How We Plan Our Lessons

Welcome back everyone! In my last post, I mentioned how coming up with a lesson plan for our homeschool was an entire post in itself…well here is that post. Also, it’s not really a lesson plan. That’s too structured of a word for what we do. It’s more like a go-to list of activities that I plan to do with the kids that week. The only real “work” we do are our reading and math lessons.

     So let’s start where we left off. Let’s remember that Olivia is in preschool so our days are very relaxed & fun. Her interests and skill level are what I base all of our lessons around. To get started planning our homeschool experience, I think about a few things that Olivia is really into, and some things that I’d like to teach her about. Those things go on a list of ideas for themes and then then I fill in the remaining weeks with seasonal and holiday themes. Another idea is to come up with your activities based on a letter of the week, which is a good idea if your child is still working on those. I arrange these themes by weeks and put them in months that I think would be a good time for them. For example, an Artic unit would make more sense to work through in January than in July. So now that we have our weekly theme decided, we plan our calendar time around it.
     Calendar time consists of the same things each week. We go over the month, date, and year, as well as talking about the weather that day. We graph the weather and talk about how we should appropriately dress for it. I work on helping her memorize her phone number and her address and we review our letters, letter sounds and our shapes. She is currently working on 3D shapes…thank you Team Umizoomi for introducing her to that. Have you ever listened to a 4 year old talk about dodecahedrons?? It’s entertaining! We end calendar time with the Pledge and a prayer.
     At the beginning of each new week and theme, during calendar time, I introduce a “What Do We Know” chart. I write our theme at the top of a big piece of paper and we make a list of what we know about that topic. Then we will read a book on our theme and we usually watch a YouTube video or two on the subject as well.
     I decided that reading and math were the two subjects that I thought were most important to really dig into and do book work on, so we do those early in the day when she is fresh, focused, and excited. Sometimes our supplemental worksheets during this time correlate with our theme if I can find them online, but many times I will pull worksheets from our skills books that are just early literacy or math related. Sometimes we play a game that I come across on Pinterest that helps to reinforce letter or number recognition.
     Once reading and math are finished we are done with any lessons that come from workbooks. The kids play the rest of the morning, eat lunch, and then lay down for naps. During naps, I prep our afternoon activities. On Sunday night, I get these materials needed for the week all together and I keep it all in our “homeschool basket,” which is just that…a basket that holds our materials for the following week. I have 5 different categories that I like to plan activities for, and those are:
1. Science
2. Fine Motor
3. Music
4. Art
5. Sensory
     Usually, our science lesson come from natural things we come across in daily life, or on a nature walk. She will ask a question, and then we go home and find out the answer together. Sometimes I like to find a fun experiment that goes along with our theme. Olivia loves experimenting with baking soda and vinegar and journalling in her nature notebook. If I can’t come up with something, these two activities are always our go-to’s. Cooking together can also be a science lesson!
     Fine motor activities can be something as easy as scooping and pouring, or something like lacing cards. Melissa and Doug toys have a lot of lacing cards in different themes or you can make your own by printing out a few pictures that go with your weekly theme, laminating them and then punching holes around the edges. If you want to make it really easy, pull out a paper plate and punch holes around the edge of that. Super simple! Pinning clothespins, playing with play dough or putting together nuts and bolts are some of Olivia’s favorite fine motor activities.
     Music is an easy one because we weave it in throughout our entire day. We listen to all kinds- Big Band, Classical, Country, Jazz, Gospel, we listen to everything! We also sing a lot of songs, do little chants that help the kids transition from one activity to another, songs with hand motions…our house is full of music all day long. Oakland loves music and I think these times might be his favorite in our day. Sometimes, there’s a cute little kids song that goes with our theme, but we usually use the same old favorites over and over.
     Art is also an easy and a fun one to plan. I like to plan a few art projects throughout the week and usually find them on Pinterest. I like to plan a tidy art project that involve a hand or footprint and a messy project that needs to be done outside, like smearing paint on a big sheet of paper and then spraying it with a spray bottle to create a different look. We have even done a large scale version of this on an old shower curtain that turned out so fun and could just be sprayed off at then end for later use! Last week we free painted with paints that I had mixed with fall spices like nutmeg, pumpkin pie spice and cinnamon. It added a great sensory aspect to our art!
