• Chrissy Somers

Learning at Home Without the Stress

by Chrissy Somers, Owner + Founder of FamiliesOnTheFox.com


Truth bomb drops in 3...2...1...


I DIDN'T DO E-LEARNING WITH MY KIDS DURING THE COVID QUARANTINE.


There. I said it.


Truth be told, I was getting so stressed out with the daily emails from three different schools and four different educators. I couldn't keep up. Plus, in all honesty, I was having a hard time adjusting to losing our normal life. I lost the ability to focus on work. My husband's company was tanking (and doing so quickly), which meant his job was up in the air. We lost all social and physical connection to our friends and family. We had the kids home ALL. DAMN. DAY.


Saying it was "hard" for me would be the understatement of the century (you can read my "Trying to Find the Silver Lining" article here to understand my confusion and emotions when the Quarantine was first announced).


It took me ten weeks... TEN WEEKS... to adjust to the changing world around us. This meant my kids went TEN WEEKS with virtually no e-learning or academic stimulation.

And the award for "Shittiest Mom of the Year" goes to... CHRISSY SOMERS! [insert shameful headshake]

Now ten weeks later, I am ready to jump back on the Learning Train with my girls! Yes. I realize summer has started and this should be a recess from all things 'academic'... but my kids had that recess from March - May. Plus, having been a teacher for 10 years, I know that Summer Regression is a REAL thing; not just something those in the education field made up to scare parents and guardians.



Because of this, I created a schedule for our family to stay on track academically, while also encouraging us to take "field trips", have imaginative play, and outdoor playtime EVERY SINGLE DAY.


I kid you not: this schedule has been a SANITY SAVER. It allots time for literally ALL THE THINGS. Academics? CHECK. Playtime? CHECK. Food breaks? DUH. Getting outside doing lots of free things? YUP.

I wanted to incorporate playtime and getting out of the house into our schedule because it is too easy to toss the kids an iPad or turn on their favorite show via Netflix instead of packing a lunch and heading out to explore (but you can bet your ass I still give the kids that screen time so that Mommy can just breathe.


FUN FACT: we use our own website, FamiliesOnTheFox.com, to find free and inexpensive things to do with the kids (and then my husband and I use the site to pinpoint all the local Happy Hours; it's a site for EVERYONE!).


Now, learning strictly from worksheets is NOT okay. It'll make your kids hate learning. It'll make YOU hate teaching. And then you'll throw your hands up in the air and straight quit, caving in and giving the kids the iPad!


Although I bought several of the items you'll see below from local stores and businesses like American Science & Surplus, Harvey's Tales, Anderson's Books, and Sensory Bin Mommy, there are several options on Amazon that can also meet your needs!


I ALWAYS say to #BuyLocal FIRST... whatever you can't get locally, use Amazon.


{This is where those affiliate links come in because... well, Mama is trying to make a living. Honesty is the best policy. I do earn a small fee when you purchase an item linked below, but please know that I linked products I have purchased or wish I would have bought instead.}

READING + WRITING RESOURCES


Guys... my five year-old is about to enter Kindergarten and was doing a great job with identifying all her letters (uppercase + lowercase) and identifying their sounds. Naturally, the next step was to put those sounds together to READ.


I say this with 120% confidence... THIS IS THE BEST RESOURCE for teaching your kid to read: The Reading Lessons Book. I got it as a gift from a friend who swore by it, and now I am completely dumbfounded at how many sight words my five year-old has learned in two short weeks. I supplement with Site Words Flashcards on days we don't complete lessons from the book.


I'm a lover of GOOD workbooks for my kids. I usually have to pilfer through them before purchasing, and have found consistently good products from: School Zone, Scholastic Reading & Math Workbook, Priddy Learning Sight Words, and Brain Quest.


When it comes to writing aside from the workbooks, I try to provide real-world experiences. Grocery lists, toy wish lists, letter writing, and even texting on the iPad. I found the Travel Postcards pictured above in the $1 Spot at Target, but HERE are comparable ones. And to help my kiddos hold the pencil properly, I buy the "fat pencils" (aka My First Ticonderoga pencils).


STEAM-BASED LEARNING

(science, technology, engineering, art, and math)


When I was a kid, I really loved conducting science experiments, using the cool gadgets Mr. Henry (my 6th grade science teacher) would provide in class, and completing my project for the Illinois Science Fair each year. But this passion was never fostered at home and eventually, I lost interest in the subject.


In today's hyper-technical world, the field of Science + Technology is HOT. From creating new medicines to securing online databases, the need for passionate talent to fill these roles is high. In fact, of the Top Ten Fastest Growing Industries in 2020, EACH ONE consists of an element of Science and/or Technology.


Because of all these reasons, I want to ensure my kids have at least an interest in science. I found some really cool science kits from a local small business, American Science & Surplus, but the same products can also be found in the links provided via Amazon.

Nancy B's Stir It Up Chemistry and the Brain Bending Science Kit have been really great finds! The highlights of these kits has been the "real-life" science materials, included science projects with items from the home, and the explanation of how/why the experiment works. Both kits even share science terminology, so my kids have already learned about density and the three states of matter!


