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Taking the Show on the Road: My Trick to Incentivize Homeschooling - by Mary Ellen Barrett

Taking the Show on the Road: My Trick to Incentivize Homeschooling

Ever feel stale? Those four walls are closing in on you and everyone is annoying each other…

It’s time to pack up the books and take the show on the road. I’m not talking field trip here, although that’s not a bad idea if you can manage it; I’m talking about lesson time in another location.

Change the Air

My dear Nana had a funny expression. Whenever someone was getting cranky or feeling blue, she would tell them to “go outside and blow the stink off yourself.” It is good advice when you are feeling flat and worn out with things.

Just get out of yourself and air out your attitude a bit. Refresh your mind and blow away the cobwebs that are cluttering you up.

We are frequent visitors to our village’s library. The librarians know us well and are extremely helpful and pleasant to us as a homeschooling family. They are delighted that my children enjoy books and are always willing to help them discover new things or research their interests.

They have even come to know what I consider to be twaddle or inappropriate, so they leave those books aside when recommending to my children. You know, those books that are really advertisements for cartoon shows; not in my house, thank you very much.

Since we have developed a nice relationship with these kind professionals, it has been easy to, once or twice a month, pack the backpacks and move school to the children’s area of the library. This seems to spur on a desire in my children to accomplish a great deal in a short amount of time.

This is probably partly a desire to impress the librarians and partly a desire to finish up so they can browse for a good long time. Either way I’m good with it. When their work is completed to my satisfaction, they are free to look for books, peruse the DVDs (we always come home with Bill Nye and Signing Time) and flip through the back issues of the various nature and craft magazines they have there.

Bribery Rewards and Road Trips

Sometimes, if everyone was well-behaved and worked well, we will stop for a treat on the way home. A big cookie at the bakery or a slice of pizza makes the whole thing a little more special and fosters good feelings all around. It also refreshes everyone and helps us feel a little less closed in and a little more joyful about homeschooling.

The library isn’t the only stop on our homeschooling roadshow. We have done school at some local parks, a nature preserve, a Gold Coast mansion that is open to the public, and sometimes even the home of a friend.

These little outings have the added benefit of keeping us flexible. Sometimes, due to situations beyond our control, it becomes necessary to take the show on the road.

When my mom was battling early onset Alzheimers, I would, of necessity, throw the kids, the books and some clothes in the car and make the seventeen hour trip down south to spend a few weeks helping out. When we lost my mom, there was quite a bit of back and forth there for a while, and we were able to keep up with the work since we had some practice at getting out and about.

It’s not an ideal way to do school for any length of time, but part of the beauty of homeschooling is that we can be available to those we love when times are tough and not have to fall way behind or worry about attendance records and nonsense like that. We can just serve the ones we love and practice the times tables at the same time.

Getting out and about once in a while serves both the children and mom. We all get a fresh perspective, four new walls or some blue skies to look at, a little incentive to accomplish our work and maybe make a few new friends. It’s worth a little prep and planning (don’t forget the pencils!) and can turn a week that is heading south in terms of attitude into a win for everyone.

Try it! Get out, take the homeschool show on the road, and blow the stink off yourself.

You’ll be glad that you did.

Car Photo © Tomasz Zajda / Dollar Photo Club

About Mary Ellen Barrett

Mother of seven children and two in heaven, Mary is wife to David and a lifelong New Yorker. She has homeschooled her children for eleven years using Seton and an enormous amount of books. She is a columnist for The Long Island Catholic and blogs here . Meet Mary Ellen.
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