“How do you do it all and where do you get all your creative ideas from?”
As many other readers may wonder and ask similar questions, I thought I would answer in a full post.
Firstly, I DON’T “do it all”! I think this post may describe my failings and fears of not getting it all done! But here are a few simple strategies to plan and add hands-on activities and to create fun learning opportunities in our homeschooling experiences.
1. Plan it
Start with your year plan or the book index. Look over all the main topics and themes in the schedule that may provide interesting activities and highlight them. Add a few days to a week, or even longer for your activities, depending on the activity. Usually I source (or create) a lapbook and a few quick hands-on activities for each theme. We don’t always do them all, but I like to have some options planned.
Essentially I extend our 1-year schedule to 18 months or even 2 years. I have NEVER regretted taking our time with extra hands-on activities, but have always regretted rushing on when there was still a sparkle of interest and enjoyment. None on my children have ever fallen behind academically. Carry on with the 3’Rs (Maths, Spelling, Phonics/Reading, Handwriting) according to their normal grade schedules and simply extend your core. At first, you may feel anxious, but don’t worry. You will find your rhythm and flow.
Where did I find my ideas? In my early years, I simply Googled the topics and themes for projects, plans, ideas and activities. These days, Pinterest is a fantastic resource! Type in your search topic and pin away! (Here are my Homeschool, Art, Famous Artists, Bible, Nature, Maths, English, Printables and Science boards.)
While I search, I use Microsoft OneNote (here’s an online tutorial) to collect all my ideas so that I can work with them offline. Other folk swear by Evernote. (Read the comparison between them here and here. ) Whatever works for you is fine!
I love OneNote because I can easily create tabbed notebooks and sub-tabbed pages. OneNote automatically adds link and web addresses whenever you copy text or images. I especially like the screen clip insertions as it gives me quick visuals of my searches. OneNote allows you to attach files, pages and portions from the Internet to the notepage, so everything is in one place and saved automatically. Later, I play around with my Internet finds and create my projects and pages.
3. Print & Prepare
After collecting my hands-on activity ideas, I create my pages and then print everything out and prepare the work. After many years of homeschooling I have found all these time-saving tips for doing lapbooks that really work. We save time and avoid much frustration if we cut, fold and pack all the minibooks and store them in Ziplock bags, or better still, paste all the minibooks into the file folders ready for our lapbook sessions. I file my lapbook planner with the index page and notes, all ready to whip out when we need them.
4. Promote it
Usually our hands-on activities are the best part of our theme. My kids love to know what hands-on activities they will do with each new theme or topic. Introducing a theme with a hands-on activity is so stimulating! But if we need to first do read alouds, narrations and notes, then the hands-on activity is a wonderful reward to complete the work. If interest flags, or kids are tired, sick or unmotivated, hands-on activities revives our days.
Children have unique interests and learning styles. I find that younger children need more physical activities, while older kids may prefer creative activities. One of my children is very shy, while the other loves to act out scenes and present puppet shows and speeches. One is very visual, while the other loves listening. One is very left-brained and logical, the other very fluid and right-brained. Find activities that serve the individuals as well as the group. Co-op with other families for added hands-on excitement!
When teaching several children together, (and I highly recommend moms combine their close-aged children on the same core) it is good to have options and allow the kids choose what activity they would prefer to do. My kids notebook in individual ways, uniquely combining notebook pages with their minibooks, and I try to create pages and projects that are open-ended and flexible.
Many of our activities have started with an idea which the kids developed and fulfilled in ways that I did not necessarily anticipate. The more I homeschool, the more I realize that my kids love to take an idea and run with it! I am often simply a facilitator! More and more, I am learning to let go and allow my kids to lead & take charge of their learning experience.
Whether your hands-on activities are “extras” or essentials in your homeschooling, please plan time for them, take your time and enjoy these homeschool moments!