As we spin down toward the holidays at an ever-increasing rate, are you looking at your homeschool days and thinking, “Hmm…. This could use a makeover?” Or worse, are your littles showing signs of being a bit, shall we say, bored with the way things are going?
Usually by now, we homeschool parents have got it together for the year. We’ve chucked those fabulous plans that didn’t work and settled into a nice groove with the ones that did. (And the replacements for the ones that didn’t. And the other cool stuff we came across in August and September.) The problem is that sometimes that groove can slowly… get… more… and… more… blah. Sometimes it doesn’t, but what do you do when it does?
I can always tell when Littlest has gotten to that point. He drifts off during school. Not to sleep, but to Never-Neverland (or more likely to post-apocalyptic Georgia where he tools around on a motorcycle, melts the girls’ hearts, and kicks butt with a crossbow). Once his attention drifts, you can bet your boots I have lost him for the rest of the day if I don’t take drastic measures. Threats–I learned early on–reprimands and the like Do Not Work. In fact, if he feels the least little slight from me, he withdraws even further. I have to sweet him. Do you know what I mean? I have to treat him like he is the greatest kid in the world and it’s my job to figure out how to entertain him enough to bring him back to the lesson. It is not easy. For one thing, he is not a pushover. He sees right through it if it’s false. Then I’m right back where I started.
Middle is easier. For one thing, he is more like me in that he Loves To Learn, No Matter The Subject. He wants to Know Everything. I totally relate to this kid. Anything I want to discuss, research, play… Middle is there with his learning cap on. But even he gets bored sometimes. We all do, right?
Picking good reading material is essential to my homeschool. If I sense I’m losing them, I can always say, “Hey, do you want to read another chapter of our book right now?” I promise you that has saved me many, many times. We have almost finished Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes, but since it is a family favorite and über-interesting, I’ve fallen back on it a time or two in the last couple weeks. Honestly, it’s hard to keep it to a chapter or two a day. This book just builds. You never want to put it down.
One of the things we do to combat those restless doldrums is spend a lot of time during the holidays learning about the holidays. I try to pick some new aspect of Native American culture to study in November every year and make the lessons fun, with lots of hands-on activities and crafts. When I throw this into that daily groove, the littles liven up. For December, I usually pick a completely new topic to study in-depth. Sometimes it’s stuff we’ve covered before, but should look at more closely. This year I think we’ll have some serious music history lessons. Sure, we’ve covered that before, but never as a unit study.
I lighten the load a bit around this time. Try to freshen it all up so when the new semester starts in January, they aren’t completely torpid in their attitudes. Then I can get boring if I want to. It’s freezing outside; where are they going to go? hehe
No, really, there are so many ways to enliven your homeschool when you feel it getting monotonous. iHomeschool Network has a great free printable called Banish Blah: Over 200 Teaching Ideas to Motivate Homechool Kids and Make Mom’s Job Easier. Sometimes, especially as the weather gets colder, just getting your littles up and moving can enliven the whole lesson, and this gem is full of ideas for doing that while Still Teaching. I know!
Playing board games is another great way to keep the learning going in a fun way. In this house, we all love Scrabble and trivia games. No kidding, we have 6 different Trivial Pursuit games, two versions of Cranium, and 3 Scrabble boards. We also use Scotland Yard, Clue (we have 2 versions), and Sorry to practice math and strategy. Pictionary is good for art. You can have an entire school day of nothing but board games. Or you can play one board game a day. Whatever re-engages both you and your littles.
Because the weather is turning glum, it might be a good time to get out of the house. You know, we tend to want to hibernate as much as the next bear. Just giving in to that can lead to lethargy. So find some close, cheap educational outlets, and plan a week of field trips. And seriously take them all in one week. When you come back to the classroom the next week, everyone will be recharged and ready to go. Some of the things we have close by are a Civil War battle site, the original state capital, some very cool caves, a glass factory, an art gallery. There it is, 5 free or cheap things to do within 20 minutes of my rural farm! Just think what you could come up with. It might sound extreme to do a field trip every day, but it’s only one week and it can really make a difference.
I have told you before about the Quiet Time Basket I use to calm rambunctious behavior, but Julie over at Homeschooling-Ideas has some fabulous ideas for Boredom-Buster Kits. Seriously, she suggests doing these kits up in brown paper bags. They seem great for things like doctor’s waiting rooms and the like, but wouldn’t it be fabulous if you could grab one when you see a little losing interest in class, hand it to her, and let her re-engage with learning on her own? Um, yeah!
However you decide to beat the mid-year blues, make sure your littles are having fun with it. Sometimes just taking a ‘sick day’ can make a difference. Spend the day baking cookies, watching holiday films, reading picture books together. Do things that don’t feel like learning. Give yourselves a chance to recharge.
And remember. In January, you can be as boring as you want to. They really can’t go anywhere.