As I scroll through my Facebook newsfeed these days, the common theme is gearing up for back-to-school. It is that time of the year again. My friends with kids in public school have been busy fighting the crowds to get school clothes and uniforms, driving all over town looking for that elusive special paper or folder that is on their kid’s school supply list, struggling to get their kids registered for classes, or lamenting that it is their last trip to the park or the zoo before the school year is underway. I read (skim, really) quite a few blogs, many of which are written by homeschool moms, and most of those pop up in my newsfeed as well. Again the theme is the same, but they are discussing how to choose the best curriculum, create elaborate notebooks, write up tedious schedules, make beautiful-looking lesson plans with custom-designed templates, decide whether or not to buy homeschool uniforms (which I might add, I do NOT understand), and stay relatively stress-free while trying to get it all done in the next week or so.
Me? I am over here quietly enjoying the fact that we still have almost a full month of summer left! And although I know it will be over in a blink of an eye (because where in the world has the rest of this year already gone???) it will be a smooth and easy transition into the “new” school year, partly because we do school year-round, but mainly because I decided a couple of years ago that our homeschool would be low-key, low-stress, and more fun than work. Sure, I have some preparation to do. Sure, I need to get out my 2nd grade list one more time and make sure we’ve done everything on it that we need to before we start 3rd grade. Sure I have some plans to draw up and some charts to fill in. But I’m not in a frenzy of having to run around town, fight the crowds, or kill myself trying to get a jillion-and-one things done before “school starts.” And I like that. We don’t need school supplies, since we still have plenty from previous years. I don’t do elaborate lesson plans or make fancy homeschool notebooks. I don’t make a set schedule (we wouldn’t stick to it anyway), and we certainly don’t wear homeschool uniforms (unless you count pajamas!) Some people need all those things, but I just need to know that my child is learning, and more importantly, enjoying that learning, as I am preparing him for life. I want school to be fun for him–something to actually look forward to–and not a drudgery. I hated school and I don’t want that to happen to him. I refuse to squelch his insatiable love for learning by letting school get in the way. I think that would be a crime and a tragedy. We have some curriculum, and some lesson books, and we have goals. But we aim to accomplish those goals in unique and fun ways, and we don’t get worried about whether we finish math by the end of May, because hey–we have the summer! And did I mention, we have FUN? We have so much fun, in fact, that many times Nathan has no idea that the things we are doing and learning are even “school.” And I consider that a win!
So how do we make school fun at our house? Let me count the ways…and these are just a few:
1. We snuggle on the couch together and read an interesting book about Abraham Lincoln, the first Thankgsiving, the earth’s core, Jupiter, American Folk Tales, or Antarctica. We get most all of our school books from the library, and our trips to the library are fun, in and of themselves!
2. We play games! I make Nathan the banker in Monopoly and he practices his math skills. Playing Scrabble gives him the opportunity to practice spelling and using his vocabulary. Strategy games like Master Mind and Animal Logic get his mind thinking. Sometimes we see how many times we can catch a ball without dropping it, and we count in Spanish or German. So fun!
3. We watch neat videos on YouTube or look up information online about all kinds of different things–how stuff is made, what makes things work, what certain kinds of bugs and plants look like and what they are called. If we have a question about something, Nathan says, “Let’s look on Google!” And then we do! Just today we looked up the scientific names for several animals.
4. We check out cool documentaries on DVD from the library. We’ve gotten ones about volcanoes, bugs, planet earth, and other neat subjects. I also have a bunch of videos about different music composers that we are going to watch this year.
5. Learning toys can be extremely beneficial and are super fun too! We have the LeapFrog Tag Reader, and the USA map, world map, solar system, and human body packs that go with it. Nathan and I both have had a blast learning to locate different countries all over the world, and he is constantly learning fun facts about those other subjects. He also has a Squishy Human Body that he loves, and he has learned so much about the bones and organs, he is like a walking encyclopedia. Today, he extracted his own DNA using a great kit he has. I would classify any school manipulatives into this category because Nathan considers them all fun.
6. We go on fun field trips. There are tons of museums, historical places, exhibits, and even farms that we can go to for educational fun. It’s great just to get out and see new things! Sometimes we just go for nature walks, or take a trip to the park for some recreation. The picture is of my little man grinding corn at the Log Cabin Village.
7. Educational computer games are also great to supplement learning! I don’t let him spend hours on end on the computer, but I will allow him some educational time on there. He is going to learn to type with the aid of a computer program this year.
8. We tell stories. Nathan LOVES stories. And there is so much learning that can take place through storytelling. Whether it’s summarizing a great Bible story, telling about an event in history in an interesting way, or giving some life lessons through tales of personal experiences, we teach a LOT through storytelling. Sometimes we even use fun voices 😉
9. We work puzzles. Nathan loves all kinds of puzzles, whether crossword puzzles, search-and-finds, break-the-code puzzles, or jigsaw puzzles. They engage his mind, challenge his thinking, and help him with his visual and spacial reasoning skills.
10. We do cool science experiments, make neat crafts, or try new fun, yet educational ideas we find on Pinterest. We love Pinterest to spur our creativity and get us excited about all kinds of new things. Here is a pic of Nathan doing “Contraction Surgery,” a fun Pinterest idea that we tried this past school year.
Almost anything can be fun, if you do it in the right way. Even copywork can be more fun–I saw the other day where a homeschool mom had found several Bible verses for her son to write for his copywork, and they all talked about DRAGONS! I’m totally stealing that idea this year! 🙂
I know there are some who believe that school has to be done seated at a desk, textbook or workbook open, and writing utensil in hand, for a certain number of hours a day, and a certain number of days per year. There are some who believe you can’t teach a child anything unless you have set lesson plans and adhere to a strict schedule, and have rules out the wazoo. And there are some who think that if it has to do with school, it needs to be done in a serious and highly micromanaged way. But I think my child is living proof that those things, and all the stress that goes along with them, aren’t necessary to get a good education! He is ahead of his grade level in every subject. Plus, he is incredibly intelligent, imaginative, well-spoken, creative, well-read, hilariously witty, and of course, a barrel of FUN! I couldn’t be more proud of him.
Instead of dreading back-to-school and stressing out about way too many to-dos, we are both looking forward to having another fun-filled year of learning! And, even though I am having a hard time with my baby growing up so fast, I get to have him home with me every day, enjoying every minute of learning WITH him. I’ve kissed school stress goodbye, and I’m not looking back! Here’s to a new (and totally fun) school year!