Spring break ideas

Whether you’re homeschooling and need a break or your kids are in school and you’re not sure what do with them, spring break is a fun opportunity to mix things up.

When my kids were younger I made up a daycamp for the week and we made sure to ‘pack’ lunches and go swimming a few times and end the week with a field trip to the zoo. We haven’t done that in a while but I’m still thinking I’ll mix things up next week.

Here are some ideas:

1. If your kids can’t take the entire week off school, make your own personalized worksheets. This is really easy for sentence structure, grammar, and spelling. Rather than forcing them to learn a word list that has no meaning for them, draw on their favourite things for ideas. For my son today, I made him up a capitalization and comma worksheet where all the sentences were silly things about his favourite TV show. If your child needs penmanship practice, learn calligraphy together. A pack of pens at Michael’s will only set you back a few dollars. If they need reading practice, write a story for them and have them illustrate it. If they’re learning their letters, give them 26 sheets of paper and have them draw a big capital letter on it and turn it into something else by drawing on and around it.

2. Negotiate screen time with your kids ahead of time and push it towards the end of the day. I hate starting our day with pulling the kids away from the TV. I find it works well to give them that time before dinner.

3. Check out your local community. Try out a locally owned store that you’ve never been to. Tell them you’ve never been and they’ll likely give you lots of info.

4. Read a story together that you can finish before school starts up again. We love the Flat Stanley books, My Father’s Dragon, or a short Roald Dahl story (like The Twits!) for spring break. Read aloud regardless of whether or not your kids are reading on their own.

5. Go for a walk or play outside, every day, no matter what the weather. Then come home and bake together, or make hot chocolate or lemonade. Reading is perfect before or after a walk.

6. If you’re planning on doing a summer garden, plan it out and buy your seeds now.

7. Check out what the astronauts are doing in the International Space Station.

8. Go to the library and get books from a section you’ve never gone to before. Look at kids cooking books and easy craft books for lots of ideas. If you’re worried about math, there are tons of great math stories at the library that teach skills without feeling ‘educational’. Get out comic books or other light reading. Get some magazines for yourself.

9. Have the kids make lunch one day, including menus and prices. My kids LOVED doing this! They set up a little table and took my order and gave me a bill. Now my oldest likes doing a ‘mystery box’ challenge like on MasterChef.

10. Have your kids set up a pretend store or garage sale and price their things (assure them that they’ll get them back!). It’s a great way to learn to make change.

11. Don’t use the week as time to ‘catch up on school work’. Give them a change of pace no matter what their marks are like. Then they’ll go back to school with a more positive outlook. We are taking a break from our usual curriculum and doing reading and writing that is more of their choosing.

12. Cut construction paper or coloured card stock into strips (about a centimetre or 1/2 inch wide) and weave little baskets for Easter. I cut strips the length of the paper in two different colours and it makes a cute little basket that can be filled with chocolates or candy.

13. Spring cleaning! Open up the windows and doors, clean the outside of your windows, and get the yard ready for spring. If you’re snowed in, do your spring cleaning inside by going through closets and toy bins and clearing out old stuff. Show your kids the things they loved or made when they were younger.

14. Have your kids show you their favourite YouTube videos. Find some of your own to share with them. If you haven’t seen it, watch The Story of Stuff. Check out funny commercials to get everyone laughing.

With my youngest going away with his Dad for a few days, my oldest and I have decided to get out DVDs from the library of our favourite shows. We’ll be sure to make meals that they don’t like as much and go shopping for them for Easter.

Whatever you’re doing, have a great spring break!


A New Year of Homeschooling

Next week marks a return for me to homeschooling both of my kids. My 16 year old went to high school for grade ten and the first part of grade eleven but we pulled him out before Christmas break because it was becoming a toxic environment for him. This is the first time in eleven years of homeschooling that I have felt nervous. I don’t know if it’s residual anxiety from the process of pulling him out of school or anxiety over the sibling rivalry that I have mostly avoided with one gone all day.

