Written by Kara Fleck.
Whether it is a string of monotonous days, the need for a fresh take on a subject, or a little boredom creeping in, sooner or later almost everyone finds themselves needing some variety in the routine.
While I value dependable routines as much as the next person (maybe more) I know my kids appreciate shaking up our normal daily rhythms from time to time.
As a parent who is in her tenth year of this homeschool journey, I crave variety, too.
10 fresh takes for your homeschool routine
1. Location, location, location. Need a change of scenery? Our backyard picnic table and swing often save the homeschool day.
Move math to the driveway and work problems in sidewalk chalk. Do it in your pajamas and really make the neighbors wonder what you’re up to.
Gather up all your books and spread out on a blanket in the living room, like an educational picnic (real snacks are never a bad idea in my book), blanket fort optional but highly encouraged.
2. Take a break for some fresh air. Rain or shine, there are benefits to getting outdoors every day, even for a short time.
- Take a walk around the block.
- Do jumping jacks while you recite the alphabet or your math facts.
- Stand quietly on the front porch and take a few deep breaths.
- Make sun prints.
- Take a ten minute bubble blowing break.
- Stomp in the puddles.
- Look for rainbows after a storm.
- Build a quick snowman.
- Search for animal tracks in the snow.
3. Follow the rabbit trails. Don’t chain yourself to the schedule. There are so many interesting ideas, names, and places to learn about.
Take a week and watch that mini-series. Go to the library and check out all the books you can carry on the subject. Visit the factory and see how it’s made. Learn a recipe, or ten, from the time period you’re studying.
We have the freedom to drop the plans, scurry where our interests lead, dig deeper into what is really sparking our children’s thoughts, so follow those trails!
4. Don’t underestimate the value of a morning spent reading library books and baking.
5. Let your rhythms and routines reflect the seasons. The changing seasons are literally a living nature study.
Right now it still feels like summer. We haven’t been starting lessons until 10 a.m., allowing for lazy day sleep-ins. There are glasses of lemonade on our table and the wide open windows allow the cicadas’ song to filter in.
Last February, when the days seemed endless, we took every Friday off for an extra day of hibernation. Many winter mornings find us bundled in blankets on the sofa reading, sipping cocoa, woolly socks on our feet.
6. I know in some seasons of life they are easier to plan than others, but a field trip is a wonderful way to enrich a course of study, shake up the routine, and get some real world experience.
If you can’t actually get out there, take a virtual field trip.
7. See other teachers. My husband is more patient and proficient with certain subjects, so after dinner math time with him a few nights a week is a part of my highschooler’s routine.
My second grader recently discovered that the family cat is a patient friend to practice reading aloud with.
In my extended family we have a wildlife biologist, an entomologist, an electrician, beekeepers, an English teacher, and more. All people who love our kids and are happy to share what they know.
This isn’t even yet considering the people in the community, like our art club teacher, theater director, athletic coaches …
8. Adjust the assignment. Originally my son was going to draw the animals he has been studying but instead he’s been sculpting them in play doh. He’s enjoying the hands on creativity and I’ve been loving what he comes up with.
Does it have to be a written report? Could your child give an oral report instead? Or draw a comic? A scene in Lego? A dinner time round table discussion? If the goal isn’t specifically developing writing skills (and I know sometimes that IS the goal) but you want to gauge your child’s understanding of a subject, there are other ways to clue in as to what is registering and what needs review.
Elizabeth Foss has a list of alternatives to the typical book report that could easily be adapted to many subjects.
9. Learn in a group, across the grades. We started this year with a language arts main lesson block on the parts of speech – a new lesson for my eight-year-old but also a wonderful refresher for my fourth-grader. They enjoyed having lessons together and I enjoyed the two for the price of one teaching time.
10. Finally, let it go. If a subject feels forced or a child is digging in their heels, you might need a time out. Take a break. Try again tomorrow. Or next week. Don’t force what just isn’t fitting.
We once set a subject aside for months when it was causing daily tears and no breakthrough was in sight. When we came back to it my child was ready and things finally clicked, much quicker and happier than before.
What do you do when you need to add some variety to your normal homeschool rhythms and routines? Do you have any favorite ways to break up the days or add fresh perspective to a course of study?