I don’t know what it is about January and February, but I suspect it has to do with the long vacation over the holidays, and maybe the cold weather and the trapped feeling from being indoors more. School feels like such a chore, and life is not quite as “joyful” at times. The kids grumble more about doing their school work and there are more spats between siblings. We as home schooling moms often feel somewhat discouraged and even a little unmotivated at this time of year. How do we as home schoolers fight that slump that seems to come as we get back into school in the New Year? What can we do to keep the momentum going and keep our kids excited about learning?
PRAY! I would say the first thing to do is to pray for God to give wisdom and direction as to what the issues really are. What is truly causing this “attitude” in the kids in and us? Seek the Lord to reveal the root causes. It might be that we aren’t spending enough time sitting at His throne seeking Him (it’s so easy to get out of the habit over the busy holidays). It might be that we need to get refocused on what our goals and purposes for home schooling are. The root cause will be different for everyone. God is faithful to reveal what is causing the discouragement and lack of self-discipline.
CHANGE THE ROUTINE! I think what has helped our family the most over the years is to find ways to “liven” things up a bit! The daily routine that never changes can get a little bit stale and old. I’ve found that adding some fun things into the schedule really helps lighten the mood and return the joy for learning; it even helps as the teacher to have something new to be excited about!
LEARNING STATIONS DAY! One of my favorite ways to have a “fun” school day is to have a day of “stations”. It can be on a Friday after a good week of working hard, or it can just be thrown in randomly when you feel it’s needed. The kids don’t do their regular school work, but rather there are “stations” set up throughout the house that they go to as you tell them. The stations are timed for 10, 15, 30 minutes, depending on the age of the children and their attention span, so the kids move from one station to another as the timer goes off.
The stations can include:
- A math station – with math games or games with counting.
There’s a great website with a lot of games you can make yourself :http://www.mathematicshed.com/uploads/1/2/5/7/12572836/21funmathgames.pdf You can send two kids to this station or else use a game that works with just one child playing a game against themselves to beat their own score. Math Mat is another great option for good physical activity at the same time you do math practice!
- A reading station– have a stack of great books for them to read and a comfy bean bag chair to sit in
- A computer station -they’re always asking to play games on the computer, here’s their chance – just make sure they only play educational games such as “Minecraft” or load a game from http://www.turtlediary.com/ on a specific subject.
- A spelling station – use “Bananagrams” or make a game with a manila folder which has a basketball court drawn on it and a penny to represent the basketball. Then have a list of each child’s spelling words available. Have two of your kids play this game and they roll dice for the highest roll to see who gets the tip-off. The other player reads the word for the first player to spell, if spelled correctly, they move down the court one section to make a shot, or rather, spell another word! If that word is spelled correctly, they score a basket. If they misspell the word, then the ball goes to the other player and the game is played the same way again with the other player. Kids love this game and it’s a painless way to practice spelling words!!
- A Bible station – where they can work on Bible memory verses or play a game with Bible verses such as found on this site: http://www.simply-fun-games.com/bible-trivia-games.html
- A Science station – here you can set up a fun lab experiment that you might find on pinterest or have them do something related to what they are studying in science
- A Geography station – this station can include a scavenger hunt where they have to find specific places you list on a map and time themselves to see how fast they can find them. Or maybe you just want to use a geography game such as “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?”
- A History station – at this station you either have your kids act out something they are studying in history, or they can watch a documentary online or read a good biography about a famous person or some historical fiction from the time period you are studying.
- An Art station – set up a specific art project to complete, or just put out supplies and let them go at it! Some kids will need more direction on this than others.
- Action station– this can be where they have some exercises they need to do, or maybe your kids want to do some sword play with foam swords (http://www.instructables.com/id/Foam-covered-wooden-swords/) – the sword play may be more of a “boy” thing!
- Be creative! What do your kids love to do? Make a station to fit them.
The trick is that these stations are to be fun! Not worksheets or text books. They are games, fun experiments, fun books to read or a favorite computer game. You can use educational board games and send the kids to the stations in pairs so they can play; or find games they can play individually (leap frog, games with manipulatives, learning wrap-ups, etc.) You can use a cooking station for working on fractions as well. Remember that you can only be in one place at the same time, so don’t make your stations such that you are needed at every station to help, unless you plan to have all your kids go through each station at the same time.
If it works out, you can even make the stations fit with what they are currently studying in some of the subjects, but don’t make that your focus or you might get too frustrated to make it happen. Yes, it takes some extra prep time for Mom, but the results and the joy it brings are so worth the effort. Our kids loved these station days!
EXERCISE: if you live in a colder area of the country, such as we do, this can be tricky. But there are plenty of outdoor winter exercise options such as sledding, snow tubing, skiing, etc. Or maybe this is the time to get a membership at a gym. Many YMCA’s offer a homeschool gym class. Finding a way to let off some steam and get some exercise is important in these winter months. It’s good for the body and the soul!
MAKE SCHOOL FUN AGAIN! To beat the January/February slump and restore the joy of learning you need to put some variety in your school days. It can be a fun field trip or it can be a focused unit study for a couple of weeks. It helps to break the monotony of the school books and also bring back the fun of learning. It’s nice to include another home school family in the fun as well if you have a friend who is also going through the school doldrums.
Wishing you a wonderful New Year with great learning opportunities and fun times with your children!
Please share some ideas of what has worked for you to help your family out of a homeschool slump!