When the going gets tough, the tough get creative! February can be a tough month for homeschoolers. Cooped up inside, coming around the half-way point of the academic year, and the winter doldrums conspire to deflate our enthusiasm and dampen our spirits. Here are a few ways to keep your children engaged and involved learning while overcoming the discouragement so common at this time of year. Don’t forget that having fun is a part of learning, too!
Declare a Reading Week
Set aside the curriculum and workbooks for the week. Spend your time reading instead. The library is a great place to start. Check out stacks and stacks of picture books for the little people. Let the eight-year-old empty the cowboy shelf. And don’t forget to choose a really great novel for you. Don’t pick the books you think you should read. Choose books that you want to read. Encourage everyone to bring quilts and pillows to the living room, set up blanket tents, pop popcorn and read, read, read.
Check Out Educational DVDs
Most public libraries carry educational documentaries and historical productions. Enjoy some PBS and BBC specials. Many children’s books have been turned into film. But don’t turn your brains off all the way. With your children, compare the book and movie pointing out any worldview changes or problems. If you can, purchase or borrow a variety of Moody science films. This movie-fest tactic is particularly helpful the week everyone is fighting off the flu.
Restock the Arts and Crafts Tub
Homeschoolers may not be known as dedicated mall shoppers, but we do succumb to the temptation of arts and crafts suppliers. If you follow a traditional school calendar stocking up on supplies in the fall, the dried up markers and broken stubs of crayons that are left in the box probably aren’t very inspiring to your children. Dollar stores and discount stores (not to mention office supply stores) are great places to stock up on the tried and true: crayons, markers, glue, and scissors. While you are there, peruse the stickers, play dough, and clay selections. If you feel really adventurous, investigate out the new glitter glues and write-over markers. Restock the white and construction paper. Add colorful tissue paper, while you are at it.
When you get home, pull out the arts and crafts books, you know, the ones you bought at the homeschool conference and have never gotten around to using, and put those supplies to good use. Can’t find your arts and crafts books? Search the Internet for paper craft ideas that will keep all the hands in your house busy for some time.
Learn Something New
While you dig through the box of unused homeschool books, keep an eye out for the art curriculum you never seem to have time to utilize. Maybe it is a Spanish or sign language DVD; we all have those purchases laying around that seemed like such a good idea at the time, but that we simply haven’t taken the time to use. Now is the time put them to use. Set aside the structured academics for a few days—it will still be there when you come back—and habla español!
Celebrate Something . . . Anything!
Between mid-February and mid-March, there are three official holidays. Throughout the month, create pink, symmetrical, construction paper hearts, black top hats, and tissue paper rainbows with pots of gold at the end. An online search for holiday arts and crafts will yield abundant possibilities.
Throw a Valentine’s, President’s, or St. Patrick’s Day party, inviting other children to join with yours in celebration. Don’t worry about making it elaborate, but do make it fun. Bake cupcakes and let the children decorate them according to the theme. Choose a traditional craft to create together. Play a couple of simple age-appropriate games together and let the joy of being with others enthuse your souls.
Plan a Romantic Date Night
Sometimes a homeschooling mom needs to fight off the gloom with a little less kiddy time and a little more hubby time. If finances allow, hire a babysitter and dine out at your favorite romantic restaurant. For many years, many young children and a tight budget kept us at home, but we managed a “home date.” Tuck the young ones into bed early, perhaps with books and drawing pads or one of those educational videos. Plan a romantic dinner for two. Go all out: candles, romantic music, and fine china. Be sure to include red meat and chocolate in the menu. And around here, it isn’t extravagant if it doesn’t end with chocolate cheesecake. Enjoy this special time with your husband.
With a few creative, enjoyable ideas, February can become the highlight of your academic year. Let the learning and fun begin!
By Kara Murphy
A wife and mother to ten, Kara Murphy desires to help homeschooling mothers settle into a relationship-based style of homeschooling, overcoming the angst characterizing so many homeschooling moms today. She assists mothers as they disciple their children confidently through real books and real life. Visit her at www.organichomeschooling.com
—Originally published in the Homeschooling Helper e-mail newsletter, February 2009