Written by Caitlin Fitzpatrick Curley of My Little Poppies
This fall was bonkers, you guys. In early October, I wrote an article about how this fall was our busiest season yet. I shared our family’s plan for thriving- rather than merely surviving- the busy season.
I am happy to report that we are on the other side of the chaos… and we [mostly] enjoyed our crazy-busy fall. We are, however, looking forward to a slow holiday season.
Unlike the last few months, our winter schedule has plenty of white space and we are going to relish the margin.
With the holidays- and the holiday madness- on the near horizon, I thought it would be helpful to share my top 10 tips to help with a busy homeschool season.
These are the tips and tricks that saved our homeschool bacon these past few months. If you have a wild holiday season on the docket, these ideas may work for you!
1. Routines, meal planning, chore charts, books, nature, a Discman…. and family dinner.
Yes, this first suggestion is a bit of a cheat. These are the strategies I used to help our family thrive this fall.
I wrote about each one in this article and I encourage you to head over and read it.
I am including them here because they worked! I am proud to report that we plan to continue with each bullet point throughout the winter months because they have become part of our family’s routine.
Now, on to the items I didn’t include in last month’s article…
2. Coffee and Books
I often say that the best ideas are the simplest ones and that is definitely the case for Coffee and Books!
This ridiculously simple morning routine was born out of a busy homeschool season and it has become our most treasured family tradition.
We often think of reading aloud at bedtime, but I have learned to start our day with a read-aloud. Why? Because reading aloud is the single most important thing you can do in your homeschool.
I’ve written extensively about Coffee and Books before, but here are just a few reasons why I love this tradition:
- I can cover any academic subject during our morning read-aloud time. If I feel we’ve been slacking on history, I’ll grab a stack of history picture books. If math has been causing tears, I’ll sneak in some fun math picture books. Coffee and Books allow for stealth learning at its best!
- This tradition levels the playing field for children of different ages. When you read-aloud and take the time to discuss questions and content, readers and non-readers benefit.
- Reading aloud while your kids are eating means that you have a captive audience!
- Read-aloud time can boost connection with your children and connected kids tend to be more cooperative!
3. Audiobooks on the road
If you’re in a busy homeschool season, you’re likely spending a great deal of time in the car. I am flabbergasted with the amount of reading we accomplish by listening to audiobooks in the car. One of our favorite things to do is to listen to a book series on audio together. Here are a few we’ve enjoyed:
(Psst! Want to check out everything we’re reading? Or, almost everything? I have a living list here.)
4. Puzzles and podcasts
I love this one for the witching hour. Do you know how you often find yourself scrambling to get dinner prepped and on the table? And it seems that children need you more during this time?
I love to distract my kiddos with an amazing podcast and a puzzle.
I’ll set the puzzle up on a puzzle board on the dining room table or kitchen island. This makes it possible for our family to be in the same room together, listening to a favorite podcast.
When dinner is ready, we simply tuck the puzzle board under the couch for later! (Psst! You can make a puzzle board with plywood and some felt floor protectors!)
5. Strew, strew, strew!
When life is crazy, strewing can save the day! If you are unfamiliar with strewing, Kara and I recorded an entire podcast episode about it, but basically, the idea is that you leave educational materials out and about for your children to discover… and then you walk away!
Strewing is a low-stress way to add some stealth learning to your homeschool routine. It works particularly well during busy seasons. Would you like to see an example?
That’s a photo of our super-simple Tinker Kit. I made it for my kiddos years ago (as you can see from the photo).
It cost me a whopping $5 and they still play with it all the time!
We love documentaries over here. I use documentaries as a learning option on crabby days, sick days, cruddy weather days… and during busy homeschool seasons.
You can find documentaries at your local library, Amazon, and Netflix, but my favorite resource is CuriosityStream. I always joke that it’s the best $3.00 I spend each month.
All joking aside, you can check out some of our favorite documentaries here.
In our homeschool, we play board games every single day. They are part of our homeschool curriculum. Time and time again, I have witnessed amazing learning and growth happen through this approach to learning.
Games are fantastic learning tools because they allow children to practice skills in a safe, supportive way… without red marks and criticism.
Games encourage conversation, build connections, and make memories.
And do you want to know the best part? Games allow you to work on those challenging areas while keeping your kiddos happy and engaged. Don’t believe me? Take a look at this photo:
What do you notice? Yes, there is some age-appropriate potty humor. Yes, there are some spelling and grammatical errors. But do you know what I see?
I see a kid who hates writing and is smiling and giving the thumbs-up! This little fella loves Apples to Apples Freestyle and, as his homeschool mama, I love that he’s working on writing in a fun, low-stress way!
I honestly believe that homeschooling can be almost all fun and games. If you’d like to learn more, you can check out our gameschool resource page.
It has everything you need to get started including an extensive list of games by academic subject and category!
8. Outsource with online learning
When life is bonkers, it can help to outsource. And, lucky for us, we live in an age where so many wonderful and affordable resources are available online.
My kids love online learning! We have used quite a few online resources over the years, but here are three that we are enjoying right now:
What I love about the three above resources is that they often collaborate on lessons so you can create unit studies!
9. Lazy Unit Studies
Speaking of unit studies, it would be silly for me to forget to mention our favorite way to learn. We love to follow rabbit holes and surrender to delight-driven learning with Lazy Unit Studies. We follow passions by layering on the learning in the form of books, games, field trips, documentaries, and other creative educational resources.
We learn until we’ve had our fill and then we move on to the next passion. I’ve written about Lazy Unit Studies here before.
I saved the best for last, my friends! Hygge is everywhere right now, and you know why?
It’s absolutely wonderful!
Hygge doesn’t have a direct translation into English, but the closest word is probably coziness. One of the most popular episodes of The Homeschool Sisters Podcast is the one in which we discussed hyggeschooling.
Kara and I chatted about twinkle lights, cocoa, books, games, recipes and other ways to slow down your homeschool and embrace the most hyggeligt time of year.
That’s what our family will be doing until 2020! You can listen to the episode and join the hygge fun here!
Now, it’s your turn! Tell us: What tips do you have for thriving during a busy homeschool season? Share them here!
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