We all get stale. We teachers fall into comfortable teaching ruts and don’t feel the need to put a lot of creative energy into finding new approaches, like we did in the fall. If things are good, by now our family has found a schedule that works, for which we moms are grateful! But our kids start to get tired of the same old, same old. What’s most comfortable for us moms is not always what’s most stimulating to them. So, the reality is that we periodically have to re-up our efforts if we’re going to keep learning enticing, and not test our kids beyond what they can bear.
I’m writing this in that most dreaded of months, February. Really, for me, February has to be the low point of the year. The sense of a “fresh start” that fall brings has long ago worn off. School books are no longer new; workbooks are only half done. Christmas has come and gone; tax return money is not yet here. The days (here in the northeast anyways) are gray and cold, and yet longer. Spring teases me on some days, but it doesn’t really come. I can surf for next year’s curriculum, but when I add it up, I figure out that, really, I’m not a whole lot more than halfway through this school year. The end of May is a long ways off!
Enter hands-on activities. I don’t love crafts, and cooking makes a mess, and workbooks sure are easier than display boards or mounting plays, but all of these are also some of the easiest way that I know of to beat the February dulls. And, they come in a bunch of forms. Let me envision you with some easy ways to add some zing into your February days, ending with a lead up to the one bright spot in the month: Valentine’s Day.
- Sweeten up your days with FOOD! In Tapestry plans, we often recommend that students make salt maps. How about doing one this week, but using cookie dough instead of salt dough, icing instead of Tempera paints to indicate regions, and candies like chocolate chips and licorice to indicate mountains, rivers, or political boundaries? For Tapestry users, you’ll find a recipe and detailed instructions for such maps on your Loom. For you non-Tapestry users, I saw another great edible pick-me-up recently on Pinterest: sugar cookie solar systems! See more here: http://almostunschoolers.blogspot.com/2011/08/giant-solar-system-sugar-cookie.html
- Play with DOUGH! Playdough (bought or home made) makes a great, easy, fun medium to use in switching up lesson for younger students. With it, you can model so many things! Kids can model historic scenes, fashions, hair styles, or historic buildings (like pyramids). Here’s a great idea from http://thecraftyclassroom.com/blog/2011/03/26/geology-crafts, for instance, on using playdough to model the formation of the earth, for instance:
- Display it! For somewhat older kids (independent readers and writers) you can almost always liven things up by turning whatever you’re studying into a display board. These boards are dirt cheap, and challenge your student to present what he’s learning in a whole new way. These can be about inventions, events, scientific theories, literary personalities, or anything else that you are studying!
- Don’t forget the ham! Most kids thrive on drama. Whether they write and act out their own skit, or work together to record a radio play with all the sound effects, or decide to do scenes from Shakespeare, almost all kids like to ham it up (for dads, neighbors, friends, or other relations) if you give them the chance. There’s fodder for the dramatic everywhere you look: stories of famous lives and events abound no matter what your curriculum. Work with your kids to dramatize what you’re learning about, using stuff you have around the house for costumes, and your own supplies for makeup! Below is an old picture from our co-op’s Year 1 production of Trojan Women.
- Spring into spring! OK, so, technically, it’s not spring yet. But it can be in your home! You can sprout seeds, grow Narcissus bulbs, sprout carrots, sweet potatoes, or white potatoes, or clear the decks and get started planing seeds that will become next year’s food for your family in your outside garden. Growing things always liven up our homes, and starting a few plants going gives children a reason to get up each day and look to see how big things have gotten!
These are just a few ideas. Do you have more? Come share! Use the comment button above and be sure to link to your blog if there’s inspiration to be found there! And, if you Pinterest, look me up and go to my “Homeschooling” board. I am constantly surfing for more ideas to add there!