academics / family life

The post your kids will love: how to incorporate fun into your homeschool day

Since this is about halfway into the season of candy, from Halloween to Easter, why don’t we put all that brain-toasting, yet kid-appealing stuff to good use? And y’all know it’s the end of February and routine is getting a little too…well, routine.

You’d think because I wasn’t directly responsible to anyone about the specifics of my children’s education, I would be hanging out at the local café with books in hand and call that ‘social studies’ (studying society around us). Though there was a six month trial where a discussion at Starbucks did include the words: “We’re not going to ‘do’ studies anymore”, and we really, truly did try unschooling, (probably in February!) I have long since settled somewhere in the middle…somewhere between radical unschooling and classical homeschooling –and I’ve found a fairly comfortable sweet spot.

But with no expectation of submitting regular reports, grading my children’s written work or formally testing their math levels, you would think I would always find a way to make everything fun. Nope. I have often included readings and lectures and workbooks (of course these actually are fun for the first few months). This might have been my biggest learning curve in the academics of our homeschool more than anything: making stuff fun. It took me years to getting around to actually having fun. Years!

I’ve probably been motivated by three reasons:

1. The kids get bored of routine.

2. I get bored of routine.

3. And all those fun Pinterest board activities are lonely.

4. Oh, and because I’ve discovered that changing it up a bit actually increases their interest, comprehension and retention.

I’ve learned to make fun part of our weekly routine.

Candy used in irregular spaces in our home can provide motivation for pretty much any game. Though unless your dental plan has sweeping coverage, I don’t recommend it on a daily basis.

Your kiddo doesn’t care for mental math games? They’ll like candy games.

Have you tried Smarties word mapping? “Place a red Smartie on each verb in the paragraph. Green for nouns. Yellow for articles. Purple for prepositions.” Motivation for grammar study abounds.

Have you tried making marshmallow constellations? Or grape skewered geometric shapes? Marshmallow and twizzler DNA strands can be the beginning conversations about amino acids and memorizing whether guanine binds with thymine or adenosine binds with the other one. Sorry, it’s been a while.

How effective is sugar as a way of increasing interest? I have seen the effects of overconsumption–in me and my kids. Edgy, irritable, hyper. It’s as effective as four cups of coffee on an empty stomach. But as a small bribe, and as you already know, the kiddos will work for it. But sugar isn’t the only way to make stuff fun.

The last city we lived in had a weather channel in French and English, so we’d hop in the van and take a drive around the neighbourhood listening to the weather. (Yes, we really did). I’d brief the kids on a few French words they might hear, like zero…curiously similar to English zero, but with pizazz. “Kiddos you’ll hear the days of the week, numbers, chaud and froid.”

Trying to keep the kids’ attention while working through a read-aloud? I think every homeschool parent quickly comes to awareness that kids need to keep their fingers busy, painting or drawing or cross-stitching, finger knitting, play dough or Lego, when listening to a story. Invite the whole teddy bear family to join…

christmas-2016-february-2017-ipad-119And hey, don’t forget to celebrate the teddy’s birthdays in your homeschool days too…


Play real life math games. Give the kids a recent receipt for a restaurant meal, then get the kids to guess how much it might cost to make a meal at home. See who guesses the closest. How much does it cost to plan your next vacation? Budgeting for their siblings birthday gifts? Give them empty income tax forms to learn how to do taxes (don’t laugh, my husband is actually doing something like this as I write).

Play board and dice games. There are loads of dice and card games that can reinforce basic math functions and fractions too. Anyone want to play Yahtzee? A game of Chess or Stratego for logic development? (My 8 year old son recently won a significant bet with his dad that he could win chess). Do you want to reinforce spelling concepts or vocabulary development? Scrabble or bananagrams…


(I think someone got creative there…)

Netflix documentaries. There are a ton of possibilities here. And even a Facebook site for “Homeschooling with Netflix”. My experience is that intentional educational screen time needs to be included as sparsely as candy. Kids get bored fast, and irritable with one another, when there’s too much screen time.

Make an afternoon of pinschooling. Loads of learn to read videos to reinforce phonics. Have you seen the beginner French videos? Science experiments ad nauseum. Art projects for adults and kids (which I pin like crazy but we don’t seem to get to–there are new seeds to pot).

See the education in your play! And who else would recommend play as learning than good ole Mr. Rogers: “Play gives children a way to practice what they’re learning.” I couldn’t have said it better myself.



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