Browse a homeschooling catalog, head to a homeschool curriculum fair, or even listen to fellow homeschooling moms talk about early learning priorities, and it is easy to get overwhelmed. There is just so…much…stuff that you can learn! You know the phrase, “There is an app for that!” Today, if there is something to study, there is probably a homeschool resource for that.
This is especially the case when you’re setting goals for early learners. There is so much available, and there are so many resources that are presented as being the perfect solution for helping with this skill or laying the groundwork for that area of development.
Before you know it, you’ve completely blown your budget purchasing all of the various resources that “experts” tell you are completely necessary for ensuring you give your child a solid education.
But the challenge doesn’t stop there. When you sit down to start working with all of those resources, you quickly discover that you are trying to cram a hundred different things into a school day that, for an early learner, really should only last a couple of hours.
Early Learning Priorities: The Foundational Skills
So, let’s back up a bit. Before you go immerse yourself in the overwhelming world of homeschool resources, take some time to outline the things that should truly be considered early learning priorities and remind yourself of the foundational needs.
In other words, make sure to put first things first!
Of course, every early learning resource company wants to convince you that their product is the most important resource you could ever purchase for early learning. So, how do you determine those early learning priorities?
Fortunately, it’s really quite simple. All you have to do is remember that any child who has learned to read and handle basic math excellently has a world opened up to him. And becoming excellent in these areas makes learning everything else so much easier.
Why Math & Phonics are Early Learning Priorities
Being able to use math and phonics effectively takes a precept-upon-precept approach. This means that one concept builds on the next in a sequential manner. Unlike other subjects, which can be taught in a more global fashion (teaching concepts in a variety of orders), phonics and math need to follow a fairly specific sequence and require a lot of practice.
Phonics instruction gives students the building blocks to read and spell. The knowledge of letter sounds and their relationships within words is essential to mastering the mechanics of reading.
Learning math facts and computation improves not only math itself, but also science. Before a child can succeed in chemistry, she will need to understand algebra. Before she can effectively solve algebra problems, she must know her basic math facts by rote. A hit-and-miss approach to phonics and math will show up later as gaps that make learning advanced content much more difficult.
Solid Planning Equals Solid Learning
One way to make sure that the early learning priorities of reading and math instruction get their due attention is to schedule them for the best learning time during your day. For many families, this is right away in the morning.
Studying reading and math first thing in the morning has the added advantage of making sure that these subjects are covered before the inevitable distractions of the day shove them aside. However, if your student is more awake and ready to learn later in the day, study math and reading skills then.
The key is to just make sure you plan!
Making Early Learning Priorities Fun
There’s one more key to keeping your focus on these early learning priorities: keeping them exciting!
Since math and phonics take so much repetition, some students find them boring. If this is true of your child, they may lose interest very quickly and get frustrated instead of being excited about learning to read and work with numbers.
So, try mixing things up a bit. Games are a fantastic way to teach both math and phonics skills. There are many games that can be played with a deck of cards or a couple of sets of flash cards. A multitude of online games and apps can entertain while reinforcing important skills. Or check out your local library or YouTube for educational videos covering these topics.
Be diligent with making math and phonics skills a priority. One day, when your child is reading Shakespeare or factoring trinomials, you’ll be glad you did.