homeschool

the slump month: how to incorporate play into your homeschool day

The homeschool slump month demands a shift in routine.

Easiest way to get buy-in from the kids when you’re trying to counter the slump month? Incorporate play into your day.

Y’all know it’s the end of February and routine is getting a little too…well, routine. Since this is about halfway into the season of candy, from Halloween to Easter, why don’t we put what’s left to good use?

You might think because I don’t report to anyone about the specifics of our 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. We’ve long since self-identified as enabling our children to have a “self-directed education with a plenteous pinch of mom and dad.”

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 weeks, isn’t everything?)

This might have been my biggest learning curve about homeschool academics: learning to make stuff fun. It took me years to learn how to have fun.

I’ve probably been motivated by these reasons:

  • The kids get bored of routine.
  • I get bored of routine.
  • All those fun Pinterest board activities are lonely.
  • Oh, and because I’ve discovered that changing up the routine actually increases the kids’ 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 using candy on a daily basis.)

Candy-inspired games:

  • Your kiddo doesn’t care for mental math games? They’ll like candy games.
  • Have you tried Smarties word mapping? “Place a red Smarties 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.

Sugar isn’t the only way to make stuff fun.

Non-candy inspired fun & games:

  • The weather channel drive. In the last city we lived in had a weather channel in French and English, only accessible in the car. 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 becomes aware that kids need to keep their fingers busy while listening to a story: painting or drawing or cross-stitching, finger knitting, fashioning play dough or building Lego. Invite the whole teddy bear family to join…

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  • And hey, don’t forget to celebrate the teddy’s birthdays in your homeschool days too…

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  • 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 that meal at home. See who guesses the closest. How much does it cost to plan your next vacation? Budgeting for their sibling’s birthday gifts? Give them empty income tax forms to learn how to do their own taxes.
  • 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? Do you want to reinforce spelling concepts or vocabulary development? Try Scrabble or Bananagrams.

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  • Netflix documentaries. There are a ton of possibilities here. And even a Facebook site for “Homeschooling with Netflix”. Educational screen time needs to be included as sparsely as candy. Kids get bored quickly and irritable with one another, when there’s too much screen time. Try Knowledge Network or Curiosity Stream too.
  • Make an afternoon of Pinschooling. Loads of “learn to read” videos to reinforce phonics. There are beginner French videos. Science experiments recreated. There are art projects for adults and kids.

See the education in your play!

And who else would you expect to recommend play as learning than good ole Mr. Rogers:

“Play gives children a way to practice what they’re learning.” 

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