It’s the school year round (up until high school) and the kids have been working hard. They have finished their grade level curriculum and it’s time for a break. This is the time of year when we start to slow down. Warmer weather is coming and there will be days filled with river tubing, hiking on shady trails and reading in trees. Break time is the start of this slower season, a chance to take a few days, a week, and relax. A time to read a good book, play some games and evaluate learning, school and how we do it. It’s a chance for me to clean up, see what needs to be ordered or supplied, take stock of what I have on hand and know where to get to it and to research for upcoming learning days. I’ll share some of what we do and things we have found during this break season.
First, I clean up! It’s amazing how dirty a space can get when you use it every day. This is the time when I rearrange the room that we use for school (if it needs it), change the decorations (from snowflakes to paper lanterns and paper rosettes), do a deep clean, organize and take stock of what we have (or need.) It’s the time where we try all the markers and find the bad ones to throw away. We find the glue and check it (it’s usually dry...) We make sure we know where the scissors have run off to, the pencils are found and sharpened, the math supplies are put into bins (from having been scattered around) and the art closet is organized so that when we need paint, brushes or clay we know where to find them. We go through the craft supplies and sort and look at them (dry paint, broken brushes, dry clay - toss!) I toss the old teacher’s guides and curriculum (or take it down to the teacher store) and look through books and curriculum to make sure we have what we need. It saves time and frustration when you know where school things are.
Second, I read and read and read. I read blogs, homeschool articles, books (and not just on homeschooling.) I write, I think, I find my child’s bunny trails and find things that relate to them. This means that right now I am: finding marine biology curriculum and setting up meetings with my daughter and her marine biology mentor to give her some hands-on field work. I am perusing art guides and curriculum and finding gallery shows for another daughter to enter her art work. I am finding experiments to do, books to read aloud, hikes to go on, museums to see and keeping track of what we have done (and read) so that I can see growth and so we have a record of it. Here are just a few things that I have found:
Citizen scientist projects https://www.zooniverse.org/
Virtual field trips: http://www.simplek12.com/virtualfieldtrips
Lessons on everything from math to science to inbetween: http://www.ck12.org/student/
Learn how to code, for free: http://www.codecademy.com/#!/exercises/0
Tons of free on-line courses (high school): https://www.coursera.org/
A site full of cool stuff: http://www.ellenjmchenry.com/
PBS programs listed A-Z: http://www.pbs.org/programs/
Bottle biology: http://bottlebiology.org/index.html
Third, this is the start of our slow season. We do less ‘formal’ school and focus more on learning that is tailored for each child. Throughout the school year we still do things that are not core curriculum and I still tailor learning for each individual child; but, the start of the slow season means that everyone will have days that involve doing something that relates to their passion or their future field of study. Right now Grace is helping with a citizen scientist project that helps match whale sounds and songs for researchers. Bethany just started a course on medical innovations and coming soon a course on child nutrition. I indulge in my passion, taking pictures and reading, just as much as the girls indulge in cetaceans, art, medical innovations, drums, harmonica, otters and dance. Core subjects are good, but finding your passion, that thing that makes you want to learn - is even better.
Lastly, I take time to enjoy every day with my kids. School days don’t last forever and if your goal is to train up your children to make them more independent as each year rolls around then laying a firm foundation that can be built on as you work through the years will help them understand the world around them and want to learn more about it on their own. By taking a break I can reassess how learning is going, how goals are being met (or not being met.) I can refresh my mind with reading and use some down time to organize, sort and peruse items of interest to see how we can work them into our learning time. Sometimes things look so much better after a break, try it and see!