Whether you home school full-time, after school, or teach in a classroom having a mixed bag of activities can do the learning environment good. We can all probably agree that children do well with a basic routine and having some sort of idea of the expectations for the day, but children like adults also can benefit from having variety or surprises thrown into their day.
One of the initial reasons for our homeschooling journey was that our oldest daughter struggled with change. It was hard for her to adapt to new things that weren't initially on the schedule. There were times when she cried because she was out of her comfort zone or taken by surprise. When I say we home school because of this, I am not saying we wanted her to be home so she wouldn't have to adapt, but the opposite. For the most part, classrooms follow a routine. It would be difficult for a teacher with 20+ students to simply go with the flow. I felt that if she was placed in that sort of environment she would probably become more rigid.
My daughter has shown me the importance of having routine while allowing for unscripted moments.
- Of course, my first thought is to mix up the schedule a bit. Most days our academics begin with history, but every now and then our first subject is art or something they are enjoying in a different subject.
Before hitting the books, incorporate a game or a fun learning activity. We start some days with a read aloud or trivia. When I taught first grade, my students enjoyed when I read to them aloud before starting our normally scheduled activities.
- Find a new spot to learn. As a home schooling family, we take advantage of going to the park or library to do our lessons. I remember our first time going to a local park to do school work. The girls were 5 and 3 at the time so it wasn't like we had a great deal to do, but they enjoyed packing their backpacks with their little workbooks.
- If you can't get out, consider incorporating a scavenger hunt into your day. This activity is a favorite of my girls. They enjoy looking for hints and clues to find a cool treat or a revelation of an upcoming activity.
- Use different resources to teach the core subjects. We have a variety of resources on our bookshelf and on the computer. Ever so often, I set aside our curriculum and use other resources to teach the concepts. I don't focus on completing every problem or activity in our curriculum because I know they are still learning whether we use the prescribed curriculum or if they use something different.
- Give the learner the opportunity to teach. This is an area that we are working on, but incorporating a "Student as Teacher" day can really boost confidence and understanding. The girls often help one another understand a topic, but setting aside a day once a month or so where one does most of the teaching for the day would be a nice change of pace in our learning environment.
How do you add variety to your learning environment? Please share some ideas in the comments for other educators to enjoy.