What do you do to keep school fun? - Mothering Forums

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#1 of 12 Old 09-02-2010, 09:14 PM - Thread Starter
 
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One of our main reasons for homeschooling is to give our children what we feel is the best possible education. For us, that means that in later years they will have a rigorous classical-style education. However, I feel it is important to give little children lots of time to play and learn from life experience.

I'm a box-checker and list-maker by nature, and I'm having a difficult time balancing my need to check those boxes with my desire to give the boys a truly FUN elementary education.

Nik, almost-7 and in first grade, (and the only one doing any formal schooling at this point) likes everything we're doing, except for WWE. I think I'll drop it for now, details to come in another post.

These are the things we already use that Nik either enjoys or truly loves to do: SOTW + Activity Book, R.E.A.L. Science Odyssey, Song School Latin, Math Mammoth/Noble Knights of Knowledge/Afterwards: Folk and Fairy Tales with Mathematical Ever-Afters, First Language Lessons (he doesn't love this, but doesn't mind it and it takes less than 5 minutes to do), All About Spelling, Hooked on Phonics Advanced Reader, Discovering Great Artists, Classics for Kids, and lots of literature and audio books, movies and games.

Sometimes what we're doing feels a bit too school-at-home, though. Should I drop most of what we do and start unschooling (with lots of strewing to make myself happy.) We also limit screen time and I wonder if we should try letting him watch more educational movies and play more educational games.

What activities do you do to keep learning really fun? (Unschoolers especially encouraged to respond!)

Jessica, wife of Marc and Momma to Nikolai (10) and Nathaniel (9) and Olivia (3).
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#2 of 12 Old 09-02-2010, 09:28 PM
 
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DD has just started, and so far she likes school.

We do lots of coloring, videos, music & audiobooks, and of course LOTS of field trips to break up the day-to-day rut.

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#3 of 12 Old 09-03-2010, 08:09 AM
 
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My ds has just turned 6 and in first grade. I have gathered tons of schooly materials, but more and more, I find that we do much, much better when *I* learn from those materials and then generate lots of activities, organize related field trips, find documentaries, audiobooks and videos, and strew lots and lots of fun, highly visual books. I try to turn not-so-fun activities like narration into something more appealing, like making illustrated books, for example. When they are "published," ds reads his book with much fanfare to dh. It's a proud moment. I look over our math texts, then decide on games that would reinforce the concepts that we're "supposed" to cover. I'm also thinking that notebooking our math would be awesome for ds. Currently, handwriting (HWOT) and spelling (AAS) are our worst chores, but I'm thinking that I want to find ways to switch those up too.

Another example: Our current science topic is astronomy. My dh is an amateur astronomer; I am not. But, I've been learning a ton along the way. I found some fantastic videos and documentaries to whet ds's appetite. Then we read a ton of books (some picture books, trade books, more technical encyclopedia stuff, etc.). We have done some narration (along with art and book-making). We have also done some preliminary crafts, like making a model of the solar system (which is now hanging in our living room), a comet, a cute little space rocket, and some glow-in-the-dark constellation maps. Now we are going to "launch" (sorry - couldn't resist) into more hands-on activities: a moon-phase mobile, a lunar calendar, plaster impact craters, and an earth-moon model that will spin on a lazy-susan. We have a few more demonstration-type of activities to do. we're going to walk what the distances between planets would be if the sun were about the size of a large marble, and we'll use a flashlight and a ball to see how the rotation of the planet makes day and night and to see how the orbit of the moon makes the lunar phases. After all these activities, we're going to an aeronautics and space museum and the Griffith Observatory. Just for fun, we check out whatever videos catch our eye on NASA's website every now and again.

I try to pay close attention to ds as we talk about all this space stuff. Since I know so very little, we write many of his questions on our question board. It lets me teach him to think about the quality of his questions. When we review the question board, I can ask him if his question requires observation, experimentation or research in order to find an answer. I don't make him find the answer to every question, but I do make a big deal about adding a great question. He loves adding to this silly board so much.

For history stuff, we try to hit museum exhibits if at all possible. Recently we saw Mummies of the World and an absolutely fabulous exhibit about archeology and ancient Egypt. After viewing some amazing mummies, he got to make a carrot mummy, walk through a replica of pyramid, pull pyramid blocks, reconstruct broken pottery, build a pyramid with large wooden blocks, view an archeological dig (with the grid set up), and so much more. We've read several books and have watched some great documentaries. He talks about the Egyptian gods all the time now.

