Monday, April 7, 2014

Homeschooling options for the busy parent

My husband and I are products of public school education. Don’t get me wrong, we are both extremely motivated and successful but we both believe that our education was lacking in very significant ways. My husband now teaches college students who have only been taught under “No Child Left Behind” and we are both very concerned about the results of this method of learning. As the parents of an extremely bright and energetic 2.5 year old, many of our conversations revolve around preparing him for a future that requires tools that traditional education will not provide him with.

One of my best friends from college who is an innovative teacher and curriculum developer attended Montessori schools for her early education. The methods she used to remain organized during college amazed me. She color-coded and charted and organized in ways that I did not even know existed. Studying for me was always about picking up my book, reading, taking notes in the margins, and more reading. It wasn’t until medical school that I learned how I most effectively studied. I began drawing funny caricatures (nothing close to Netter’s) and charting and mapping things out so that I could better process the material and retain it later. As a second year Resident I still use this method. I can’t even imagine how much stress could have been relieved and how much better I could have learned if I studied better earlier.

Back to Zo, my little genius in the making. He amazes us. He is more than a sponge. Every day he comes home and does and says something new; something that makes us pause, smile, and say "how/when did he learn that?!?" My husband and I are exposing him to as many good things as we can. We listen to music (kiddie things like the Dino V, adult things like soul, jazz, rap, classical) and dance all of the time. He helps us cook (he mixes), plays outside, goes to museums. He attends an amazing Spanish-immersion daycare and knows more Spanish than both of us. We got rid of our TV when he was an infant, though he does watch a few hours of Netflix Dinosaur Train and Turtle Tales on the weekends while we straighten up and prepare breakfast. Every 2 weeks we get a new book kit from the library that contains 15 books on a toddler-friendly subject.

But he’s learning so fast and I know he can learn more, I just don’t know how. I read Amy Chua’s Tiger Mom and I’m not a fan of her parenting philosophy, but I will incorporate some of the things that I agree with and like. I want Zo to learn the best way he can, I want him to learn a martial art, to be fluent in another language (Spanish), and play an instrument (kind of got this from Chua and Fifty Shades of Grey, LOL!). I belonged to an amazing mommy-group in the mid-Atlantic before starting residency where many mothers home-schooled and their children were so inquisitive and learned; it was inspiring. I love being a doctor and homeschooling full-time is just not an option for us. 

I have begun researching “homeschooling” options for working parents and am looking for more resources. If you have done modified homeschooling or know anyone who does, please send them my way. I promise to keep you all updated on our progress. Things will be kept very simple since we only have a toddler, but I’m sure as he ages, I will find other fun, innovative ways to supplement what he learns at school. 

So for this week’s "Homeschooling for the Busy Parent" activity:

- lots of fun time and play, dancing, riding our bikes outside, and time at the playground
- nightly reading of our colors books
- I will make some simple flash cards and we will focus on primary colors and then secondary colors using a concept called “isolation” that I learned on YouTube from a video-blog called “Preschool Homeschool”


  1. At that age, we just let DC1 go free with Starfall on the computer. We also had some super fun alphabet puzzles and word puzzles that matched a letter to a word and picture or matched a word to a picture. (The first word DC1 read was "Zebra," probably from the word puzzle.) A favorite show at that age was Leapfrog, which teaches phonics though song ("The A says Ah, the A says Ah, every letter makes a sound the A says Ah.") At some point he taught himself how to read and we could just let him read on his own.

    We also had fun with blocks and manipulables counting things, and eventually doing simple addition with the blocks/manipulables.

    I don't think much of flashcards for that age set. At that age they learn everything through interaction and sitting still for memorizing doesn't seem to be the most efficient or fun use of time. Most of the complaining I hear from moms about their kids, even preschool kids, hating learning seems to center around flashcards.

    The research stresses reading to your kids and talking with them and interacting with them. I accidentally got a book on how to get your kid into a top kindergarten in NYC (I thought the book was about something else), and it was funny how all the stuff it said to do was stuff we were doing anyway-- talking to our kids, asking questions, reading to our kids, etc.

    I did read something recently that said that kids are more likely to learn color if instead of asking "Which is the blue block?" you ask "Which block is blue?" Something about how they learn adjectives.

  2. My parents had posters up all over our house - letters, shapes, words, colors, (whatever stage we were in), to mimick a classroom. It allowed for constant reinforcement. I've decided to use that in my "homeschooling."

  3. I recently read the Well-Trained Mind, which inspired my husband and me quite a bit in our thinking about our own tots' future academic development (2.5 and 10 months). We, too, probably will never homeschool in the traditional sense not only because we're both doctors (or in my case, a doctor-in-training), but also because we believe in investing in public schools. That said, I got some great ideas about what we can add onto their formal education that would hopefully enrich their experience from the book and also from the online forum associated with the book ( There's even a board for "afterschoolers" (basically what you're talking about). Good luck!


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