By Parrish Mort, Cartersville
Originally published in the January-February 2015 VaHomeschoolers Voice
It’s January. It’s cold outside and I don’t feel like going anywhere. I am feeling the midwinter blahs and so are my kids. We’re antsy and no one is motivated to do book work. So what can we do to spice up the dreary days? Here are a few suggestions that helped my family homeschool through the fatigue that sometimes comes with repetitive homeschooling and through the days we just felt unmotivated.
Some days are just better suited for curling up on the sofa with a blanket and bowl of popcorn. But don’t fear, these are not lost school days; lots of movies have educational value. The Journey of Natty Gann will teach you about the Depression Era. To Kill a Mockingbird is a decent representation of the book. And many great Shakespeare plays have been done as movies, including some modern takes on Shakespeare like 10 Things I Hate About You, which is loosely based on Taming of the Shrew. Watch a movie from the ’80s and you will likely introduce your kids to technology (and fashion) they may never have seen or heard of. Or sit around in your bathing suits imagining warmer days and watch movies on coral reefs. Prefer the movie tie in with your current studies? No problem. The Internet is full of movie lists by topic and with a bit of looking, you are sure to find one that relates to your subject.
Exercise is a great way to re-energize your body and mind and to shake off the blahs. Clear the center of the room and challenge your kids to a hula hoop contest; turn on music and have a dance party; or hook up the Wii and go bowling or log hopping or play baseball. You’re not skipping school; you are banking some PE hours.
Pull out the arts and crafts bins, the messy paints, and the modeling clay, and spend the day creating. You might allow everyone to be led by their inner muse, or you might assign a project related to your studies. Perhaps it is to paint a portrait in the style of the Renaissance Era or practice Chinese calligraphy. Either way, creative juices will hopefully flow and wash away the doldrums.
Tired of the cold? Trick your brain by throwing a luau. Put on summer clothes, turn on lots of light, crank up the beach music, and play limbo. You might even slather on a bit of sunscreen to give that beach smell to the event. Then pull out the atlas and check out the geography of the Hawaiian Islands. Play with your kinetic sand or take out those shells from your last beach trip and identify the various types. Enjoy a luau feast—teriyaki chicken with pineapple, barbecued pork, chicken long rice, and Hawaiian sweet potato pie. After your feast, visit YouTube to learn a hula or a few words of Hawaiian.
Game days are lots of fun, whether it is with just your family or with friends, too. And besides the fun, game days can be super educational. Yahtzee reinforces addition and multiplication; Upwords, Scrabble, Bananagrams, and Boggle are great motivators for improving spelling and vocabulary; Axis & Allies, Stratego, and chess teach strategy and forethought; The Settlers of Catan explores history, while On Assignment with National Geographic provides a geography lesson. Other games, like Scattergories, Catch Phrase, and Scan, sharpen skills like visual and auditory processing speeds.
Mental Health Day
Sometimes what we need to recover from the drudgeries of winter days or too many intense days is a mental health break, a day to rest and reset our minds. It might be a day spent sleeping in, reading, or even watching mindless TV. It is a day meant to give us a mental break from life so our batteries can recharge.
Field Trip at Home
Ice on the roads or many days of heavy rain can keep us home but it does not mean we can’t go on a field trip. Many historical sites and science centers have now created electronic field trips. They often provide a virtual tour of the site with both a written and an oral narrative. Many provide lesson plans, resource lists for additional studies, and online educational games. The National Park Foundation offers electronic field trips that allow you to “visit” national parks across the country. Colonial Williamsburg is another great place to visit by electronic field trip. They offer live streaming of field trips and also have past field trips archived for later viewing.
Don’t mind the cold? Then take advantage of the winter weather with some winter science explorations. Catch snowflakes on black construction paper, create an ice candle, track animals in the snow, freeze a bubble, make snow cream or maple candy, or fabricate your own icicles.
You can travel abroad right from the comfort of your sofa. Choose where you would like to visit, then write their tourism board for brochures and posters. Read about the people, geography, food, and festivals. Take virtual trips to their museums and historical sites. Watch a travel video on your destination. You may choose to do this over the course of a day, a week, or several weeks. End your trip with a day of celebration. Plan a meal of traditional food, play a game popular in the country, and make a craft. You might consider inviting friends or extended family over to enjoy the feast and hear about all you learned in your travels.
This idea is similar to Travel Abroad in that you set aside a day that will be all about a specific topic. Maybe one week it is about horses and the next it is about robotics. Favorite Things Day might include watching movies or online videos, reading a book or magazine or drawing pictures, making a collage or some other topic-related craft. You might choose to write your own topic-based story or report while having theme-based snacks.
Many folks collect ideas for cool science or art projects, a great looking book or history activity they might want to do “sometime.” Stop and make today “sometime.” Choose one of those random ideas and throw it into your day.
The best way to turn blah days into ahh days is to grant yourself permission to mix things up, to take a break from routine by engaging in something different.
RESOURCES FOR EDUCATIONAL ACTIVITIES
The Ultimate Book of Homeschooling Ideas, Linda Dobson
Series by Peggy Kaye—Games for Math, Games for Reading, Games with Books, Games for Learning
Series by Caroline Feller Bauer—Leading Kids to Books Through Magic, Leading Kids to Books Through Puppets, Leading Kids to Books Through Crafts
Series—A+ Activities for 2nd Grade—books available for different grades
Williamson Kids Can! series—Includes Fizz, Bubble & Flash!: Element Explorations & Atom Adventures for Hands-On Science Fun!, Gizmos & Gadgets, Super Science Concoctions, The Kids’ Book of Weather Forecasting, and more. Includes cartoon narratives, fascinating facts, experiments, projects, and pondering questions.
Make It Work! series—collection of models and period costuming for each themed title. Titles include Ancient Egypt, North American Indians, Japan, Stone Age People
Kaleidoscope Kids series—Each book is theme based and geared toward 6- to 12- year olds. They include narratives and many dozens of hands-on activities. Specific titles include Knights & Castles, Pyramids!, Ancient Greece, and more.
American Kids in History series—Filled with projects, games, activities, and recipes appropriate to the time period of the title. Titles include Colonial Days, Pioneer Days, Wild West Days, and more.
Hands-On History series activity books—Includes arts, crafts, cooking, and historical aids.
About the Author
Parrish Mort homeschooled her two children for 16 years. She is currently the executive director for The Organization of Virginia Homeschoolers.
Originally published in the January-February 2015 VaHomeschoolers Voice.
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