SummaryAre we too focused on chasing grades? Inspired by one of her own teachers, Patricia Purcell shares several activities that put the fun back into learning.
It was the last period of the day before Christmas break.
My seventh grade classmates and I filed wearily into the science lab, prepared to endure a final boring lecture from our teacher, Mr. K., before we were set free to enjoy the holidays.
We let out a collective groan as he emerged from the supply closet, pushing a sheet-covered cart that appeared to be loaded down with lab supplies. He expected us to do actual work? Now?
Ignoring our grumblings with irritating calm, he instructed us to open our books and read about the layers of the Earth, while he set up for the lab. Humming a Christmas carol under his breath, he proceeded to pull out pans and utensils, fully aware that most of us were watching him surreptitiously.
At last he looked up with a serious face and began his lecture.
“The center of the Earth is a core of solid rock.” His hands rummaged under the sheet and brought out a tub of chocolate ice cream, which he spread into the bottom of a sheet pan. We sat up taller in our seats.
“The next layer is…” He brought out a jar of fudge sauce. The class was grinning now.
By the time his ‘lecture’ was done, he had assembled a gigantic ice cream sundae and turned our lesson into an unexpected party. Mr. K. was a serious teacher, but that day he showed us that it is okay to have fun with learning sometimes.
It’s a lesson that I’ve tried to keep in mind as a homeschooling mom.
It is so easy, especially as the kids get older, to look at the volume of work that must be completed and forget that a great education involves more than just chasing grades. It should serve to instill a love of learning in the student.
I’ve realized that in order to do this, I need to take a page from Mr. K.’s planner and build some fun right into my school year.
There are many ways to do this.
Plan Ahead to Build in Fun
Fortunately adding some fun to your school year doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive. Subjects like History, Science, and Literature lend themselves to further exploration beyond the textbook. Some ideas include:
- History Day – Dress up as historical characters that the kids are learning about. Encourage everyone to stay in character for the day, emulating the speech patterns and social customs of the time as much as possible. (You’ll enjoy the polite speech that this should encourage.) Prepare a meal from the time period together. Older children might write a report or give a speech about the character or time period.
- Culture Day – Same as above, but with a geographical slant. Research the traditional costume and food of an area, and replicate it at home. Children could give a report about the history, terrain, and chief exports of the region. If your students happen to be studying the language that is spoken in that country, it’s a good time to practice as a family.
- Literary Tea Party – Invite some friends to join you for tea time dressed as their favorite book character. Encourage kids to recite lines from literature and have others guess the work that it’s from. You can even decide ahead of time to have a book discussion or debate. It could even be the start of a book club for your children.
- Be a Mad Scientist – Science is an area that begs to be delved into, but many of us find that sometimes we don’t have time or the supplies on hand for experiments. Set aside a day just for science. Ensure that you have all the necessary supplies ready beforehand, and allow yourselves the time to be awed by the wonders of science.
Easy Ways to Add Fun to Your School Year
Even if you don’t have time to dedicate a whole day to a subject, there are still plenty of ways to build fun into your school year.
- Change of Venue – If you and your children are becoming weary of doing lessons in the same old place, shake things up a little. For little ones, building a fort in the living room out of sheets and cushions to serve as a temporary classroom can make even math facts seem more exciting. If you have older children, load up the backpacks and head to the library for the day. The hushed atmosphere and endless shelves of books might inspire them to study harder.
- Take a Walk – Allow everyone to get a breath of fresh air and get the wiggles out. Take a walk in your neighborhood, and really look around with purpose. How old are the houses? Who would have lived here one hundred years ago? Or, head to a park for a nature walk. Bring along some binoculars and identification guides for birds, bugs, and foliage. Encourage kids to record their observations in a nature journal.
- Special Projects – If possible, set aside an out of the way space in your home for long term projects such as models, sculptures, crafts…anything that your children are interested in trying. You never know when a hidden talent will be uncovered.
- Field Trips – Look around your community for unique learning opportunities. Many museums and parks offer classes and admission at bargain rates for students.
Instill a Love of Learning
Take the time during your busy school year to show your children that learning is about more than grades on a report card. Make time to go beyond the lesson plans as often as possible. Encourage kids to discuss and research topics that interest them.
Help them find ways to further their knowledge. Demonstrate that you too still value learning new things. Most of all, as Mr. K. taught me so long ago, show your kids that learning can be fun!
How do you build fun into your school year?