One Foot Outside the Box

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By Kim Jaworski, Homeschool Resource Specialist

I’ve been doing Creative Curriculum workshops in the homeschooling community long enough now that I recognize the various expressions. It’s easy to get so caught up in curriculum and workbooks and planning that it becomes burdensome. You get bogged down and start feeling like the whole thing has become a chore. Then I’m standing in front of the group talking about fun games and activities and the shunning of text books. They look at me like I’m Pippi Longstocking telling them to scrub their floors with scrub brushes strapped to their feet. Eyes widen and moms wonder “could it be like that? Could it be fun? Could we let go of the text books and still be sure we’re learning?” The room dares to imagine a different path than the one they’ve been slogging along.

Then a shift happens. A few in the room are ready to leap to a new path. Ready to jump outside the box with both feet – even barefoot, kicking those shoes off as they jump. Their faces are bright and their eyes excited for this new adventure. But the rest hesitate and doubt clouds their hopefulness. I get that. I understand that deviating from what you expected homeschooling to be like is unnerving for some. But, there is a solution to your fears—you can homeschool with one foot securely in your comfort zone, and the other foot outside the box. A safety net for those who can’t make the jump. And I promise it won’t be scary and your kids will still learn. Maybe they will even learn better!

Here are some strategies for straddling both worlds.

Math Games to introduce a topic- then worksheets in the days that follow. Let the textbook lay out the progression of skills, but pick a dice game or other activity to kick off the math topic. Play for 20-30 min, and you’ll see how they pick up the idea more quickly. (see my listing of easy math games for starters).

Use a movie, documentary or online field trip to kick off a new topic in science or social studies. Learning about the westward movement and pioneers of the Midwest? Watch a couple episodes of Little House on the Prairie. Planning to study volcanoes? Kick it off with a documentary by NOVA on how they monitor volcanic activity and predict eruptions. Beginning a study of the human body or our digestive system? Watch the Magic Schoolbus gets Eaten or Inside Ralphie.

Time to learn about grammar and parts of speech? How about a day playing madlibs and watching a couple Schoolhouse Rock videos? (Lolly lolly lolly, get your adverbs here!) Then tackle those worksheets.

It’s easier than you think to capture a child’s imagination and steer it down a learning path, but you have to be ready to go there yourself. For additional inspiring ideas read my archived blogs or check out the resources page of my website. Incorporate just one or 2 new ideas until they feel comfortable, then add another. You can do this in baby steps- with or without your shoes.