The Coronavirus has people a bit nervous. Schools here are extending their spring break and some are canceling classes until further notice. Even in my tiny town where we have no confirmed cases, I was required to report to the office and report any possible symptoms before I could drop my son off for his speech class. My facebook feed is already filling with parents who don’t know what to do with their children during an unexpected break. I figure what is a good homeschool neighbor for if not to help out with some educational enrichment? Stay tuned for a free offer, whether you are a seasoned homeschooler or found yourself thrust into it by current events!
I believe the foundation for a good education has three main pillars. None take a great deal of planning. All are readily available. Unfortunately, they are also frequently neglected in this society of instant-gratification.
Read great literature.
Literature opens up a whole world of ideas. It explores challenges from new perspectives and transports us to different times, places and worlds. Most importantly, great literature wrestles with what it means to be human.
Dig out your favorite books from when you were your children’s ages and share them. My children devoured such classics as Miss Pickerell on the Moon — which I loved as a child because my father told me how much he had loved it when he was a boy.
Look up lists of classics and Caldecott and Newberry Award winners. Challenge your kids to read as many as they can.
If your library has Overdrive or a similar app for listening to audiobooks, find some audiobooks together. Take some down time in the afternoon to listen to a story while working on a craft, a puzzle or sketching in a notebook.
Find poems to suit different moods. Talk about hidden meanings.
Have Great Conversations.
Children learn by your example. Explore ideas together. Wonder out loud. Ask questions that don’t have answers. Challenge them to think beyond the obvious, beyond their experience and beyond what you have told them. Talk about the Coronavirus and the different tactics different countries are using to try to keep people safe. Talk about politics and school bullies and the latest fashions. Talk about whatever interests them with an ear for opportunities to challenge their thinking and prod them toward deeper meaning.
Talk about their feelings. Especially the big ones. Tell them when you have felt similarly. Look for examples of those Big Emotions in the literature you have read. They are central to being human and those hurts fuel thousands of pages of writing every day as people all over the world grapple with how to live through them.
Talk about God. Ask some deeper theological questions.
Creativity doesn’t need rules and pretty sets. It needs opportunity which is best afforded by a touch of boredom. Cut the screen time and try not to pull your hair out while they complain how bored they are. Eventually, their brains will get starved for entertainment enough to do the hard work of thinking.
I find it is usually best to stay out of the way and just let the magic happen, though a lot can be suggested just by the materials you offer. They may lie on their back watching shapes in the clouds or discover the peculiar thrill of freezing while a honeybee examines your clothing. They may discover that cardboard and scissors make the most amazing marble tracks, that boxes and old bottle brushes make a pretty cool car wash or just how to stack books to get the slinky to go all the way to the bottom.
They may discover an interest in domino tracks and how cool it is to attach a balloon to a toy car, blow it up and let it propel the car through the house. And if you have an extra balloon, you can mix some yeast and warm water, put it in a bottle, cover with the balloon and watch as the yeast fills the balloon with carbon dioxide. Don’t have yeast? Put the balloon on the bottle, put it in hot water and see if your children can figure out why the balloon starts to blow up even though you didn’t add any extra air.
And if the vacation lasts longer than the novelty of it all?
You honestly can let your kids enjoy the downtime. It really is enough to read with them, talk to them and play with them. But sometimes, a bit of structure is nice. Sometimes, like your children, you just need a little prompt to get the educational juices flowing. If you are looking for some hands on activities for elementary aged students, my poetry guide, Blow Bubbles. Eat Gummy Worms. Write Poetry. is a perfect introduction. It carries you through 12 lessons on literary devices, shares poetry from a number of well known authors, including Ralph Waldo Emerson and Emily Dickenson and you get to eat gummy worms while writing poetry together with your children.
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