Overcome the Homeschool Slump with a No Pencil Day
By Nicki Truesdell at http://nickitruesdell.com/
Many, many years ago, I discovered a trick that would give my oldest daughter a break from “real schoolwork.” She really enjoyed learning but did not like anything to do with writing. So some days I would give her a break from math worksheets with flash cards, or let her spell words verbally to me instead of writing them down. When I saw the immediate change in her attitude from these tricks, I began to surprise her with No Pencil day.
We would take an entire school day and spend the time learning with alternate, hands-on (or hands-off) activities. It was a hit! Most of the activities felt like games, and for her, it was like Christmas morning! It turned out to be a nice break for me, too.
That daughter is now 21 and gladly uses pencils and pens. But her four younger siblings still appreciate a fun break from normal school work.
So how do you accomplish this?
Simple! Look for ways to continue the learning process with any means other than writing or worksheets. The opportunities are really endless, and I’m going to share a few favorites.
The simple list:
· Flash cards
· Verbal quizzes
· Physical activity
· Outings and field trips
These ideas are great for all ages and all subjects. Let me break them down:
Flash cards come in all varieties now, so whether it’s a preschooler learning numbers or a high schooler learning Latin, substitute one day of “work” for flashcard review. We currently have flash cards of States and Capitals , Presidents, composers, artists, famous art, Sight Words, and multiplication. My high school daughter made her own flashcards for French and Latin.
Thanks to the internet, the variety of educational videos available is almost infinite. I’ve created several playlists and subscribed to many YouTubers that offer fun, educational videos.
Then there’s Netflix or Amazon Prime for documentaries and movies. If there’s a movie that ties in with our history studies, we definitely add it to our syllabus.
We have quite a little library of creation science videos and enjoy the 101 series for science curriculum. These are a great break from science books, and my kids are fascinated by them.
For younger kids (which most of my kids are not anymore) we enjoyed LeapFrog and Spot DVDs. Nest Entertainment Videos and Torchlighters are also great!
This is adaptable to all ages and all subjects. Think of old-fashioned spelling bees. Just pull out the list of spelling words you’ve been working on and call them out. Better yet: offer a simple prize for getting a certain number correct. Do this on a regular basis and you can bet those kids will be taking spelling study very seriously.
This works for everything: vocabulary, math facts, geography, science terms, history facts. This is easily made into a physical activity by tossing a ball back and forth while saying math facts, jumping up and down on the trampoline while reciting history timelines, or jumping rope while singing memorization songs.
Music makes everything fun! A couple of ways I like to use music in learning: we love Schoolhouse Rock, and pop it in the DVD player to reinforce science facts, times tables, grammar rules, and American history; composer studies and hymn studies are a nice break from the ordinary, yet are rich in history, art, and even theology. Enjoying popular music from a certain historical period really livens up any study. I’ve been known to play YouTube videos of music from the different decades of the 20th century as part of our history.
I mentioned physical activity in relation to verbal quizzes. But really, anything that gets kids moving, creating, and exercising are beneficial. Take a nature walk, dress in costume to reenact something you’ve read together, and naturally, do some good old-fashioned yard games.
If your kids have morphed into couch potatoes (it happens in every home!) encourage the kids to swing, jump, climb, and run. I’ve pulled out the Wii Sports games when it was bitter cold outside, just to get the kids moving.
Teach them some fun, simple outdoor activities from your childhood school days. Give them some scrap materials to build something. Put up the tent and have a “camp out” in the backyard.
We love learning games around here. I wrote an entire post about it here. With a bit of internet search, you can find a game for almost any age and subject, and still keep the kids learning. (Oh my, check out the Great Homeschool Convention near you this year; you’ll find some really cool games and learning activities by inventive vendors!)
Don’t rule out a standard deck of cards, dice games, Scrabble, Boggle, Monopoly, chess, checkers, and all those games you grew up with. There is a lot of value in these.
· Here’s a great list of math games using just dice.
· How about math games with playing cards?
· Roll the dice to practice vocabulary words.
· Chemistry students can practice with the Periodic Table Battleship
· Play Guess Who Presidents edition
· Check out this collection of great ideas for practicing spelling without paper and pencil at Live Laugh Love and Teach.
· Make a “cootie catcher” to review almost any facts.
· Plant seeds in a jar without soil and watch their progress
· Make Play-doh – just for fun!
· Make History Smashbooks
Outings and Field Trips
Getting out of the house is sometimes what you need to beat the slump. It can be a simple outing, like a day at the park with a picnic lunch, or hiking a local state park. Or, with a bit of planning (even last-minute planning!) you can do something educational, like a museum, historic site, or the library. Make a list of all the points of interest in your town (and nearby towns) and keep it handy for days like this. Many museums are free or very inexpensive. You don’t have to have a planned field trip with a group of 50 homeschoolers to have fun. But you can call a friend and see if they are also free today to join you!
A few ideas that can be done spontaneously:
· Hobby shop, fabric shop, specialty cooking supply, pet store, music instrument supply, or quilt shop
· Airport (park nearby and watch planes take off and land)
· A playground you’ve never been to
· Stroll downtown and read the markers on the historic monuments
· Farmers market (try something new!)
· Antique or craft fair (start conversations with the vendors; they can be so interesting!)
Now that you have a bunch of good ideas, make a short list of what would work great at your house, for your kids. Consider having “No-Pencil Day” weekly, or every other week, or monthly. Make it a “holiday” that the kids look forward to. Do two, three, or four activities and watch everyone’s attitude refresh!
Nicki Truesdell is a 2nd-generation homeschooler and mother to 5. She is a homemaker at heart, and loves books, freedom, history and quilts, and blogs about all of these at nickitruesdell.com. She believes that homeschooling can be relaxed and that history is fun, and both can be done with minimal cost or stress, no matter your family’s circumstances. Nicki is a member of the Texas Home Educators Advisory Board. She also teaches ESL online from home. You can follow her on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest.
By Nicki Truesdell at http://nickitruesdell.com/
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