Let Us Take the Lead From Our Children

Winter is getting ready to pack its bag and spring is just about sprung here in beautiful British Columbia.  The sun is out, the crocuses have bloomed, and the children are beginning to rev-up their outdoor spirits, sometimes while still inside the house.  Their hearts are restless and their bodies are ready to get outside and romp and run.

It is during this time of the year that we homeschooling moms experience burnout and find we need to take a break or at least deviate from our everyday learning routine.  Why?  Well, most likely because we have forgotten that we too are still children at heart.  I know that wasn't the answer that you were expecting but it's true.  We spend so much time reminding ourselves of how important everything we are trying to do with our children is that we forget that we too are "children," children of God that is.  We forget that we too need to mix things up a bit and change just like the seasons.  After working six months with our children, we see the fruits of our labour (or sometimes just our labour, with our younglings acting like fruits) and wonder how we can make things more or less different.  How can we make it more fun, more manageable, more organized, more fun, more productive, more task-oriented, more fulfilling, more fun, more efficient, more relaxed, and did I mention more fun?  If FUN isn't a word that you use often to describe your homeschool, then you need to mix things up a bit--even if you weren't aware that you did until this very moment.

Perhaps we know that we are in need of a change but just don't know how to go about doing it.  Maybe we want to abandon what we were doing but feel guilty because we have invested so much time in it already, or gave so much of our energy preparing for it or money purchasing it?  We sometimes have the obscure thought that we are failures because we just can't seem to make something work for us.  We then start to feel bleak about our journey and about our skills as the imparters of wisdom.  This need not be the case.  Why not take your the lead from your children?  Just get outside - the Box that is!!

Many times we get caught up in our curricula, the programs we are with (or not), how other HS families are doing something, learning outcomes, and the gazillion other activities that we participate in on a regular basis.  Wait just a moment.  Are we able to put Christ at the centre of our learning when we have all these other things on our mind?  Can we even hear what He is trying to tell us in daily prayer?  Do we even still have time for daily prayer?  (Yes, this happens to us all at one time or another on our HS journey.  And if you say it has never happened to you, then you may be in need of more help then you’re willing to admit.)  Is this you?

"We used to pray in the morning but things got too hectic with swimming lessons, the preschooler wanting to “do school” too, and the science co-op, so we switched to an evening devotional time that we swore we would do as a family.  Well that lasted all of two nights and then the in-laws came for tea, the youngest caught a cold, portfolios are due, and I fell asleep saying the ‘Our Father’ with my scriptures open to the same passage I’ve been trying to read for three nights straight . . .Whew!"

Our Lord is asking us to stop, take a breath, and notice the new life that He is creating around us right now as we speak.  This phenomenon is also known as spring.  Our children know exactly what to do with it.  They embrace it, love it, and revel in the fact that it is something different than has been for the past few months.  (Almost six months in some parts of Canada!!)  We are called to embrace changes in our learning as well.

If we ever expect to develop children who love to learn and yearn to do it for the rest of their lives or perhaps even teach their own children to learn one day, then we need to make learning fun, mix it up, and do things one season at a time.  Save the inside stuff for the fall and winter but for now get on out there and do something filled with life and spirit. Get outdoors and do things some "school days."  Add life to your inside lessons by doing things differently.  Dare to be unconventional by fusing fun with everything you do.  Make it your mission for spring: Put fun back in your learning.   Need some help to getting started?  Here are a few ideas to help you mix things up:

Do hands-on science in the kitchen. Resolve to do one science experiment a week of your child’s choice.

Start taking nature walks and keep a nature notebook.

Create cheap life sized murals. Get a large piece of butcher paper.  (You could also use newspaper end-rolls gotten very inexpensively from your local newspaper.  You worst case scenario is to tape together a bunch of standard size pieces of paper to create a mural sized work space.)  Create murals on the driveway or pinned up to the back fence.  Pin up your paper and let the children paint what they see starting to bloom in your yard or garden.  They could even be inspired by something they are studying in science or country they are learning about in geography.

Create an outdoor nature scavenger hunt. Have the children affix their treasures to your mural sized piece of paper.  Bird feathers are beautiful.  Leaves, fallen petals, sand, even tiny pebbles make a wonderful collage for them.  Hang it in their room when it’s finished.

