We have crossed the 2020 finish line (hurrah!) and I think it’s safe to say that we are *all* hoping for a better year. Are you looking for some strategies for a better homeschool year? I’ve decided to dust off this post from the archives. I hope it helps you a little bit as we all attempt to dust ourselves off and march into 2021.
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. Try these simple strategies and have a better homeschool year.
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!
Simple Strategy for A Better Homeschool Year #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 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:
Looking for more strategies to have a better homeschool year via a fantastic read-aloud routine that fuels learning all week long?
Your daily read-aloud is the most important part of your *entire* homeschool day. It’s true!
Homeschoolers are in a unique position when it comes to growing readers because they can preserve the sheer joy of reading in a way that can be challenging in other settings. We can avoid the book logs, book reports, and oral presentations of our public school past. Instead, we can think outside of that public school box and allow our children to show us what they have learned through books in other ways.
And by protecting the joy of reading, we are raising lifelong learners. Because, let’s face it, if you love to read, you can teach yourself anything!
If you are in a rough homeschool season right now, please know you are not alone. And remember: if you read aloud to your children daily, you are doing something HUGELY important! It is the most important thing you can do during the homeschool day.
It almost seems too easy, doesn’t it? The act of picking up a book and sharing a story with your children doesn’t feel like much, but it packs quite the educational punch.
When you read aloud to your children, you are providing them with a reading role model. You are modeling reading fluency, proper pronunciation, and pacing. You are showering them with rich vocabulary, sophisticated language patterns, and you’re growing their fund of factual knowledge. Better yet, you’re connecting with them over the warmth of a shared story and, by doing so, you’re creating pleasurable reading memories.
No one comes into this world knowing how to read. Reading is a skill, and like all skills, one needs to practice it to get better.
Anyone who has ever had a child in music lessons knows this struggle.
My children take piano lessons and now, at 12, 11, and 9-years-old, they love playing the piano… but they didn’t always! The first year was exciting for them but then they hit year two and things got tricky.
They wanted their little fingers to produce the notes they yearned to play, but they weren’t there yet. They bellyached and bemoaned, and begged to quit lessons. My husband, who plays several instruments, knew that they just needed to get over the hump.
And so we stuck with it, despite the complaints, and we encouraged them to practice a little bit every single day. Over that year and the next, things gradually got easier because that practice began to pay off. Finally, those little fingers could string melodies together. The songs were simple and not what they had hoped to play, but it was a start. And it gave them hope and motivation to play more.
Reading is a skill, too, and the good news is, reading aloud provides a bridge. We can read aloud to our children and let them bask in the sheer joy of the experience.
We can protect the joy of reading for our children so that they learn to associate reading with pleasure. While we do the “heavy lifting” for our children, we are showing them why reading is worth it! The more pleasure they experience in their early reading lives, the more they are going to want to unlock that code.
If you’d like to learn more about creating a read-aloud routine that honors your unique family, check out my course, How to Rock THE MOST IMPORTANT PART of Your Homeschool Day.
Simple Strategy for A Better Homeschool Year #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 about 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 of 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)
Here’s another strategy for a better homeschool year: Create Lazy Unit Studies that allow children to dive down rabbit holes and pursue delight-driven learning.
My oldest son has always been fascinated by animals and the natural world. His interests aren’t your typical run-of-the-mill animals and insects. Oh, no. He goes for the more obscure.
You get the idea.
When he was six-years-old, he was obsessed with the Humboldt squid. He talked about it all the time and often pretended to be a Humboldt squid. (This phase was hilarious, you guys!)
I’ll never forget the time I created a Humboldt squid unit study for him.
I kid you not! I found books featuring squid, documentaries that talked about Humboldt squids, a video of a squid dissection… and I even had a craft project!
Once I’d finally found all the books and documentaries and created the craft, I discovered that he’d moved on. In one fell swoop, he went from being obsessed with the Humboldt squid to losing himself- for many, many months- in the world of Greek mythology.
