Mum's home-schools son in lockdown by building forts and hunting bugs

Samantha Dominis, 32, has nailed the home-schooling thing – but she doesn’t want to be held up as the perfect example and urges parents to let go of the pressure to home-school in a certain way.

Since the coronavirus pandemic closed schools, Samantha, from Bradenton, Florida, has been home-schooling her five-year-old son, Colton, for the past two weeks.

Colton struggles with traditional school, so Samantha decided to use the lockdown as a chance to try something new.

As well as the mandatory maths and English in the morning, Samantha is teaching Colton exciting life lessons such as cooking, insect hunting, and building forts.

Samantha wants to make sure her kids don’t remember this time in their lives being stuck behind closed doors and feels that real-life skills are just as valuable as traditional school subjects.

The mum-of-two said: ‘We’re building memories with our children every single day.

‘Do we want our children solely remembering the COVID-19 virus as being stuck in the house, made to do school work all day and watching their mummy lose her patience, or do we want to incorporate hands-on activities that cost nothing into their memories?

‘We’re all stuck in our houses, so make the most of it and turn your living room into a bed sheet fort, have a Lego tower building contest and see who can find the most bugs outside.

‘It’s in those moments that we’ll truly get to know our children and see their strengths.

‘My son, Colton, might not know how to properly identify his numbers (which will come with time) but he can name fifteen different fish that we can catch here in the West Coast of Florida, so that has to count for something.

‘Colton isn’t one of those children that loves to learn, so transitioning into homeschooling has been very difficult for both him and I, often resulting in him crying or feeling frustrated.

‘I’ve read up on homeschooling for preschool and I’ve determined that at his age he shouldn’t be doing more than one hour of school work a day.

‘With that in mind, I’ve been doing two fifteen-minute sessions (reading and maths), and later in the day we usually do some type of ‘life’ lesson like cooking, going outside to look at insects like butterflies, build a fort, wash my car, build something with Legos, etc.

‘So much of learning at this age is hands-on, making actual sit-down worksheet time a challenge for an active five-year-old boy like Colton.’

Samantha, who works as a social media manager, struggles with Colton’s temper tantrums as he would still much rather play with his toys or watch TV – temptations that are hard to resist when they’re within easy reach.

The mum also has to deal with two-year-old Jaxon, who likes to steal Colton’s worksheets and distract him with playtime.

Like so many parents, she’s felt extra pressure seeing other families’ brilliant home-schooling plans shared on social media.

‘I feel so much pressure to go above and beyond with the home-schooling activities because people find it necessary to brag on social media about what they did with their kids that day,’ Samantha says.

‘I try very hard not to get caught up with social media and comparing myself with what other people are doing with their children, because I have to focus on what I can do and what I want to put my energy into.

‘I’d rather do thirty minutes of schoolwork, then take the family on the boat for a ‘marine biology’ class that consists of fishing, identifying fish and navigation.’

Samantha has a bit of a leg-up when it comes to teaching at home; she has an undergraduate degree in elementary education and, thanks to keeping some of her university work on hand, has some of the tools and tricks of the trade ready to put to work.

With this in mind, Samantha encourages other mums and dads to not be too harsh on themselves, as it’s a worrying time for all and all we can do is make the best of a bad situation.

‘I have a bag full of maths manipulatives from college that I brought out and have been using with Colton to help him with counting, grouping, etc,’ she said.

‘The average person wouldn’t have those items, so that has helped with home-schooling Colton.

‘I imagine many other families are struggling when trying to teach their older kids, especially with the new common core maths methods. I’m very thankful that my son is only in preschool and his schoolwork is pretty simple.”

‘My advice to other parents is not to be too hard on themselves which is easier said than done.

‘Not only is this a huge adjustment for our children, but for us as well. Many of us are worried about money, jobs, the stock market, if we have enough toilet paper to get us through the week, not to mention the fear of possibly getting COVID-19 and passing it along to our little ones.

‘We all need to cut ourselves a break and make small goals for ourselves and our children each day.’

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