by Katie Julius

If your home is anything like mine right now, you are struggling to make school happen. It’s that mid-year slump that seems to hit every year, right about now. Mom is worn out. Kids are worn out.

In my home, my excitement comes from all the planning that is already starting for next school year. The subjects we have been studying and the routine we’ve been holding since September are growing old. So, what can we do to make it through the rest of the year in one piece?

Academics are important. We want our children to develop a solid foundation in math and reading. We want them to have a basic understanding of the world around them and how it works and the history of that world.

And while they are important, do we place an inordinate amount of importance on them? So many conversations I hear and see among homeschool families, especially those with younger children, focus on which curriculum is best, how little Johnny isn’t grasping phonics or place value yet, or how early to start formal academic instruction.

Yes, academics are important, but I would argue that learning is more important. And developing a love of learning is even more important than that.

Many homeschool families choose to educate at home because they do not like the public school system; their child is struggling in it. Yet, the first thing they do when they begin to set up their school is replicate the public school setting, complete with desks, textbooks, and whiteboard.

Do some children thrive in this environment, especially once the social issues of the school setting are removed? Absolutely. I was one of those kids. I like structure. I like being given explicit instructions or rules that I can follow. I was one of those kids who played school as a child, outside of school. However, the vast majority of kids learn best through experience and discovery (and so do we!).

In the midst of school and life, especially this time of year, it is necessary to take a (short) break from those academics. All learning does not have to focus on one of your core academic subjects. Developing relationships and social skills is an important part of what we do as parent-teachers.

I recall a speaker I heard one time who shared that she has days scheduled in her planner that are non-school fun days. They’re not intended to catch up on work. They’re not intended to do extra chores around the house. They’re not even intended for field trips or scheduled park days. Rather, they are days to be together and go do something fun. Maybe it is going to get ice cream and watch a movie at the theater. Maybe it is meeting up with friends for lunch and then going to a favorite location to play or hang out. Maybe plan a game day at your home or the park with other families. Whatever it is that your kids and family enjoy doing – schedule a day to leave the academics behind and go have fun together! You’ll be surprised how much your kids are actually learning about life and relationships in the process.

Extracurricular activities can be invaluable to the growth, development, and learning of children. This week, we chose three “K” items as part of our Convention ABCs countdown; each representing a different type of activity your family can consider adding to your school line-up.

Kite-flying. Get outside. Even if you are taking your school work outside on a picnic blanket, get some sunshine! Go for a walk or hike. Visit the tide pools. Go whale watching. Stay up late and have a family stargazing night. There are so many different opportunities for learning by being outside. Kids are natural explorers and discoverers. Just give them the opportunity and they will surprise you!

Knitting. Involve arts and crafts in your school. Now, I know some of you not-so-crafty people are kind of panicking a bit here, but don’t worry! This doesn’t have to involve paint, pom-poms, or glitter. The world of art is so vast. Yes, there are visual arts that many of us tend to think of right away. But there are also performing arts (music, dance, theater). There are folk arts–this is where that knitting comes in, along with woodworking, soap making, and paper crafts, for example. You may hear it referred to by some as “handicrafts.” With the advent of handheld technology, even technology arts are accessible to kids now in the form of photography, cinematography, graphic arts, and animation. Children are insanely creative when given the opportunity to be (as are you!). We are created in the image of God, who created the entire world. Everyone has some type of creativity in them!

Kitchen skills. Many homeschooling families I know incorporate “home economics” or “life skills” into their daily routines already. But if you aren’t, this is a huge area that many of our youth are lacking as they enter into adulthood. Kids should know basic kitchen skills–enough to feed themselves without going through a drive-thru. Household management is important as is money management and personal finance. Basic auto care is something everyone who is of driving age should know. Handyman skills can also be helpful as kids grow older. All of these skills are things that young kids can begin to learn, while becoming more proficient in them as they grow older.

This is not an exhaustive list of extracurricular subjects you can incorporate into your schooling, but it gives you a good start. Consider the age and interest of your kids and pick an activity you can do together as a family. We’d love to hear how it went!