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Typically, we homeschool all year round because learning has become an everyday part of our lives. One of the things I love about the fact we school year-round is that it allows us to keep up our routines and schedules, be flexible when unexpected events crop up and adjust the hours, we spend learning to suit the season.
With the shorter days during winter, fitting in day trips,visits to friends, study time and general household duties requires a little bit of shifting around of our schedule. For us the earlier nights and drop in temperature is the perfect excuse to spend our evenings huddled together with a few snacks and several great books. Or perhaps gathering to play some family games.
Luckily for me my boys tend to sleep in a little longer than usual during the winter months, but it also means mornings are shorter and it becomes a challenge to fit in our household chores or focused kidschool time before we head outside in the afternoon.
Fighting the Overwhelm
The internet is full of homeschool resources, craft ideas and other homeschool activity ideas, that I have lists of things I’d like to do with the boys. So man of which we just never get around to fitting in. It’s difficult not to feel guilty or like you’re not quite achieving enough when the list of ideas are piling up in front of you. I’ll admit this year I was beginning to feel overwhelmed and was wondering how I would manage to fit everything in.
That was it. As soon as I sat to ponder on that question, I realised it was time to take my own advice. The advice I have given to other homeschool parents so many times before: “Stop trying to do it all.” There it is. Sometimes we must learn to let things go.
It’s Time to Simplify
With winter firmly setting in I decided simplifying our homeschool was the way to go. I’ve been busy creating a new daily schedule. I have been reducing our planned learning to the things I believe are the most important right now, leaving time for free exploration for the boys to pursue their interests at their own leisure. Any other learning that occurs will be an absolute bonus!
I finally have a schedule and plan that the kids and I are happy with and that I feel completely relaxed and at ease about.
So let me share with you my top tips for simplifying your homeschool this winter.
Start with a Blank Page
I started by trying to amend our existing schedule shuffling things around, but it just got really confusing and I kept seeing so many things that I felt that I wanted to keep but knew I just couldn’t do it all.
Spend some time figuring out how you would like your schedule to look. Focused lessons in the morning or evening? Complete non-directed learning all day? Evening homeschool? Read alouds first thing? What ever you decide is fine just make sure have a clear vision of how you would like your days to be ordered. This will help you figure out how much realistically you can fit in each day.
Remember: Just because it’s on paper you can still reorganise when other things crop up and you can be as flexible as you like.
Simplify Your List of Subjects
With so many different subjects available for our children to delve into, figuring out which ones are the essentials to your family, will help you figure out which topics and activities you can put aside for the winter.
For us the most important thing to do daily, is family read alouds. If I did nothing but read to the boys each day, I would feel we had at least achieved the most important part of our educational goals. After this comes their continued study of both Arabic and English at their current level. Being able to read, write, learn and communicate in both languages is going to be essential to their future. Arabic especially because it is a huge part of our family’s faith and since we have let the ball drop in this area recently, I’d like to shift our focus back to Arabic over the winter. Finally, working with numbers. I’d like to continue our focus on basic Mathematics skills and have found a couple of resources I’d like to use for this.
Since we are still very firmly in preschool with A and KG with M just covering these three areas in my opinion is enough. Other skills such as fine motor, gross motor, character building and life skills all come naturally during their play and being active members of our household. If your child however requires some extra focus in these areas, then you may want to consider adding these in to your essentials list.
It may help you to sit down and make notes about each of your child’s interests and learning levels. Use this to determine the topics and subjects that are going to be most useful and enjoyable for them.
Remember: Every one’s list will look a little different. No two children’s or family’s needs are the same. You know your child’s educational needs best. Focus on what YOUR family’s priorities are and not what others think they should be!
Sorting Out the Resources
Now depending on the list above, you’ll want to figure out which resources your going to utilise over the next few months. If I were you, I’d start by looking at what you already have and decide what’s going to be useful. Check if there is anything else you will need to source. If your anything like me (with a cupboard full of books and a laptop full of downloads) you’ll probably find yourself needing to put a few things away for later use.
Everything will still be in your home for your children to use should they want to. However, putting the things within easy reach, that
you will be using daily, will help you and your children to keep things simple.
Remember: We are trying to simplify! 1 or 2 resources per subject should be plenty. Don’t get carried away with all those pretty worksheets, extra curriculum’s or projects you just keep meaning to get around too.
Here’s a list of the main educational resources we will be using over the next few months to give you some ideas.
Put Additional Learning Materials within Easy Reach of The Children
My fourth and final tip is an age-old concept. You’ve all heard the saying “Out of sight, out of mind.” Well we want our children to experience the complete opposite when it comes to inspiring learning tools. We want these things to be at the forefront of their attention.
Be it a rock identification kit, a telescope, books or even lots of Lego for working on those motor skills and creativity. Make sure that whatever resources you must hand, your children can access them throughout the day. Whenever they are looking around for something to do there should l be lots of inspiring educational things visible for them to choose from and enjoy on their own terms, without prompt from you.
In fact, Maria Montessori was a strong advocate for keeping educational resources where the child can reach them, use them and put them away again at any time they wish. Again, one of the principles of Thomas Jefferson Education is organising the bookshelves so that good quality, age appropriate literature, is displayed within your child’s eye line. It’s the same principle.
If your children are anything like mine, having to search for something appears to be a real chore. They are far more likely to play with and use materials that they can see or know exactly where they are kept. What your child can see is what they are likely to pick up first and it really does allow your children to take some of their education into their own hands. It will simplify things for you and ensure your child is continuing to learn even outside of their focused learning time.