It’s back to school week at the Cole house, and we are going to have FUN! That’s my story anyway, and I’m sticking to it.
A few months back, I wrote about how my grandiose plans for my last school year fell rather flat. Well, I think I’m beginning to understand more about how I got there. I am usually a pretty laid-back person. I prefer to take life at an easy pace, and I’m generally open to change and flexibility. But when faced with a long to-do list and a deadline—even one that is many months away like the end of the school year—I start to panic a little. There is a lot to get done, and (because my perfectionist streak unfortunately tends to crop up in areas like this) I want to make sure that we get it all done right.
Here’s where Ultra Planning Mom kicks into gear. She has lots of awesome ideas about how we’re going to do all this great stuff and get it done in time and everything is going to be wonderful. But somehow Ultra Planning Mom doesn’t like to stick around when it’s time to put the plan into action. She just dumps all her great ideas on me and runs for shelter.
It’s not all bad, though…Ultra Planning Mom does help with organization. When I’m left to execute her ideas, however, I tend to get caught up in the drudgery of the day-to-day ticking tasks off the list, forgetting that learning is actually supposed to be fun, at least some of the time. Lessons tend to be more memorable and time passes more quickly if the lessons are presented in an enjoyable way. I can think of multiple “games” I played as a child that were actually clever schemes to get me to be quiet or do my chores without realizing it. I doubt I can fool my children into doing their schoolwork without noticing, but there are certainly many ways to learn through fun and have fun while learning.
So this year, in addition to the usual book work assignments, I am trying to have a bit more fun with certain subjects, particularly history. I was never terribly fond of history growing up, but I am excited about my plan for this year. We will mainly be working on trying to finish up some history from last year, but I’m also planning to do snippets of American history by studying certain events on the dates they actually occurred. For example, I hope to study Columbus on October 12 (the day he landed in the New World), talk about the Boston Tea Party on December 16 (the date of that event), and discuss WWII on the anniversary of V-E Day (May 8). My girls love to celebrate special occasions and holidays, so I’m hoping we can do something to commemorate each day…something educational, but fun. I’m thinking an actual tea party might be in order in December. Maybe we can put a pinch of salt in our tea for more historical accuracy.
Aside from history, I’m hoping to do more of these “educational but fun” family activities on a regular basis, without necessarily being tied to any particular school subject. I’m thinking a random game, a craft, a cooking project, a field trip, etc. To celebrate our first day, for instance, we made cookies in shapes that reminded us of going back to school: squares and triangles, letters, hands for doing the work, and houses representing our “home” school. I am not normally the greatest at making an effort to do such activities with my kids, but I’m hoping that making them a part of our school schedule will encourage me to do more than simply serving as a taskmaster all the time.
Finally, a few fun motivators for our regular school day can’t hurt, right? Last year, my girls tended to get stressed out over their history tests, and I had the brilliant idea to start out this year with a long review quiz. Ha. BUT I told them to think of it not as a test but as a fun way to get chocolate chips, because for every answer they got right, they got one chocolate chip. They all ended up with a nice handful, and they had a blast calling out the answers as we looked over the questions together. It was the best history test we’ve had by far.
School can be hard work, and I certainly don’t intend to require that everything we do be “fun.” But I’m hoping that putting a spoonful of sugar into the mix will help the education go down more easily for all of us. Let’s just hope Ultra Planning Mom has improved on the feasibility of her plans this year. We’ll see how it goes!
Photo Credit: First image graphic design by Charity Klicka; all other images by Jessica Cole.