Oh, January. I have such mixed feelings about you!
On the one hand, January is the opportunity for a fresh start. It’s a time to reevaluate what is working in our homeschool… and also what is decidedly not working.
It’s a time to try new things and to discard what no longer serves us.
And all of that is wonderful, and exciting, and can be extremely motivating…
… unless it just isn’t.
On the other hand, sometimes, January sneaks up on us. We feel ill-prepared. We are tired, and our motivation is low.
It can be hard to find inspiration when the days are short and dark and cold.
Today, I am sharing three simple strategies for a better homeschool year.
3 Simple Strategies for a Better Homeschool Year
I love September, you guys. I loooooove it!
I’m a sucker for those back-to-school supplies:
- Fresh notebooks that smell like fall.
- Pencils with sharp tips and soft pink erasers. And no chew marks.
- Planners that are crisp and clean and full of hope.
January is like September, but without all the sunshine-and-hope-and-crisp-and-clean stuff.
- The notebooks are half-full, doodled on, and sticky.
- It’s impossible to find a pencil, let alone one with an eraser and a tip.
- The planner is holding steady, but bedraggled- much like its owner.
Add to this the fact that it’s twenty degrees outside, gray, and everyone has been coughing since just before Christmas.
Fortunately, this isn’t my first rodeo. I’ve homeschooled through January before, and I have learned a few things.
Homeschooling doesn’t have to feel hard.
I’ve mentioned before that I struggle with seasonal stuff that seems to get a bit worse every year. I have had my share of tricky homeschool seasons and I’ve learned that this is actually normal.
Homeschooling has its seasons, too.
Sometimes homeschool is all rhythm and excitement and joy, and other times you just have to muddle through the muck until the storm passes.
Today, I am sharing my super simple go-to strategy for when homeschool life is nothing but lemons. It might feel like cheating but I promise you it isn’t.
So much learning happens when we just relax and let it!
Are you ready? Onward!
STEP 1: Start with a book…
It sounds too simple, right?
But here’s the thing- reading aloud is the most important thing you can do in your homeschool.
And, do you know what else?
You can find incredible books on any topic. You can find awesome books to cover all the subjects.
Earlier this fall, we read an incredible chapter book by Jane Goodall.
Do you know how much science my kids learned, just from that book alone? Do you know how many rabbit holes we traveled down, learning about chimpanzees and Africa and conservation and animal rights?
I am completely convinced you could homeschool with just your library card. Truly.
In my world, I start our homeschool day with the easiest thing. For me, that means drinking coffee while reading a book aloud. This tradition was never planned. It was the result of a tricky homeschool season and it turned into a treasured routine.
I call this routine Coffee and Books and you can read more about it here. (I’m also having a free 5-day series to celebrate the New Year. You’re welcome to join in the book-lovin’ fun!)
I highly suggest starting with what is easy. And books are easy because reading aloud is the most important thing to do in your homeschool and because you can cover virtually any academic subject.
You might wake up later. Maybe you prefer tea. Or diet coke. Or hot cocoa.
I also want to take a second to talk about audiobooks. They count, too! Maybe you’re too tired in the morning to read aloud. Why not snuggle up on the couch and listen to a good book together?
My point is- start with what is easiest and go from there. When I start our days with the easiest thing, we all feel better. Moods improve because we’ve spent time connecting in an enjoyable, stress-free way. I find that my children are more receptive to learning after we’ve had this time together.
Psst! Do you need help deciding what to read? By reader request, we’ve started a growing list of our 2019 favorite read-alouds. You can check it out here:
STEP 2: Sprinkle in some related activities…
Once you’ve read a book or three, see if you can add in a related activity.
Sometimes, we put way too much pressure on ourselves.
This doesn’t have to be all Pinterest-crazy, you guys. I’m talking a documentary. Or another book, or an art activity, or a podcast episode.
Delight-driven learning is amazing and it can be so simple. We don’t need to order a unit study off the internet, we just need to embrace those rabbit holes and relax!
Here are some of our family’s go-to favorite resources for extension activities:
- CuriosityStream (documentary streaming service- covers all the academic bases for just $2.99 a month)
- Around the World Stories (audio stories for children focused on geography, history, world culture, and art)
- Exploring Nature with Children (super-simple nature study)
- Field Trip Zoom (virtual field trips)
- Masterpiece Society Studio (online art for children)
- SQUILT (online music appreciation for children)
- You ARE An Artist (chalk pastel art for children)
- Wow in the World (science podcast for kids)
- Tumble Science (science podcast for children)
Quick– but important– sidenote for those interested in CuriosityStream…
Usually, CuriosityStream is just $2.99 per month, which is an incredible value. It is hands-down my most recommended homeschool resource because it’s so affordable and it covers so many academic subjects.
At the time this article was published, CuriosityStream was having an even better deal.
An unbelievable deal:
CuriosityStream is currently having a holiday sale with 40% off all annual plans and gift cards. That means that you can get CuriosityStream for just $11.99 for the entire year.
(That’s less than what we currently owe in library fines. No joke.)
It’s worth checking out, even if you don’t sign up. They offer a 7-day free trial so you can check it out and see what all the fuss is about. You might love it as much as we do!
Do you want to see what we have LOVED on CuriosityStream?
Check out our living list of CuriosityStream recommended documentaries here:
STEP 3: Top it off with play…
If you’ve been following us for any length of time, you knew this one was coming.
Play counts. Not only that, but play matters. Play is the way children figure out their world. It provides them with a safe space to learn and practice new skills.
Plus, when you sit down alongside your children and play with them, you are building connection and making memories that will last a lifetime. You are changing your homeschool environment.
I honestly believe that homeschooling can be almost all fun and games. You can have a joy-filled, connected homeschool by adding more play to your homeschool day.
You’ll never regret those moments spent playing with your children, and your kids will remember them always. Plus, they will be learning! I promise!
I call this approach a “Lazy Unit Study” and it has changed our homeschool for the better!
Sometimes, the best ideas are the simplest ones.
You can change the entire atmosphere of your homeschool by starting your day with the easiest thing, embracing rabbit holes and delight-driven learning, and having fun with your kids.
If you are having a tricky homeschool season, grant yourself some space and make things easier for yourself. I promise you, so much learning happens when we just relax and let it!
Now, it’s your turn. Tell me: Are you in a tricky homeschool season right now? Is January tricky for you? What simple homeschool strategies would you recommend? Share here!
Cait co-hosts The Homeschool Sisters Podcast and is co-founder of Raising Poppies, a community for parents of gifted and twice-exceptional children. Cait is also founder of the Family Book Club at My Little Poppies, a fantastic community of book-loving parents and the Gameschool Community at My Little Poppies, a vibrant community of gameschoolers.
Cait is a contributing writer for Simple Homeschool. Her work has also appeared on The Huffington Post, The Mighty, Scary Mommy, GeekMom, and many others. You can find her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter, Instagram
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