My boys learn in completely different ways. One is a book learner that read early, the other is a hands-on learner that hates to read. Both hate practicing, repetition, and review, but maybe that’s common to everyone (we all just have to learn that we need to do it I guess). The oldest loves history and Shakespeare and is critical of 99% of things he comes across. The youngest is good at math and science but has willed himself to hate anything that seems “educational”. Somehow we had a great homeschool experience and it was an adjustment to only have one at home, but now we’re having to flip back. I’m not sure I’m ready!

I’m also in full-on high school mode, with the youngest turning 15 in March. Time to plan and move into high school credits and documentation and doing what needs to be done for post-secondary. We are lucky to have a great facilitator who will be back in the spring for a visit, this time with both kids. But a month ago I was preparing myself for having both kids gone all day and now it’s a complete turnover to be planning to have them both at home. I’m so grateful! But I’m so scared!

In the end I know all that matters is that we follow God’s plan for us. If it takes the boys four years to finish high school instead of three, that’s fine. If they have to upgrade, that’s fine too. As long as they follow their hearts and continue to learn, then I’ve done okay.

I wish all of you a fantastic homeschooling year!

First Impressions

By choosing to homeschool, I choose to be in a minority. Others may spend the majority of their time with other homeschoolers and forget that they’re in a minority, but that’s just a mirage unless they happen to live in some utopian homeschooling village. When our kids were young, almost all of our social time was with other homeschoolers. I didn’t have the motivation or energy to seek out friendships with schooled kids unless they lived close by. As our kids got older and attended programs with both homeschooled and schooled children, our friendships changed as well. Now our kids have primarily schooled friends because there are not very many homeschool kids around that are in high school.

Regardless of who our friends are, our schooling choice puts us in a minority and we are highly visible when we take our kids out during the day, whether it is to the zoo, the mall, or the grocery store. I feel I have a responsibility to other homeschoolers to give the public a positive view of homeschooling. We may be the only homeschooling family that someone else meets in their entire lifetime and therefore they will base their entire opinion of homeschooling on us. Do we want them to think positively about homeschoolers or negatively?

Whether we like it or not, a big part of first impressions is appearance. How are we dressed? How are our kids dressed? Do they look happy and well cared for? Or do they look miserable and dirty? Of course we have bad days. On bad days where we’re going to the doctor and the pharmacy, I don’t tell anyone that we’re homeschoolers! We just do our thing quietly as we would if I’d kept a sick child home from school. We all have days where the kids are grumpy or we’re tired or not feeling well. Those are exceptions and we all have them whether we homeschool or not. But a large number of homeschoolers in the city where I live wear pajamas out of the house and don’t shower and don’t wear clean, proper fitting clothes. Clothes here are very cheap and kids don’t need very many outfits. There are second-hand stores, clothing swaps (very popular amongst homeschoolers!), and discount stores like H&M or Joe Fresh. It is also inexpensive to cut our child’s hair and almost free to wash it. We either buy clippers and cut our boy’s hair or go to a cheap place to have someone else do it. There is no excuse for allowing our kids to go out in public with ill-fitting, dirty clothing and dirty hair in their face.

I’ve had a lot of homeschoolers tell me that their child doesn’t like clothing tags or seams, or that they like their hair scraggly. Having long hair is fine but having unkempt hair is not. Would I trust a doctor or lawyer that has scraggly hair and dirty clothes? No way! I know many families of kids that go to private school whose kids don’t like clothing tags either but they have to wear the uniform anyway. My son had very sensitive skin so we searched a lot to find clothes that didn’t irritate him. We didn’t send him out in inside-out pajamas. No one should be able to tell that we’re a homeschooling family just because of how we are dressed. It is important for our children to understand first impressions and be confident in their appearance and how they speak to people they meet. It is one of our responsibilities as parents to teach our children how to dress, speak, and behave in public. I’ve heard of some homeschoolers that believe we should not take our children out during the day and I do not share that opinion. Our children are actively involved in their community, with their family, and in programs that keep them busy at various times during the week with a variety of people.