     Speaking of sensory, this is my favorite one! There are so many materials you can use and so many fun things you can do with them. It can be as simple as just playing with sand, or as involved as setting up a sensory, small world activity in your water table. My kids love to crunch aluminum foil and play with shaving cream. These are great, easy sensory activities too that take no time to set up.
     Gross motor activities is another category we make sure we cover, but I rarely pre-plan them because kids really do this one on their own. They run, they kick balls, they balance on logs, they ride bikes, they dance…these are all gross motor activities. Play outside with the kids or take them to the park and you’re covered on this one. When we’re inside the kids love to play freeze dance or jump on our exercise trampoline.
I also like to add to their dress up and pretend play areas with stuff that goes with our theme as well. You don’t need to go buy a new costume all the time or anything, it can be really easy. For example, maybe you’re theme that week is “The Farm.”  Put out your kids overalls, rain or cowboy boots, some gardening gloves and a big sun hat in the dress up area, or maybe make headbands with some felt animal ears or a paper cup pig nose. Put your kids fake vegetables in a basket so they have them there to “pick” from their “garden” and be sure to put all the tractor toys together. It’s easy to do and the kids love to pretend with you! I also like to plan a field trip to check out in person what we’ve read in books all week if at all possible. Maybe there’s a working farm near you that you offers visits. You would be surprised how many places are willing to give tours if you just call and ask. Call the post office, the grocery store, the fire department in your area and see if they are available to show you and your child around. Don’t forget to ask if friends can come along! If there isn’t a field trip you can physically go to, there are a lot of tours of places online your child can watch.
That might sound like a lot, but we don’t do the pre-planned activities everyday. I plan out one or two from each category, and pull them out in the afternoons after nap and before dinner throughout the week, usually alternating active free play with calm table activities. One afternoon may look like this:
We go outside and do our messy art project on the porch. Here, they don’t realize they’re learning, but they’re using their creative processes, fine motor skills, and learning if they mix blue and yellow it makes green. The kids hose off and go jump on the trampoline where I ask them to jump to the music I’m playing. “Can you jump slow to the slow songs? Can you jump high to the fast songs? Can you do a flip?” Get those wiggles out while working through gross motor skills! They run around outside a bit longer, we come in and sit down at the table where I pull out play dough and they play for a bit. Olivia uses letter mats & shapes her play dough to form the letters. Oakland likes to rip it into pieces and put the tiny balls back into the play dough cup. When they’re done with that, they may go play dress up or build blocks for a while where they are pretending, sharing and practicing other life skills. Pretend play could last the rest of the afternoon, but every now and then, the kids will start really arguing over sharing or saying they’re bored. This is when I may pull out the lacing cards for Oakland and ask Olivia to come help me cook dinner. She helps to measure and learns new vocabulary as we read the recipe, and also uses her fine motor skills to pour, sift and stir. Cooking is also a very practical way to incorporate science into your day. When we’re done I ask her to set the table where she practices one to one correspondence when she sets out plates and forks for each person who will be eating that night.
That’s an easy afternoon to pull off, that involves minimal planning, and you have provided your child with an opportunity to work through each of the categories that are essential building blocks to later skills…and you have more than earned that glass of wine mama!! You could also skip book work in the mornings if your child isn’t into or old enough for that, and this “typical afternoon” for us could be your morning, then just free play in the afternoon. My kids turn into wild heathens from 4-6pm so they need a little structure!
So that’s how I come up with our lesson plans! I pick a theme, I build our calendar activities around that theme & I pick out a few correlating early literacy or math worksheets if possible. I then plan 1-3 activities for each of the five categories mentioned above. I always do a sensory table and I switch between active and calm activities throughout the afternoon. I like to try and plan a field trip that goes with our theme as well. It does take some time to find the activities, print them out, do any laminating that needs to be done, plan the field trip and get everything in order, but every teacher needs to plan! I do a lot of my planning during nap times, and my husband usually takes over everything on Sunday nights so I can get it all put together and ready for the upcoming week. I try to plan two weeks at a time.
I have collected some great books over the years that I use to plan activities, or you could always go on Pinterest and find a countless assortment of them.Although I don’t know if continuing homeschooling is what we will do after these little years, but for now, we have a lot of fun learning together and it’s a great way to structure our day!

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