His other current historical passion is the Revolutionary War. Ds loves role-play, so whenever possible, we play "let's pretend" and enact battle scenes (his favorite). He is dying for me to make him a minuteman costume, and he regularly tries to re-enact the Boston Tea Party with little minifigures and his Playmobile pirate ship. The Battle of Bunker Hill happens a lot here too. He's

I'm a check-the-box type of person too, so I'm constantly referring to our state's standards and the Core Knowledge scope and sequence to see if we are covering everything that we need to. I do prepare all our materials, but I also just get out projects when we are in the mood. I'm trying to get kits together so that we can investigate things when the mood strikes. Currently, I'm building a measurement kit, an electrical kit, a building and simple machines kit, and a rock sample and identification kit. I also collect diorama materials, especially minifigures, as ds loves to "play" with geographical places and historical eras. And I have book easels all over the house so I can strew books. It totally works. Every time I change a book display, ds wants to read every single book.

Sorry for running on and on. I'm currently on a creative homeschooling high after a dreadful year with a hybrid classical classroom/homeschooling private school. I am so enjoying being set free as a homeschooler.

Kelly
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#4 of 12 Old 09-03-2010, 08:41 AM
 
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for us, i don't know if school is fun all of the time, but i do feel it's painless. my focus is to cover what i feel is necessary in a short amount of time. my kids learn a lot on their own & we constantly follow their natural interests. however, i do have certain things i want/need to cover throughout the week...so for us, it's not about making it fun, but rather, we focus on doing it in a short amount of time (although we do fun things...i don't mean to imply that, lol). my little boy is done with school in an hour tops & my daughter is usually about 2 hours. i also sit with my kids, which seems to be favorable in their eyes. that gives us the entire day to focus on anything and everything else. anyway. that's what works for us.

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#5 of 12 Old 09-03-2010, 09:32 AM
 
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A couple times a month we put all school work aside and have game day. We have tons of educational games in our house so we play together as much as they want to. We might also play some computer or Xbox games.

We also visit museums and take other field trips, go to the park, etc. for fun.

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#6 of 12 Old 09-03-2010, 09:40 AM
 
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Hi Jessica! (hope to see you today)

We have curriculum that we follow, though fairly loosely at this point, for Gilli (1st grader). Each day, I do ask that we do math and reading but how we do that is pretty open. Right now we are working on Geometry, so activities that allow us to meet that general requirement could be: clay models of cube etc, finding objects in the house, using tanagrams etc. I set out materials that relate to my general goals for the girls, and they are free to pick those during "school hours", 9-11ish.

After that time they are on their own- painting, coloring, cooking, playing outside, other toys, etc

Now how we keep it fun is finding out what they want to do and I help them to plan it out, gather materials or just get out of the way. Often times when I suggest something they are open to doing it. We did "volume" and "weight" during water play.

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#7 of 12 Old 09-03-2010, 10:09 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by frugalmama View Post
DD has just started, and so far she likes school.

We do lots of coloring, videos, music & audiobooks, and of course LOTS of field trips to break up the day-to-day rut.
I think we need more field trips. Being a one-vehicle family makes those hard, but I am working on setting aside enough money for a second vehicle.

Quote:
Originally Posted by yllek View Post
Sorry for running on and on. I'm currently on a creative homeschooling high after a dreadful year with a hybrid classical classroom/homeschooling private school. I am so enjoying being set free as a homeschooler.
No, don't be sorry!!! Your post was extremely helpful! And why did I never think of a question board to write their questions down on?!

Quote:
Originally Posted by elizawill View Post
for us, i don't know if school is fun all of the time, but i do feel it's painless. my focus is to cover what i feel is necessary in a short amount of time. my kids learn a lot on their own & we constantly follow their natural interests. however, i do have certain things i want/need to cover throughout the week...so for us, it's not about making it fun, but rather, we focus on doing it in a short amount of time (although we do fun things...i don't mean to imply that, lol). my little boy is done with school in an hour tops & my daughter is usually about 2 hours. i also sit with my kids, which seems to be favorable in their eyes. that gives us the entire day to focus on anything and everything else. anyway. that's what works for us.
That's what we're doing now, and it just still feels like school-at-home, although a much shorter school day. We may end up sticking with it, but I want to try mixing it up and adding some extra fun.

Quote:
Originally Posted by granolagina View Post
A couple times a month we put all school work aside and have game day. We have tons of educational games in our house so we play together as much as they want to. We might also play some computer or Xbox games.

We also visit museums and take other field trips, go to the park, etc. for fun.
Game days are good. We haven't done any of those yet this year.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aeress View Post
Hi Jessica! (hope to see you today)

We have curriculum that we follow, though fairly loosely at this point, for Gilli (1st grader). Each day, I do ask that we do math and reading but how we do that is pretty open. Right now we are working on Geometry, so activities that allow us to meet that general requirement could be: clay models of cube etc, finding objects in the house, using tanagrams etc. I set out materials that relate to my general goals for the girls, and they are free to pick those during "school hours", 9-11ish.