The EASIEST way for kids to get a hands-on approach to science would be through a Mobile Microscope. This little gadget requires NO batteries, NO cords, and NO additional accessories. Simply attach the small microscope to the camera on your phone, open the camera app, and start exploring!


You can see in the pictures below that my kids had such a great time exploring tiny parts of the world around them! Pictured with our Mobile Microscope from left to right are: a flower petal with a microscopic orange bug, a small beetle, the veins of a maple leaf, and tree bark. At the top of this section, you'll also see a close-up of a small ant and its pinchers!

Some other great science tools and kits are Sick! Science: Fizz, Pop, Boom (this contains all the makings for four different experiments, including the Mentos + Pop explosion), a Microscope, and the City Engineering & Design kit (pictured at the top of this section). The City Engineering & Design kit ended up being great because it involved problem solving from our two oldest and then all three girls got to enjoy the final product!

We found great and affordable art kits from local art studios like All Things Art Studio and Pinot's Palette, but I'm sure you can find an art studio and craft store near you that could provide you with these!


MATH MANIPULATIVES (hands-on items)

I'm not one of those parents that thinks my kid is the best at all things. I can admit that my seven year-old's least favorite subject is math. I wanted to make math fun for her. Make it more than just pencil to paper.


I did some research and reviewed grade-level Common Core State Standards to ensure the manipulatives I bought would be able to be used by all of my kids for several years. Kids are getting introduced to geometry, patterns, sorting, equations, and more in early elementary - elementary school, and the following products make all of that work so much easier!


The Pattern Blocks (pictured above) and Dive Into Shapes are great for geometry standards, spatial relationships, counting, and sorting for all three girls! Because this kit comes with 250 pieces, these can also be used for algebraic problem-solving.


To help my seven year-old with Base Ten modeling, problem solving, and algebraic thinking, I invested in Unifix Cubes. These are the same cubes the kids use at school too!


My oldest daughter is also visually impaired and has an IEP and gets assistance from a Vision Itinerant. This Slant Board (pictured above) is great for her (and any kid) because it provides her with a better angle to read and write on. But the best part is that it serves as a personal, magnetic dry-erase board! We use Expo Magnetic Markers with the Slant Board and a dry erase eraser to clean it off.


We also bought this Play Money and will use it in conjunction with our play kitchen as we play restaurant. Sneaky Math is my favorite math.


SENSORY BINS

I'll give it to you straight: I thought the sensory bin would be for my toddler. Turns out, my big girls loved it too! Rice is a great and cheap filler inside this bin, but we also love our Water Beads! We use these shovels and tools regardless of what the contents of the bin are because they are great for fine motor skills!


If you don't want to build your own sensory bin, I found a local mom who creates them and ships them to you! Find her here: Sensory Bin Mommy


HOME OFFICE + WORKSPACE

Our two oldest decided they wanted to share a bedroom and get some bunkbeds. At first, we were hesitant. My husband and I busted our asses to ensure one day we would have a house big enough where all three of our girls had their own bedrooms. An now they want to bunk up?


But wait... this means that both my husband and I could FINALLY have a dedicated office space with a DOOR since we both work form home the majority of the time... DONE!


Although the fourth bedroom has now become our office, we wanted to ensure it still functioned as workspace for the kids. While Tyler and I have our desks, the girls need an Office Table/Workspace. We LOVE this one (pictured above) because the stool tuck under the table and it's a huge space saver! Plus, it's comfortable for the toddler and us adults to use too!


We also invested in a 20' Self-Adhesive Dry Erase Roll that is applied to two different spots, floor to ceiling, in our office. The bottom half is for the girls to work with, while the upper 4' are for Tyler and I to use for work.


This is the Rug we bought for the space and love it because it brightens up the room.

Three-Wick Candle on the table is from local candle shop, Scentcerely Yours (but they ship nationally). Lastly, these are our office chairs, and BONUS: they come in a SET OF TWO!

I know it's a lot, but I view all these academic purchases as an INVESTMENT in my kiddos school year. I want them to be able to feel confident at school, and I'm certain all of my investments above will allow our kids to feel that confidence as they enter their First Day of School in their new classrooms (... hopefully... damn you, COVID!).


xoxo-Chrissy


353 views1 comment
Fall Foliage

Your guide for THINGS TO DO + PLACES TO GO

Proudly serving and supporting the west far west suburbs of Chicago

  • Black RSS Icon
  • Black Facebook Icon
  • Black Instagram Icon
  • Black Pinterest Icon

Connect with FOTF

Let's Work Together

© 2020 Families on the Fox, LLC. Proudly created by Chrissy Somers. 

Families on the Fox, LLC is a for-profit website (owned by Chrissy Somers) that provides free content through paid partnerships. This website and affiliated social media pages also contain non-paid mentions of our partners, and other local businesses when applicable to our audience. 

  • Black RSS Icon
  • Families on the Fox Instagram
  • Families on the Fox on Facebook
  • Families on the Fox on Pinterest