Surviving Spring Fever
Spring is a wonderful time. It reminds us of the renewal of all things, the joy of being outdoors and the reality that winter (or any season of life) doesn't last forever. Along with this surge of nature comes an equal eagerness on the part of young and old alike - the desire to make a change, to enjoy the blessings of good weather, and most of all for children, the opportunity NOT to be indoors all the time.
Educators throughout the years have debated the best tactics for dealing with spring fever. Should we close the shades and pretend nothing has changed? Should we toss the books aside and run for the park? Fortunately for homeschoolers, the transition to spring can be joyously easy with the best approach being found somewhere in between the two extremes.
Here are some hints to help your spring education be productive and enjoyable:
- Remember that your goal is learning. Including something not on your schedule, such as a trip to a zoo, nature walk or visit to a lake can create awesome learning situations. All learning is productive, and learning is not linear. It doesn't all have to happen in a certain order. When we learn something new, our brain finds a way to use and store this new information and fit it into what we already know. Don't worry about gaps or things you have missed - worry more about there not being anything truly inspirational for your children to get excited about!
- Make the most of each learning opportunity. Whenever we had an opportunity for a planned or an unexpected adventure, I always looked for the ideas that would be memorable for my children. You can make the most of the smallest opportunity. Once we were stuck on the side of the road with an uncooperative car while waiting for dad. I looked around and noticed wildflowers. My kids were delighted and collected some near to us. The time passed quickly while waiting for help and we made a side trip on the way home to get a book on wildflowers. We classified the ones we found and pressed some. When you take a short trip outside, look around with your children and notice the changes of spring. Use describing words for them as you talk about the differences in nature from winter to spring, such as budding, emerging, hibernating or resurrecting. Take the opportunity to teach vocabulary in a natural manner that connects learning to real life.
- Modify your schedule to allow for out of doors learning. Coming to the close of the year, many of you who are using textbooks can easily modify your teaching to allow for more time outside. It is perfectly legitimate to go over some lessons orally, and not write the answers to every question. For math, doing half of the problems in a lesson each day can free up considerable time. Choose the problems that reinforce what your child has been working on, and move on. In most textbooks, the last few chapters are really bonus materials, so you won't run out of work for your child. If you take a look at the beginning of the next year's textbook, it is often begun with material from the previous year's ending chapters. Feel free to cover these chapters in a less rigorous manner once you see they will be reintroduced in the fall, or use them for abbreviated school time in the summer.
- Take advantage of the everyday opportunities to make learning special. We often took our books and went outside to do school. A large tree in the backyard afforded shade so we sat underneath this tree with our blanket, lawn chairs and clipboards. We often did our read aloud book outside and each of the children would bring the literature they were reading outside as well. We would draw the things we saw as part of science. Just doing this seemed to extend my children's ability to keep going with our school schedule a little longer in the spring without feeling totally deprived of the delights of the season. We would wrap up this adventure with lunch outside. My children both remember those times fondly, so I would consider this idea a great success!
Remember that spring is a season, and soon it will probably be too hot to be outside as much, so you can enjoy this time without worry that it will overtake your life and ruin your productive school year. Just the opposite is true. Celebrating the changes in nature is a great way to make learning a natural part of your family's life, so grab the blanket and a great book and head to the yard. Your children will thank you and you may find your own energy for home schooling blossoming again!