10 Ways to Freshen Up Your Homeschool Routines in the New Year
As you think about your plans for the new year, homeschool changes will likely be on the top of your mind. Afterall, your child’s education is one of the most important things you do. Here are some ways you can give your homeschool the feeling of newness without throwing all your current routines out the window. Pick and choose the ideas that fit your needs right now.
1. Add something in
Sometimes after several months of following the schedules and routines we set up in the fall, we realize we have room for a little bit more. Yay! There are usually things you decided against due to lack of time. You weren’t sure where to fit it in the schedule, but now you can see there is space.
If you find that you have space, add something in. What? Well, I have several ideas of fun and interesting things to add to your days below. But remember, it is also ok to add in curriculum. I will be getting spelling books for two of my older kids. And I will need to order the next level of Latin for my two high schoolers as they are flying through the curriculum at spectacular speeds. What I thought would take them two years is clearly going to be done in one.
2. Take something out
On the other side of things, you may have spent all your fall days struggling to keep up with your schedule and eventually falling behind. Now is the time to admit that some things are just taking longer than you planned and you need to cut something. It could be as simple as changing the way you use a curriculum source so that it takes less time. Maybe your child answers questions verbally instead of writing them out.
Think about how much extra time you need to create in your day. Then, think about the small changes you could make to different subjects that might help you recover those extra moments you need. If you need a more dramatic change, don’t be afraid to throw a whole subject into the ‘not this semester’ bin.
Think about it. Your child has 12 years to learn what they need to know. Many subjects simply do not take that much time to learn. It takes 12 years only because the school system needs it to take 12 years, not because kids need it to take 12 years.
When deciding what to cut, just make sure you cover the skills your child needs to be working on daily. Reading, writing, and arithmetic create the strong foundation kids need to become fast learners as they get older. Don’t forget things like fine and gross motor skills. Content, on the other hand, can be cut for a time without affecting your child’s future.
Too often, when we cut things out, we start stripping all the fun and beauty out of our homeschools. Barebones does not need to be boring. Keep your kids’ favorite subjects, and keep the fun and beauty. Drop something that isn’t working and no one wants to do anyway.
What if math is the thing none of you want to do? It’s okay to “drop out” of your math curriculum temporarily. Even math is spread over more years than it needs to be, and as much as we fret about getting behind in this subject, sometimes the best way to move forward is to take a break, do something different, and come back later. Sometimes kids are just not developmentally ready for the next concept in their math book. Consider doing a math unit study or playing games that will work on math facts. Think more fun and less stress. This doesn’t have to cost additional money. Check out Tessellations: A Curated Lesson of Free Resources to see what kinds of things you can do without buying more stuff.
3. Replace the bad choices
Sometimes freshening up your new year isn’t about adding or dropping anything. You just bought a complete dud of a curriculum, and you need to let go of it and replace it with something new. How do you know if the problem is you, your kid, or the curriculum? Well, I can’t tell you if you or your kid are the problem. Your relationship with your child, your child’s relationship to effort, and your expectations all play a key role in the learning process. So, make sure to evaluate those things before you blame all your problems on the curriculum.
However, a bad curriculum can make even that happiest of homeschools a nightmare. If you aren’t sure if you need new curriculum, these posts may help you decide.
4. Make time for art
If you haven’t been doing art lately, January is a great time to add it into your studies. It can be as simple as finding a great drawing channel for kids on YouTube and taking one day a week to go through the tutorial. Your kids are much more likely to enjoy to the process of learning the skills needed if you jump right in with them. When mom’s picture looks nothing like the example, they will realize it is ok that theirs doesn’t either.
Art is great for strengthening observation skills, fine-motor skills, and helps all of us mentally slow down and take the time to appreciate the beauty all around us.
5. Make time for games
Games are a great way to work on a number of skills without feeling like you are working. Open-dictionary Scrabble for spelling. Any game that uses money helps with math skills. All games develop social skills. That’s right. You don’t have to drag your child to that co-op if you would both rather stay home. Just make family games part of your routine, and their social skills will be growing.
6. Make time for This Day in History
There are a number of resources that cover This Day in History. This can be a great way for kids to get some interesting tidbits that are not covered in most curriculum. Adding this in will create a bit of novelty in your homeschool routine and keep the long January days from getting repetitively dull. Novelty is an important motivator in learning; here’s the neuroscience behind it.
7. Make time for documentaries
Another easy add-in, especially if you find you have more indoor downtime in January. They are also a great temporary replacement if you had to ditch either science or history because the curriculum just wasn’t working and you don’t have money to buy a new one right now. There are many great documentaries, and these can add to your child’s general knowledge which is a key to helping them become quick learners as they get older.
8. Get their bodies moving to boost brainpower
One thing that has a lot of power to keep everyone happy and energetic through the cold months is exercise. Whether you are putting on a fun song and doing a little dance, having a jumping jacks contest, or rolling back and forth across the floor, these things are all great for the brain on a number of levels. Physical movement builds the brain in addition to healthy bodies.
9. Play some music
Music is often called soul food. Whatever kind of music your family loves, make sure you spend some cold winter days (or evenings) enjoying it together. Also, don’t forget the potential of music to help with learning. Especially if there is material your child needs to memorize, see if you can find a fun song or challenge them to create their own.
10. When the doldrums threaten, do something unexpected
Most of us have had that day. It hits us in January or February. We just don’t think we can keep going until spring. The kids are noisy and upset. We are exhausted, and the coffee isn’t even helping anymore. When will this winter ever end? When you feel this dread coming on, just nip it in the bud by doing something unexpected. It could be an impromptu ice skating trip, a school spirit week, or a mid-winter break. It could just be learning differently for a week so it still counts as a school week, but everyone feels refreshed by the end. A unit study or gaming week are both fun ways to accomplish a ‘not-break’ break. Maybe you just put on a pot of hot chocolate while the kids are working on their math lessons. Novelty doesn’t have to big. Sometimes including a little surprise every week or two is all it takes to turn those long winter days from dreadful chaos into delightful coziness.
Have a blessed New Year!
Marla Szwast lives in Marietta, Georgia with her husband and six children. She has written articles for The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine. She is the author of Stepping Through History: Starting With You!, and a semester long fifth grade science course. Both courses are published online at the SchoolhouseTeachers.com membership website. She writes about home schooling, child development, neuroscience, and the history of education on her blog at: www.jumpintogenius.com, you can also follow her on Facebook @jumpintogenius, or Twitter @MarlaSzwast, or Medium.