I was going to title this post “Don’t Be Boring” but that sounded kind of harsh. Plus, psychologists tell us it’s good to frame things positively if possible. (You know… like when you calmly encourage your toddler to “use the markers on the paper” instead of yelling “DON’T DRAW ON GRANDMA’S FACE WHILE SHE’S SLEEPING!”)
So, whether you think of it as trying NOT to be boring or trying to BE interesting, the point of Tip #5 is to make life and learning fun!
In a way, this tip overlaps with the first four tips we’ve already covered. In order to make your homeschool interesting you need to:
- Know what’s interesting to your child (Tip #1)
- Know fun ways to focus on your topic (Tip #2)
- Use intriguing hooks to encourage curiousity (Tip #3)
- Use surprises to keep things fun (Tip #4)
Of course, we all want to be interesting. I don’t think anyone WANTS to be a stick in the mud. But sometimes, when I’m not careful, I slide into ruts and predictable patterns that make our homeschool much less fun than it could be.
Several friends of mine are great at being interesting. They’re about as far from boring as you can get. They plan cool field trips all the time. They run with their kids’ child-led interests in a free-spirited, I-could-do-this-all-day kind of way. They’re just so FUN!
For me, being interesting and spontaneous just hasn’t come as naturally. I’m someone who loves routines, structure and planning. “Spreadsheets for Every Occasion!” used to be my motto.
Thankfully, over time, I’ve loosened up a little (mostly because I married Mr. Spontaneity and we’ve learned to meet in the middle).
I’ve seen how much better our homeschool experience is when we mix planned and spontaneous fun stuff in our days and weeks. Of course, we still have our routines and work that needs to be done. But I’m here to tell you it IS possible to work hard, be responsible, learn a lot and still enjoy life, too!
Here are some of the ideas I’ve used to spice up our school and keep things interesting:
We’re all designed to be part of community. Besides the obvious fact that friends make life more interesting, you’ll find that being part of a group will help make your homeschool more interesting, too. You’ll share ideas, try new things, invite and be invited to outings and find out about events in your area.
If you haven’t already, join some kind of homeschool group or co-op or find a few homeschool buddies and start your own regular meet-up! A good starting point for your search is the growing list of homeschool classes and co-ops listed by state on The Homeschool Mom.
Games are an easy way to add interest to your homeschool days. Most board games have at least some educational or social benefits. Many are great for providing extra practice in certain subjects (math, for example). But even games with very little redeeming value can still be a fun brain break on a boring day.
If your co-op or homeschool community group doesn’t already have board game classes or meet-ups, consider starting one so you can make games a regular part of your week.
Get Out More
Sometimes I forget I have the freedom to include gym, exercise, playdates, recess, and outdoor play whenever we want!
Do whatever it takes to get your kids out of the house at least a few times a week. This doesn’t have to mean complicated field trips or expensive outings. Just reading on the front porch, riding bikes to the park or hiking with friends can be enough to keep from feeling cooped up at home.
Besides being great for building family unity and making memories, traditions are an easy and effective way to add interest and anticipation to your homeschool (or any home or group, for that matter).
Our first day of school tradition includes taking pictures, eating ice cream and swimming at our local pool on it’s last open day of the season. It’s nothing complicated but the kids love it!
I think our winner for most-anticipated tradition is our Leap Year letters. Back on February 29th, 2016 we wrote notes to ourselves and sealed them up. The excitement is already building for Leap Day 2020 when we get to see what our past-selves wrote and write new letters for 2024! I had no idea it would be such a big deal to my kids! It just goes to show traditions don’t have to be complex or expensive to work!
Some days you just need to laugh so you don’t cry. We’ve had our fair share of days like that and I’ve found that silly goes a long way to break the tension.
Our favorites distractions are YouTube videos (our current favorites are Kid Snippets, Simon’s Cat and Miniscule), joke books (we love Garfield though he’s not the best role model) and goofy songs (like those by Weird Al or the Bad Lip Reading songs on YouTube (parents should definitely preview these since they’re not all appropriate for kids).
Internet memes (like Baby Shark or, for those of you in my generation, Hamster Dance) or YouTube clips of family-friendly comedians like Brian Regan are always fun, too. And don’t forget the oldies like Abbott & Costello’s “Who’s on First?” routine – classic!
Say “Yes” When You Can
Sometimes, especially if I’m in a time crunch or a bad mood, I’ve been known to say “no” to my kids requests almost automatically. As in…
Kids: “Mom, can we watch a 10 minute Minecraft YouTube video before we start history?”
Kids: “How about after we finish history?”
Kids: “When do you think we — “
I hate to admit it, but sometimes I’m just wrapped up in my own internal thoughts and plans for the day and I don’t even really hear them out. Other times, I fear that letting them finish another chapter or take a quick break will break our focus and we’ll fall behind with our work.
But, though it’s kind of counter-intuitive, sometimes saying “yes” to little extras throughout the day makes things go faster and smoother. I’m NOT saying give in to every Oreo and video game request they make! But if they’re being responsible with their work and there’s not a good reason to say “no” – then why not add little joy to their day if you can?
Mix Things Up
I love efficiency. If there’s a way to streamline a job or save time on a project, I’m all for it. But when it comes to education, the most efficient approach often isn’t the best approach. “Efficiency” in teaching can quickly turn into a factory-like setting where boxes are checked and real learning is sacrificed.
That’s not to say try and be inefficient (believe me, I’m the last person that would ever tell anyone to waste time)! But I’ve found it incredibly helpful for our homeschool morale to mix things up from time to time.
Surprise your kids with treats, stickers or special outings. Let them pick what subject to do next even though it’s not the usual order. Try reading together in a different spot than usual. Make a tent and do math in there one day.
It’s fun to be fun! So think outside the box to make your homeschool even more awesome than it already is!
I hope this idea and the other tips in this series have been helpful, but don’t feel like you have to be doing all of this to be successful! A lot of homeschooling is just trying things and narrowing down what works best for your family and your kids.
Take the ideas that work, leave what doesn’t and homeschool on!
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