After that time they are on their own- painting, coloring, cooking, playing outside, other toys, etc

Now how we keep it fun is finding out what they want to do and I help them to plan it out, gather materials or just get out of the way. Often times when I suggest something they are open to doing it. We did "volume" and "weight" during water play.
We will definitely be there!

Setting out materials that relate to your goals for them sounds like a fabulous idea! I'm going to give that a try, also.

Thank you so much for all of the ideas. I don't know what I would do without my online homeschool community!

Jessica, wife of Marc and Momma to Nikolai (10) and Nathaniel (9) and Olivia (3).
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#8 of 12 Old 09-03-2010, 04:01 PM
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by *Jessica* View Post
That's what we're doing now, and it just still feels like school-at-home, although a much shorter school day. We may end up sticking with it, but I want to try mixing it up and adding some extra fun.
we have classes each week that we look forward too & fridays are days that we have family day and co-op. we also have group field trips 2x month. for school, do you let your kids choose the order of their day & where they want to work? that really makes it feel laid back here...plus, our curriculum is so short, that each subject is only 15-20 minutes each. if you already do this, i'd just ask your kids what they like, don't like, is there something they want to do more of (games, crafts, experiments, computer time, etc) and just go from there, ykwim? i'm sure it will come together for ya.

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#9 of 12 Old 09-03-2010, 05:28 PM - Thread Starter
 
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Originally Posted by elizawill View Post
we have classes each week that we look forward too & fridays are days that we have family day and co-op. we also have group field trips 2x month. for school, do you let your kids choose the order of their day & where they want to work? that really makes it feel laid back here...plus, our curriculum is so short, that each subject is only 15-20 minutes each. if you already do this, i'd just ask your kids what they like, don't like, is there something they want to do more of (games, crafts, experiments, computer time, etc) and just go from there, ykwim? i'm sure it will come together for ya.
Hopefully the homeschool group will take off an we'll be busy with that weekly. Right now we don't have a lot going on outside the house, which is perhaps part of our problem. I do let them choose the order, but ever since I bought two of these school desks at a yard sale they want to sit at desks to do their work. They love having their own desks, but it's a lot less cozy than math on the couch. You know, I'm thinking these desks are a big part of the problem in my mind. But they aren't a problem for the boys, so I need to find a way to adjust. I'm definitely going to sit down with Nik this weekend and talk about it all.

Talking all of this out has been very helpful. Thank you so much to everyone who chimed in with thoughts!

Jessica, wife of Marc and Momma to Nikolai (10) and Nathaniel (9) and Olivia (3).
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#10 of 12 Old 09-03-2010, 06:33 PM
 
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I'm not sure the school part of our day is that much fun. We do a lot of conversational learning with Five in a Row, and workbooks for grammar, math and phonics. By the time my two get through their school work and violin practice, we have a pretty full morning.

We do have a routine, and it needs to be done before noon. I leave for work at noon three days a week. (If it isn't finished by noon, they can wrap it up with my dh. But I've found that our days go better if they do school with me.) I do try to schedule a fun field trip two or three times a month. We also try to get together with friends at least every other week.

To keep things upbeat and positive, my kids do take breaks between their subjects. They ride their bikes and scooters, walk to the ballpark, or just play outside on their breaks when the weather is nice. When it's dreary, they can play Wii Fit on their breaks.
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#11 of 12 Old 09-04-2010, 10:09 AM
 
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Aimee + Scott = Theodore Roosevelt (11/05) and 23 months later Charles Abraham (10/07)....praying for a little sister; the search starts May 2014
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#12 of 12 Old 09-04-2010, 10:19 AM - Thread Starter
 
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Nik and I talked last night.

He wants to stop doing copywork and narrations from WWE and instead use history to do them.

He wants to start doing music while we're in the car or on Sundays instead of having it as part of our school day.

He likes what we're doing for art, but he wants to add lessons on how to paint better.

He likes AAS but would like me to find stickers of knights to go on a few of the components.

He wants to keep what we're doing for science, but add some chemistry experiments.

As expected he said he loves history, but he also added that he loves Song School Latin and what we're using for math! Math! This child resisted all things math last year when we were using MEP.

I asked him if it would be too much to keep what we're already doing and add more lessons for science and art and he said no because he really likes school and wouldn't mind doing more.

I learned so much from our conversation that I feel rather ridiculous for not having had it before now!

Jessica, wife of Marc and Momma to Nikolai (10) and Nathaniel (9) and Olivia (3).
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