I want to start out that this is meant to be a resource for all those parents who find the idea of “homeschooling” their preschool, pre-k, or kindergarten child/ren daunting, and don’t know where to begin. This is what we did- hopefully, it helps you!
As a disclaimer, I’m not a teacher or professional. I was a full-time nanny for most of my 20’s, and I was the older sister of ‘every-other-weekend’ kids (meaning we had 2 days, no time to waste deciding what to play, here’s what I’ve cooked up for us!), so really, I didn’t even realize I had been training my whole life for 2020’s lockdown with my 5-year-old son. I had a treasure trove of what I thought were useless ideas – until now! Below is why we did what we did, the how, and the ideas to help you do it too.
So here it is, our great sanity saver of lockdown:
I’m talking about 23 weeks, 6 days a week of themes.
Why Theme Days
I’ll start with the why. I’m a slightly anxious person when it comes to the unknown, and planning calms me. As I’m sure we all know by now, March wasn’t kind to people like me. Plans? Out the window. Oh, you made a different plan? Nope, that’s changed too. On Sunday March 15th my son was no longer in school, one of my jobs (a gym) was shut down indefinitely, and my husband and I were listed as “Essential workers” for my other job and his job (legal assistant and cook). Our bosses were amazing, and worked with us, knowing we were now out of childcare, and we were able to make a schedule where I went in in the morning, and then my husband and I high-fived like 80’s tag team wrestlers, as I came home and he left for the later shift. Wanting us to all feel like one unit, theme days allowed our son to have a constant in a world where he basically now had only one parent at a time, and no friends. Plus, it allowed me to be able to plan for something, and it gave my husband ideas of what to do during the day. Theme Days offered us a cohesive focus point for every day.
How to Use Theme Days
I started with his bookshelf. We are a family that believes there’s no such thing as too many books, and with the library shut down, never was this more of an asset! Thankfully Libraries are opening again, so if your collection isn’t extensive, you have a resource. I sat down one day with a pen and notepad and went through every book on his shelf. He had books like “We’re going on a bear hunt” (boom, Bear themed day) and “D.W. needs glasses” (yes, we had a Glasses themed day). From there we made our calendar and stuck it up where we could all see it (I’m looking at the one on our wall, and we’re now on our fourth calendar!). To create the “fun” for each day, I first looked at his toys and games, and basically did inventory on what matched up with each theme. I then went on Pinterest and found a couple of easy craft ideas (Painting! Perler beads! Stick people!). And finally, to keep up with his writing and number practice, each night I pulled a worksheet from a Highlights Activity Book, available on Amazon. They also have a kindergarten version. If the book didn’t have a theme-matching activity, I printed out a worksheet from elsewhere on the internet. My husband incorporated themed pretend play, nature walks, and fort building during the mornings.
Each evening I laid out the items on our dining table, so in the morning he could start his day “on theme”. It sounds like a lot, but really, it was: grab a book, grab the toys or game, leave out a craft, rip out a worksheet.
Writing this sounds obnoxious, so I’m going to be honest with you: he definitely watched too much tv. He had days where we didn’t do the craft. Some days the craft was over in 2 minutes and he played Legos for 3 hours. This wasn’t a formal military operation, just a guide, a focus, to get through the day – and I hope it gives you some ideas on where to start!
After 138 days, my best advice is to give yourself a set day or 2 each week with no theme (ours was Saturday), and don’t stick with ‘gender norms’ because little boys love mermaids, and little girls love tools, and, well, gender norms are stupid anyway.
Theme Day Ideas
So here they are, 138 theme days, and some ideas about how we used them:
-The Human Body (we traced his body and drew in bones)
-Birds (Cornell university has bird cams on their website!)
-Pirates (classic treasure hunt out about and all around)
-Houses (stem idea – mini marshmallows and toothpick house building)
-Glasses (construction paper glasses, decorated with stickers)
-Thomas the Train
-Summer (this was April – I set up the kiddie pool in the dining room and we had tacos poolside)
-Beauty Shop (my favorite day – we all got haircuts and pedicures!)
-Colors (paint on the windows using washable paint with some water and a dab of dish soap)
-Trucks and Cars
-Aunties & Uncles
-Butterflies (remember those snack bag butterflies you made as a kid??)
-Money (I sanitized all the coins overnight before he played with them, cuz gross)
-Play with Toys (the day after his birthday)
-Jumping (Guess who got a trampoline for his birthday)
-Snow (borax and pipe cleaner snowflakes!)
-Transformers (my husband got into the planning themes…)
-Ninjas (we strung yarn all through the house for a ninja course)
-Construction (Kinetic sand!!)
-Donuts (learned how to make my grandmothers homemade donuts)
-Rocks (ask me how many painted rocks we have)
-Band-Aids (Matching game – write capital letters on band-aid, lower case on paper, big hit!)
-Maps (make a map of your neighborhood)
-Fruits and Veg
-Cookies (breakfast cookies! cookies for the neighbor!)
-Race Cars (painters tape race course)
-Inventors (focused on women and POC Inventors – he’ll learn about the white guys later on)
-Legos (move the furniture out of the way, and let him dump every one he owns on the floor)
-Fourth of July
-Beach (go early, go weekday, get out before the crowd!)
-Raccoons (Corona Mascot – they wash their hands constantly and wear a mask)
-Christmas in July
-Kings and Queens (make and decorate a crown)
-New York City
-Pizza (the book Pete’s a Pizza has great ideas)
-Grandparents (made cards and distance delivered coffees)
-Shabbat (learned to make challah!)
-Restaurant (let him decide all the food for the day)
-Fire and Police (good time to talk about 911)
-Umbrellas (cheap white umbrella and some paint and fabric markers)
-Tools (have a project you’ve wanted to work on?)
-Sand (sand art kits for the win!)
-Yaks (we live near some Highland Yaks, this isn’t as random a subject as it looks)
-Pictures (let him take pictures, printed using one hour, made his own scrapbook)
I hope this gives you ideas, or at least a place to start – good luck this year!
About The Guest Author:: Ashley Clement
Ashley and her husband lived in Chicago for the better half of a decade, but when their son was born it became apparent that their mothers would go broke coming to visit, so they moved back home to Southeastern MA, to the town they grew up in. When meeting new people one of these subjects will inevitably come up: She’s one of eight sisters, she used to be a flight attendant, she loves all things crafting and planning.
Ashley is currently living her life long dream of being a Mom.