Paint on your bay windows. Let your budding artists learn about colours (colour wheel, neutrals, hot, warm, etc.) by having the children finger paint or paint using a brush on the living room or kitchen bay windows.  Use powdered tempera paint (you mix it yourself with water) for thick, less opaque displays and use washable poster paints for others.  You could create a family Easter mural together as you learn about what colours go together, can be mixed together etc. Voila!! You now have instant decorations for the season.  Have them wash it up after the season with a bucket of fairly warm water and a rag.  Put down a few layers of newspaper on the floor/carpet to catch any drips.  Once it’s off, just go over with your preferred window cleaner and newspaper.  Wow, this spring cleans the windows at the same time!

Leaf press designs are nice to do in the fall as well.  Just dip and press against the glass.  Anything could be put on your windows.  Just remember that everyone on the outside will see your creations and the creations will appear mirrored from the outside.  [I have been painting on windows for about 20 years now and this always brings a smile to my children’s faces.  This can be done for any season.]

Have your children practice some drama fun using fairy tales, stories and classical music. My youngest loves the classic radio/TV show, The Lone Ranger.  So one day I put on “Cavalry Charge," finale of Rossini's William Tell Overture, which is also the theme characters theme song and recreated a scenario from one of the Lone Ranger episodes.  As the music played, I requested that she act out what I was calling from the scene – get on the horse, trot, gallop, dismount, etc.  She thought it was so much fun.  The same can be done by playing a classical piece of music as you read your child’s favourite fairy tale and have then act it out to the mood or tempo of the musical piece.  I swear I have not ever seen Cinderella sweep as fast as she did to the Flight of the Bumble Beeby Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov.  Oh, the children love doing this and request that we do this all the time.  It lets them get their energy out, practice some drama, and hear some new musical pieces all at the same time.

Have your children create, write and deliver a script, dialog, or monolog for a book they are reading or a history lesson they are completing and have them act it out using shadow puppets. This is a great way to merge science (effects of light), language arts (creating the script), art (drawing the puppets), and history (the subject) in this one really fun activity.

Create a weekly Show n' Tell time with other HS families. Rotate homes, bring some snacks for playtime afterward, and let the kids showcase their current projects or work followed by having some good socialization time with other likeminded families.

Have a tea party (or picnic when it is really warm out) where children come as their favourite historian and read a biography that they wrote about the person. The attendees have to guess who each other is.  This is a great, fun way to do history.  You could assign them a historian or they could pick one themselves and have them learn about their person independently.  Don’t have enough children for this you say?  Call another HS family and ask them to participate with you.  KIDS LOVE COSTUMES, PICNICS, AND TEA PARTIES!! (They love snacks too! )

Follow a bee. Need I say more?

Have a birthday party complete with cake on Alexander Graham Bell’s birthday and make tin-can telephones. See just how long you can make your string before the sound won’t travel.  Experiment with different sized cans and different kinds of string or twine.  You could choose any inventor’s birthday to celebrate for that matter!

Design, create, and fly a kite on June 15th, the day Benjamin Franklin was said to have conducted his famous kite experiment.

The Truth is... we are not attempting to do something brand new.  We are just attempting to do something in a way that just doesn't seem to be working for us at this moment in time.  In the "right here, right now," as I tell my children, things just don't seem to be meshing well.  That doesn't mean we are doing something wrong, it just means we have to do something differently.  Studying science, language arts, literature, logic, writing, art, or math isn't new.  If you are a classical style learner, you are all too familiar with the fact that humanity has been studying these subjects for thousands of years.  Even Jesus had to study math.  St. Joseph and Mother Mary homeschooled Jesus.  Did you ever realize that?  Did you ever ponder that wondrous thought?  Jesus was training to be a carpenter by trade before he started his public ministry.  He had to learn math facts.  He had to learn to measure twice and cut once.  He would have had to learn the math fact families, the multiplication tables and long form of division.  Our children, however,  are not always as obedient as Jesus was.  Jesus was and still is the ultimate mentor and teacher, not only for our children but for us as well.  It’s just that our children have already naturally learned to take their lead from the change in the seasons provided graciously and miraculously by our Lord.  God is telling us to mix it up.  Refresh, renew, and rejoice.  Remember that the Lord never asks us to do anything He himself has not already done.

So the next you’re your little one says they  don’t want to do math today, just politely tell them, “If the Son of God did math, don’t you think that we should too?  For aren’t we always trying to be just like Jesus in every way?” - then hand them a jump rope and ask them to skip-rhyme their times tables.

ThatResourceSite.com is a ministry project that was begun in 1998. We are a Catholic homeschooling family from BC, Canada trying to live at the foot of the cross for God's greater glory. Visit our website at ThatResourceSite.com.

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