This article first appeared in the Homeschool Journey newsletter, January 2004
January can be a depressing month for many homeschoolers. Panic and guilt lurk just around the corner as well realize that the children have done no math since Thanksgiving, that the last Main Lesson book is still hanging around unfinished and that list of vocabulary words has yet to see the light of day... Beware - burn-out is approaching! Be brave! Call it by name, face it down and relax. Say the following to yourself 10 times out loud: “My children will learn, they are learning all the time”.
The weather - mud and rain or ice and snow - can be extremely unhelpful, and instead of making home seem warm and inviting, makes it seem like a cage. The mall, McDonalds, the TV and video, all seem to call alluringly to us...
Put it all together and it can seem overwhelming. Either we feel like just chucking it all in and watching cruddy videos with the children all day or we start the day by announcing we have lots to catch up on and there’ll be no time to play for the next month at least! Not good choices!
Maybe the thing to do is to let go a little, have a day or two of relaxed fun and, in the odd peaceful moment, check in with yourself and reaffirm why you started this crazy homeschool thing in the first place. Remind yourself of all the good things that have happened and acknowledge, but gracefully let go of, all the not so great things.
Here is a list of activities to keep you sane without resorting to the TV or the mall. Do a few of these things to get you through your crisis and then, once you’re feeling a bit more together, get back to that school work:
- Get some big pieces of paper and masking-tape it to a whole wall. Get the crayons out and make a mural. If you want this activity to last more than 10 minutes, you’ll need to form it: start by telling a story, perhaps of a long journey, and sketch in the mountains or woods or a path...and let the children take it from there - if they’re old enough. Otherwise, draw with them. Other themes could be: how Grandma and Grandpa came to this country; scenes from past family outings; Noah’s Ark; gnomes underground and fairies above ground.
- Get out every blanket you own and rearrange the furniture into one huge maze of tents and tunnels.
- Read a favorite fairy tale, make figures out of clay or beeswax, and act out the story. The Three Billy Goats Gruff is a good one: improvise with a blue cloth for the river and blocks or pieces of wood for the bridge. If you do the Three Little Pigs you can have fun building the pigs’ houses.
- Spend the day preparing a meal from another land. Get music from the library, make a menu, learn how to say please and thank you in the appropriate language(s). Children can decorate the table with flags of the country.
- Dig out photos from when Mommy and Daddy were young and spend the afternoon giggling about them.
- Read a book of pirate stories together (the Barefoot Book of Pirates is a good one) and learn some sailors’ shanties (Rise Up Singing is an excellent resource).
- Get some special window paint (Hearthsong - www.hearthsong.com - carries some) and decorate all the windows and mirrors in your house.
- Learn to play cards - Snap, Old Maid, War and Go Fish! are good ones. Rummy is great for older children as is solitaire. Lucky 13: Solitaire Games for Kids by Michael Street is a great resource.
- Take out some of the children’s board games and help them change the rules and figure out different ways to play.
- Put all the mattresses, bedding, cushions and sleeping bags you have into one huge, safe pile and let your children roll, scream, bounce and scramble. Follow with a quiet activity like a story.
- Let the children take off all their clothes and cover themselves and their siblings with face paint. Finish with a big family bubble bath.
- Curl up on the sofa with cups of cocoa and just read, read, read a really good book and forget about everything else. (Check out the list of great read-aloud books on our website: www.christopherushomeschool.org/great_read-alouds.htm )