November 2012

Staying Sane with Homeschooling During the Holidays

Around the holidays I can get stressed with homeschooling. I want to keep doing all of our regular school, but I also want to do special things for the holidays. Originally I tried to do both. That was a little too crazy and stressful for me (and the kids). More recently I’ve adopted a different two-fold method to manage during the holidays.

First, I plan ahead and lighten the load. At the beginning of the school year when I’m planning my schedule, I plan a reduced schedule (or extra time off) around the holidays. This way, I don’t have to stress about getting behind if we take the whole day off to bake a pumpkin pie instead of doing math that day.

Second,I incorporate holiday activities into our regular school schedule. During the time we would normally be studying history this week, we stop our normal history study (Greece this semester), and spend the week on Thanksgiving related history topics such as the Pilgrims, or how Thanksgiving became a national holiday, or we learn about our heritage. During our normal art time, we do Thanksgiving related crafts. During our normal time for science, we might learn about live turkeys, or how turkeys are processed to get to the grocery store (my 3 year old is really fascinated with this concept this year) or bake a pie. My holiday approach is similar to a unit study on the particular holiday. 

I find this method makes the holidays a lot more fun for the kids and myself and a lot less stressful. In fact, it’s even an enjoyable time of year to be homeschooling!

How do you stay sane with homeschooling during the holidays?

Ethnic Nights

Last night in our home was Iranian Night. About once a month I choose an ethnicity for us to learn about. Sometimes I tie it into another subject, like when we were studying Ancient Egypt, we had Egyptian Night. Other times, I just choose what I think is best for my children to learn about. Lately, we have been studying about ancient cultures in the middle east, so this month I choose Iran for our Ethnic Night. 

Throughout the day we read books to learn about the culture of choice. Sometimes we do activities that relate to that culture. For instance when we did Native American Night my children slept in a teepee that night. Sometimes we try to dress like the culture (past or present). For Iranian Night I covered my head. I always cook at least one meal from that culture (some are more authentic than others). I typically get a recipe book from the culture of choice ahead of time so I can prepare. Our library is a great resource for this.

Not only do I choose foods to cook from the specific ethnicity of our night, but I try to model our eating environment after that culture. One of our favorite Ethnic Nights, was Chinese Night. When I served the meal, I served it at kiddy tables with cushions spread around them on the floor for us to sit on. We used chopsticks when we ate and drank tea from fancy cups. All while listening to chinese music in the background. Even though this particular ethnic night was over a year ago, my children still talk about it fondly!

Not only do my children love these nights and learn a lot from them, but my husband and I also learn right along with our children.

What things do you do to celebrate and learn about other cultures?

Doing Something You Didn't Think You Ever Could

There are many things we do as mothers that we never imagined we’d do. This summer, I had the privilege of encountering a new one. 

It happened shortly after we purchased a kiddie pool for our children. One day when we returned home from an appointment, we walked passed the kiddie pool on the way into the house. My children were in front of me. At the sight of the inside of the pool, my children starting making quite a commotion. Unaware of what they were all saying, since they were all talking at once, I looked into the pool to see what the commotion was all about. There, floating in our new kiddie pool, was a dead squirrel!

The squirrel had apparently climbed into the pool to get a drink and couldn’t get itself back out of the pool once it was done. I don’t usually like squirrels because of all the damage they cause, but seeing a drowned one floating in our kiddie pool, was a sad, pathetic sight to behold even for me. I considered leaving it for my manly husband to deal with when he got home, but it was morning and it just didn’t seem right to leave the dead squirrel floating in the pool all day long. Furthermore, until I removed, drained, cleaned, and refilled the pool, it was unusable. Since it had been so hot and dry that week, that just didn’t seem prudent. So, I sucked it up and got the pitch fork to remove the dead squirrel from the kiddie pool. I was going to immediately throw it into the garbage, but my curious children wanted to see it. So, as gross as it was, I allowed them to inspect the dead squirrel close up. 

My children learned some details about squirrels they hadn’t known before, just by being able to see one close up (live ones don’t seem to hold still long enough). It was also a very visual reminder of pool safety rules and the horrible effects of disobeying them. 

So, the moral of this story is that sometimes as mothers we do things that we never thought we would have to do (dealing with a dead squirrel). And in the midst of it, we need to be strong for our children (God will give us the strength we need) and make the most out of it. If I had danced around and screamed about how disgusting the dead squirrel was, my children never would have gotten close enough to learn the things they did about squirrels and probably would have developed some irrational fear.

Interesting footnote... Another squirrel that died in our pool on another day, was the focus an elementary dissection exercise. 

What is something you never thought you’d have to do as a parent and what was learned from it (by you or your children)?