Written by Melissa Camara Wilkins.
Some seasons, our interest-led learners are interested in everything. They read, they ask questions, they conduct experiments and plan projects.
But what do you during those other times, the times when inspiration has left the building? What do you do when no one seems interested in much of anything? What if it turns into all pajamas, all Legos, all day? You know what I’m talking about.
Well, first, you don’t panic. You remember that just like a field needs seasons to grow and seasons to rest, so do our kids. So do we all.
Maybe they’re just in a healthy resting period, or maybe they’re learning something through the pajama-and-Lego routine.
Or maybe our days need adjusting. In that case, I try to step back and spend some time in observation mode. I don’t try to change things right away, I just take note of what is actually happening throughout the day.
What are the kids choosing to spend their time on? What are they not choosing? Are they open to other suggestions? Are they engaged in their work or play, or are they bored and grouchy?
I ask myself lots of questions. Why am I uncomfortable with our routine right now? What do I wish was different about this situation? What’s keeping us from that ideal?
Mostly I’m trying to figure out: Are we learning in nontraditional ways right now, or are we stuck in a rut? Is this a phase that will pass on its own, or do I need to shake things up?
And I try to be clear about why I want things to be different, because the WHY is what keeps us moving in the right direction.
Is it because I want everyone to practice active engagement with the world around them?
Is it because I want the kids to practice finding new things to learn?
Is it because I want my kids to practice persevering when something is hard, instead of skipping the tough stuff in favor of activities where they’re already comfortable?
Is it because I want us all to be producing more and consuming less?
Is it because the weather is great, and I want us to be soaking up fresh air and sunshine instead of hanging out indoors?
Is it because our family culture hasn’t been reflecting the truth and beauty and curiosity that is important to us?
Is it something else? You get to decide for your homeschool.
Once I’ve figured out what needs changing and why, I think about how I can switch things up in our environment or our routine to encourage us back toward our ideals.
- If the kids have been uninterested in skill-building activities lately, I might try setting out a learning invitation each day after breakfast.
- If our family culture needs a change, I might refresh one of our family habits. Maybe I need to reintroduce (or be more consistent about) afternoon tea time, or reading aloud, or taking a daily walk.
- I might change our routine. This helps when the kids find themselves doing the same things over and over, but in a cranky, I-can’t-think-of-anything-else-to-do way, not in a focused-learning way. In that case, maybe I’ll suggest a week of writer’s workshop, where we all dive deeply into writing for awhile. Maybe I’ll suggest a pajamas-and-reading day, without any screens or toys. Maybe we need a family game day with popcorn. Maybe I’ll pull out craft things and have a week of maker’s workshop.
- I might change the environment, to spark creative possibility. Maybe we need to reorganize our supplies, or create a new workspace. Maybe we need to rearrange furniture. Maybe we’ll turn our backyard into a clay studio for the weekend.
- I might plan field trips, to try to inspire wonder.
- I might request a bunch of new library books, or invest in a new tool, or investigate new lessons or classes. Online classes are great for this, since they’re available anytime.
- I might get to work on a project of my own, to inspire by example.
- And with older kids, I talk about what’s going on, what their goals are, and if their daily choices are moving them toward their goals or away from their goals.
Or I might figure it’s just the end of winter, the weather is still dreary, and we’ll get back to more active modes of learning as we thaw out.
Sometimes it really will pass all on its own.
What do you do when you need to get back on track?