How to make homeschooling fun for your kids.
You’ve decided to homeschool your kids. Congrats! You’re on an incredible adventure with your family. Your homeschooling years will be full of.. well, let’s just say they will be FULL. It’s most likely the hardest thing you’ll ever do, and one of the most worthy and impactful things you’ll ever spend yourself on.
I talk all the time about “following the FUN.” But why? It’s not just a cutesy, lets-make-school-fun, shallow mantra. It’s so much deeper and meaningful than the simple no-brainer; don’t we all try to make things fun for our kids? Focusing on the fun means connecting meaningfully with your kids throughout the day, choosing joy over stress, and peace over curriculum slavery.
As you plod along homeschooling, you will most likely find a tug-of-war going on within your family. You’ll try to do fun activities, crafts, unit studies, field trips, nature walks, and so on. But most homeschool moms also have that nagging feeling of doubt – wondering if they’re doing enough for school, if their kids are on grade level, and if they wouldn’t be better off in public school.
While it’s so effective to focus on the FUN aspect of homeschooling – think math in your PJ’s, snack time any time, working at your own pace – at the end of the day the work needs to get done. So how do we balance getting the work done with making homeschooling more fun than public school?
Use a season of fun strategically to help your kids’ acceptance of homeschooling.
When your kids first begin homeschooling you have a golden opportunity to give them a great first impression. This is the time to go all out!
Starting Preschool or Kindergarten? Little kids LOVE special attention and things that are just theirs. Go for the cute backpack, personalized pencil box, name cards for their desk, a special desk or place to do their homework, a special binder, even a special stuffed animal or toy that “does schoolwork” with them! The very best thing you can give them? Special time with just you. Even if it’s just 10 minutes in the beginning of the day, a little bit can go a long way. Try doing a morning circle time with them. Talk about the date and weather, maybe read a special book. For the younger years it’s incredibly easy to cover all they need to learn through some simple games you can adapt to any subject. Tap into that innate creativity I know you have, and connect with your child through their homeschool time. Play is the most effective learning tool for kids, and this is especially true for the younger ones.
Transitioning older kids to homeschool? Again, this time is GOLDEN. “Deschooling” your kids is a real thing. Spending those first few weeks showing your kids how different homeschooling can be is vital. Have special pajama days snuggling together and unpacking a unit study. Fill your days with interesting field trips. ASK YOUR KIDS what types of things they like, how they prefer to do their work, and let them help design their own coursework. Give them plenty of options and let them be a part of the process.
And don’t think your older kids won’t benefit from play time too. My middle schooler still loves to go the park, ride a scooter, swing, and shoot hoops.
Gameschooling is a great way to get some education in through a different medium. We love games like Xtronaut, Prime Club, Hit The Habitat Trail, Made For Trade, Scrambled States, and Subatomic. You can get some serious learning in through board games.
Live the fun instead of trying to schedule it to happen.
You won’t always have time to prep awesome activities or have the motivation to allow a big mess. Instead, try to find little things you can incorporate into your day to help you and the kids not take things too seriously.
Try these ideas:
- Afternoon tea time
- Play an educational game together
- Chores done? Have a 5 minute dance party.
- “Walk to school” – have your kids pack backpacks and snacks and walk out the front door, around the house, and “enter” the classroom through the back door.
- Excessive high-five’s throughout the day
- Be a sticker fiend – pass out stickers liberally
- Mandatory recess every day (I use this time to prep lunch.) Try a little structure like offering certain sports equipment each week.
- Let them use erasable colored pencils for their homework – color makes everything more fun!
- Tell jokes at lunchtime.
- Decorate your kids desks and work areas
- Tough subject? pass out chocolate chips for each problem or page done
- Ask your kids, “Need a pick-me-up?” Then pick them up!
…and the list goes on!
Learn what your kids love, then use that for inspiration.
My favorite approach to schooling in general is find out what types of things your kids get super interested in, then explore that topic. Go to the library, check out YouTube tutorials and virtual field trips, find a way to get hands on with what they love.
Last year we even conducted our own project fair. Each kid chose a science topic they were interested in and created a project board to present what they learned. This checked a major box for me and my kids still talk about how much they loved it.
Once you know your kids’ interests, you can eclectically build all sorts of lessons for them using online resources. Check out Epic, Brainpop, National Geographic for Kids, Ranger Rick, and so on.
Try shooting for a Fun Friday
Consider a 4 day work week and hit those core subjects hard Monday through Thursday. Then make Friday a FUN Friday! It’s easier for your kids to push themselves to get the busier work done earlier in the week when they know there’s fun ahead when they get to Friday.
A great way to implement this is to make a special sign for what you have planned for Fun Friday and hang it where all your kids can see – in a school room, or on the refrigerator for example. Throughout the week remind the kids what they’re working towards.
We have been doing Fun Fridays from the beginning. There are so many wonderful things you can do on a Fun Friday!
Fun Friday Ideas
- Field Trips!
- Discover a new park
- Art projects
- Learn an instrument
- Have a sports day
- Learn and perform a play
- Go rollerskating
- Go for a bike ride
- Go on a hike
- Try a field trip to an everyday place
- Play some board games or printable games
- The list goes on forever and ever!!
Fun is about freedom, not padding your to-do list
The last thing I want for you is to think of making school fun as another obligation or item on your to-do list. Instead, I want you to relax, BE the fun for your kids, and ENJOY your time with them. Doing so will rub off on them eventually and your whole family will be blessed because of it.
If that means mandatory hug time in the middle of the day, or hot cocoa after the bookwork is done – whatever works for you and your family, give yourself permission to let go for just a minute and enjoy being together. Keep your focus on the entire breadth of your kids’ education. Teaching them an attitude of delight while learning about the world will serve them much better than completing stacks of workbooks.
Are you inspired to follow the fun during your homeschool days? I hope so. Just looking for opportunities to lighten the mood and help your kids feel positively about school can open up a whole new family culture.
I hope you’ll embrace your inner child a bit this week and give yourself permission to be creative. I also hope you’ll share your brilliant ideas and unexpected wins with the PK1Kids community! Leave a comment below and share how you’re following the fun, or join the discussion on Facebook!