If you have read my article about the Fun Factor in Homeschooling, you know that a lot of our homeschooling was hard work. Perseverance. Stick-tu-i-tive-ness. The daily grind. The day-to-day in’s and out’s. Teaching our kids contentment, work ethic, and study skills.
But we also had fun. A lot of fun. Not every subject. Not every hour. But in balance, we had fun in our school.
I pray that your family can find that fine balance between fun and just plain hard work. Homeschooling is a long, sometimes lonely, and always challenging endeavor.
As I have mentioned before, if we try to make it all fun and games all the time, our children will miss valuable lessons. However, if we omit fun from our homeschool entirely, we risk making everything else look better to our children than home.
Here are a few ways we made homeschooling fun:
1. We always started our day with Bible reading/character reading together–and ended that reading with a fun chapter book that we worked through together. (This was after each person’s morning routine and chore list, usually, and was sometimes during the kids’ breakfast eating.) Everybody looked forward to our continued chapter book readings. I read quite literally hundreds of chapter books aloud to the kids this way, and these are some of our most fond memories of all of homeschooling.
2. While we tried to get curriculum that fit each child’s strengths, interests, learning styles, etc., and I (Donna) did the bulk of the choosing, for extra things, we took the kids with us to smaller conventions (or let them look in a catalog to choose), and they picked out their fun “extras”–including chapter books they wanted to read that year, educational coloring books, audios to listen to, etc. (Yes, we spent a lot on our kids’ school. We live in a very old, tiny, non-fancy house with used furniture and old vehicles with lots of miles. We financially (and time and energy-wise) prioritized our kids’ education and family times over everything else.)
3. While we did many weekday field trips, we didn’t limit our field trips to school days. It wasn’t uncommon at all for us to take a Saturday to go to museums and zoos with Dad or to plan a long weekend vacation museum-hopping in Chicago. The kids knew that their education was important to both Dad and Mom–and wasn’t just something that Mom did, thought about, planned, and carried out.
4. In addition to our morning chapter book, I usually had chapter books going with various kids. I would have one that I read aloud to each of the three olders–plus another that we did as a family with Dad. Everybody worked hard so we could do our reading.
5. I should say after the #4 reading one that we did not have access to television stations or even computers with our olders. We had a big old television hooked up to a vcr–and we limited everybody’s watching to five hours per week (usually together). I need to include that here because when you don’t have television or computers, reading aloud together becomes a fun activity. While I don’t think we should run away from our society (not have a computer, act like technology doesn’t exist, etc.), we recommend highly limiting and controlling it so that the little things in life become sweeter. (See The Fun Factor in Homeschooling.)
6. Read the book/watch the movie. We didn’t do this formally, but we did it quite often. With so many book/movie combos out today, I would make this a homeschool tradition!
7. Add fun subjects. Our kids always got to do extra things they enjoyed like art, music, pottery, sewing, science kits, etc. We tried to expose them to different fun things to see what they were good at and where their interests took them.
8. Make PE a family affair. We tried to do a lot of our kids’ PE at home together. We had other families over to play. But we also just played as a family. We loved making up new games with various sizes and styles of balls!
9. Get cool school supplies. We didn’t do back-to-school clothes shopping, but we did let them pick out their binders, pens, crayons, etc. They weren’t limited to a list from a school with boring “16 Crayola crayons–no more, no fewer”—any style or color or pattern of school supply works at home! 😉
10. As our kids got older, we let them plan their subjects for the next year–and sometimes even choose the books.
11. Also, as our kids got older, we let them plan their school schedule/order with us for the year. As long as it worked and they completed their lists, they could continue to make choices about these things.
12. School with another family. We often did field trips, activities, unit studies, days away, etc. with another family or two of kids. We got together to do gingerbread houses and crafts, etc., every Christmas.
13. Do anything different than what kids around you are doing! Our kids loved the fact that they didn’t have to get on a bus early or they didn’t have to stay inside at a desk if it was nice out. Or we could go to the park for lunch and some PE on any given day. Point out the fact that homeschooling affords us so many activities and opportunities that those in school can’t do or enjoy.
14. Take fun field trips! If you have heard us speak or follow our blog, you know that our older kids are extremely proud of the fact that they (along with Mom and Dad) slept at the top of the jungle gym at Science Central, in the snake room at the zoo, and on the soldiers’ “cots” at the fort. Go for the unusual, and they will remember them and love homeschooling because of them.
15. Do story time from birth. There is nothing like shared picture books with little kids. And there is definitely nothing like the memories of reading picture books every afternoon with momma for ten years. I’m telling you–this is what memories are made of.
I could go on forever and ever about how much we love homeschooling; how we tried to make it fun (but not so fun that normal wasn’t enjoyed!); how we put our time, money, strength, and energy into raising our children in this homeschooling lifestyle–and how much they, as adults, are grateful to us for it.