My grown daughter, Clara, was over last weekend. I can’t remember what we were talking about, but she suddenly brought up a memory of coloring pages I had drawn for her and how she had to pay me money for the crayons to color it.
I have been known to homeschool several of my kids for periods of time when public school was not a good fit for them. Trauma, classroom settings or bad teachers, developmental phases, bullying, anxiety; all of these have been reasons I’ve pulled my kids out of school.
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But this story isn’t about homeschooling. It’s about learning at home.
Clara is my 3rd daughter and when she came to me, her two older sisters were on sports teams…. swimming and gymnastics. We spent a fair amount of time hanging out together at gyms and pools when she was in K and 1st grade and I was always looking for ways to keep her busy. We had left her activity bag at a friend’s house one time and I was casting around that afternoon for something for her to do while we waited at the gym to pick up Beatrice. I grabbed some paper and crayons as we headed out the door and I ended up drawing sketches for her to color as we sat.
Clara started asking me to draw more things for her (over just bringing along a coloring book), so I began making different simple pictures. I pretty quickly decided to add some flare to the activity and put in math problems as a color-by-number sort of thing. Clara was behind in her academics even in Kindergarten, because of her trauma and her moves in foster care. I decided working on simple math problems was just the thing.
Clara also, as part of this ‘waiting around for sisters’ story, ALWAYS wanted something out the vending machines in the lobbies, even if we had brought snacks along. So I added a counting money component to the activity and we ended up with activity pages like the two pictures I’ve added here.
All of it gave her several things to do, which helped time pass faster. She got to do the math (the problems changed as her math skills changed), then, out of a small purse filled with coins (mostly pennies at first), she had to ‘buy’ the crayon that she needed. When she ‘paid’ me, I put the coins into ‘savings’ and that’s what she could use to spend in the vending machines. We quickly moved on to working with nickels and dimes and quarters (and eventually, dollar bills), so she could change out the pennies, which would not work in the machines.
Clara’s big sisters soon got jealous that she was earning money and they weren’t, so I started making some for them at their level (multiplication, fractions) for “extra credit” homework after school. They all still love coloring to this day and having family time to sit and color as well as a chance to earn pocket change is a pretty nice memory.
And that, my friends, is how I got three girls to BEG for learning activities at home. I’d forgotten about it until Clara brought it up, but I now have other kids here, including a 1st grader who is working on addition and LOVES to color. I think it’s time for Inez to join in on the fun.