Has this happened to you, too?
As a mom and educator, I know the importance of following a child’s lead.
Children learn so much when we follow their interests! A wonderful way to embrace rabbit holes and follow your child’s lead is through unit studies.
Unit studies have many advantages including:
- The opportunity to cover multiple academic and non-academic subject areas
- Appropriate for use with multiple ages
- Readers and non-readers can enjoy a unit study together
- They help to create a family atmosphere of joyful curiosity and lifelong learning
- The ability to document delight-driven learning for required year-end homeschool evaluations
- The ability to follow a child’s lead and study an area of interest
And then there is this: Traditional unit studies are fantastic, but they can be time-consuming to plan, prepare, and execute. At times, these traditional unit studies can also be costly… especially if you have multiple children and/or your child loses interest halfway through.
Plus, when your kiddos are obsessed with random animals, it is impossible to find a unit study on that topic of interest!
Children are amazingly curious little people. They have unique and varied interests and these interests can sometimes change by the day! They can be hard to keep up with at times. If I had to create a unit study for every interest my children have had, I’d be pulling my hair out!
And that’s why I’ve learned to embrace the Lazy Unit Study. And when I say “lazy,” what I mean is simple.
Want to learn more? Check out The Lazy Homeschooler’s Guide to Unit Studies.
I’ll teach you how to create super-simple unit studies that allow your children to explore rabbit holes and I’ll show you how you can document the learning for those year-end Homeschool Powers that Be!
Simple Strategy for A Better Homeschool Year #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 connections and making memories that will last a lifetime. You are changing your homeschool environment.
You can have a joy-filled, connected homeschool by adding more play to your homeschool day. And 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!
The most fun strategy for a better homeschool year? Gameschooling!
I truly, wholeheartedly, believe that homeschooling can be almost all fun and games.
Now, does that mean it’s going to look perfect? That it will run smoothly all the time? That it will be all laughter and sunshine and hearts and rainbows?
Heck to the N-O.
I do think that we could all be having a lot more fun on this homeschool journey.
The truth is, a playful mindset changes everything. Play has the power to completely transform your homeschool atmosphere and family life.
A playful mindset makes even the toughest homeschool days and the most challenging homeschool seasons (I am looking straight at you, 2020!) easier to bear. Play has the power to connect us, to distract us, and it can help us to tiptoe outside of our comfort zone and try something new.
On a daily basis, I witness the power of play when it comes to growth and learning in our homeschool. Gameschooling has taught my children to read, to make change, to understand probability, to be less competitive, to work on a team, and to grow in confidence.
I have countless stories. I could chat gameschooling all day. Forever, even!
Homeschooling shouldn’t feel super hard or complicated. You can cultivate a family culture of curiosity and joyful, lifelong learning.
And it doesn’t need to look anything like the public school of your past.
If there was a simple, step-by-step method for adding more play to your homeschool day while checking off all of those academic must-do boxes, would you feel comfortable enough to ditch that public school mindset and make delight-driven learning and joyful curiosity a priority in your homeschool?
Well, there is. I poured my game-lovin’ heart and soul into our latest course, Gameschooling 101. I’d love for you to join the fun!
I would love to show you how to add more play to your homeschool day. I’d love to teach you the ins and outs of gameschooling and how you can make it work for your unique family.
And guess what?
You DO NOT need an overflowing game shelf to be a gameschooler. It’s true! I’ll teach you how to gameschool with just a few basics- I’m talking a deck of cards and the internet.
Join the fun today and have more fun in your homeschool starting tomorrow!
If you are interested in learning more about gameschooling, check out our resource page or sign-up for our gameschooling updates and free family game night guide. And definitely join our free Gameschool Community!
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!
- How to Make Read-Alouds Memorable in Your Homeschool - January 17, 2021
- Rock Your Read Alouds with This Simple Trick - January 16, 2021
- Does a game need to be “educational” to teach something? - January 10, 2021