Creating hands-on learning tools, restocking supplies and reconfiguring our kindergartner’s learning space were things I prepared for a potential return to lockdown homeschooling.
I took the past week off work to recharge. While I spent most of it relaxing, I also used the free time for homeschool prep.
COVID cases are at a record high. Our government wants to keep schools open but we are aware that another lockdown is a possibility.
T has already spent seven days at home in October and it caught the hubby and I off guard.
I don’t like being unprepared, so I spent the past rainy Thursday inside at home prepping for another homeschooling in lockdown scenario.
I thought about what the hubby and I learned from our 4-month experience in Spring, about our goals for T, and about what we anticipate would be T’s areas of greatest need.
Reconfiguring the Learning and Play Spaces
The dining room is our command centre, where the hubby and I work and where T is set up to learn.
You can imagine what a zoo it can be.
On Thursday, the hubby and I moved our cabinet from storage next to our dining table.
This will allow us to keep the table tidy. We learned from Spring that if a space is cluttered, it reduces T’s ability to focus on the task at hand.
We kept the wall to display T’s completed work up in our living room. He takes pride in seeing his work on the wall so we didn’t take it down this summer in case we needed it again this year.
We are not bothering to furnish the living room until we renovate the main floor, hopefully next summer.
In the meantime, the space is a blank canvas for T to play in and for us to initiate pretend play, like camping, restaurant or treasure hunt.
The dollar store is great for homeschooling.
For about $20, I got the essentials: crayons, markers, construction paper, child-friendly scissors, glue sticks, poster board, sticky notes and a small dry erase whiteboard.
We also reuse things like plastic fruit cup and yogurt containers for craft supplies.
I got this awesome Flip Chart (20 sheets per pad) on a foldable cardboard easel from Amazon which is a great tool for learning.
And stickers, lots of stickers. These are great incentives for T to finish an activity.
Organizing Learning Activities
I reviewed the activities we had stockpiled from last Spring and reorganized them, including worksheets from T’s previous teacher.
The hubby and I also bought a few awesome activity books which cover math, sight words and creative thinking.
Strategizing with his Teachers
We are blessed to have an amazing school that is so supportive of T.
He has a fantastic child and youth worker working with him one-on-one as he transitions into an integrated classroom.
The hubby and I met with her last week to discuss how we would work together if there is another lockdown or when T has to stay home.
We agreed that 30-minute daily check ins would be great and the child and youth worker has lots of great ideas for virtual learning.
I set up a shared Google Doc to plan our daily schedules and to stockpile future activity ideas.
T’s teacher also set up a Google Classroom and provided daily activities for parents to work on with kids when they have to stay home.
The class recently got together for daily one-hour group lessons during the 14 days they had to quarantine – which T thankfully got to avoid.
It is comforting to have this all in place because T needs the interaction with kids and teachers.
Creating Learning Tools to Address Areas of Need
As we discussed with his teachers on a call last week to develop his Individualized Education Plan, we want T to work on handwriting, building his pre-reading skills and math.
For kids with T’s prognosis – at-risk FASD – fine motor skills like handwriting, reading and especially math are often identified as skills where they fall behind in during later years, so we want to help him get a headstart now.
I’ve read – and I’ve certainly observed this in T – that kids with FASD tend to be visual hands-on learners.
So with $5 worth of supplies, I created this large size and reusable Ten Frame tool to help teach T how to do simple addition and subtraction using popsicle sticks and sticky notes.
I also created an alphabet chart to help him learn about consonants and vowels and a hundred chart to help with counting.
Embracing Digital Learning
T has basically taken over my personal tablet.
T’s teachers have provided fantastic play-based learning websites and apps.
T also likes the literacy and math activities on IXL, which aligns with curriculum. So it’s worth the low cost of membership.
Following T’s Interests
I’m not a teacher – although I wanted to be one in another life – and I’m not a homeschool expert.
But I know that kids – and adults too – learn best when they are having fun.
So while there are certain things that are mandatory for T to learn – like the alphabet, sight words and counting – we want to take his lead and let his interests guide his learning.
He likes dinosaurs? We look up a video on YouTube about how dinosaurs went extinct or learn about what fossils are.
He likes pirates? We create a scavenger hunt that encouraged him to read clues to find a treasure hidden somewhere in the house.
It’s a lot of fun to see him have fun and makes the trouble of creating these activities so worth it.
Incorporating Behaviour Modification Strategies
We’ve been blessed to have worked with an amazing behaviour therapist from Surrey Place Centre the last two years who have provided us with effective strategies to deal with T’s learning-related challenges, which include hyperactivity, difficulty focusing on a task or transitions, and emotional regulation.
I’ll write in detail about our experience with behaviour therapy in a future post. For homeschool prep, I thought about the challenges we had with T in the Spring and how we’d deal with them differently this school year.
Using a visual timer (pictured above) given to us by Surrey Place and giving T ample warning before the next task has helped with transitions.
Giving him a set time to complete an activity also helps him build his ability – and gives him an incentive – to stay focused on a task.
His behaviour therapist and teacher last year introduced us to the token economy to incentivize positive behaviors. I created one using ice cream popsicles as the visual cue.
As effective as it can be, a token board is a lot of work to administer, in my opinion, so we’ll only use this if a lockdown does indeed happen – rather than for one-off days of homeschooling.
I also still have to create a visual schedule tool to help T learn to organize his day as kids like T benefit from having structure and routine.
I hope to never have to use any of this for homeschool
As happy and prepared as I feel after having done this work, I hope and pray we never have to homeschool in lockdown ever again.
The thought of it makes me want to slit my wrists.
But all this work is not for naught.
I do plan to use these tools on the weekends as I think having even 30 minutes of learning on Saturdays and Sundays will help T keep up with his academics, which is so important for his long term growth.
And we will make sure to have fun along the way!