and items she needs. We tried putting snacks here, but it became a free-for-all. I plan to try putting snacks out again soon to see how it goes.
The concept of loose parts is a cornerstone of the Reggio approach, and we have adopted it in our home. Loose parts can be messy to contain, but kids can explore them in endless ways. I like to find old tackle boxes or crafting storage containers to keep our loose parts a little bit less “loose.” Most are natural or recycled items that don’t cost much. Some of our favorite projects include nature collages, building towers with various cardboard pieces, and of course, play dough and clay.
To get started with Montessori at home, the book I primarily used was Montessori From the Start. I’d highly recommend it.
In addition, Pinterest provides endless inspiration. I invite you to follow my personal Pin Boards and tag along as I discover new ideas to integrate into our homeschool.
There are also some excellent Montessori Apps, our favorites being from “Montessorium.”
The moral of this story is to try to banish the black and white thinking, which, for me, can be a real challenge. You don’t have to be solely a “working parent” or a “stay at home parent” based on traditional definitions. Life is a beautiful balance that usually falls somewhere in-between. I proudly wear multiple hats and do my best to give attention to each area with the time I am given.
Do you find yourself torn between your “kids” at school and your kids at home? How do you deal with it?
What are some ways you regularly connect with your own children at home?