We all get there. Here it is, April, and we can taste summer on our lips. Even in North Dakota where we’re still under about a foot of snow, we feel the promise of 50 degrees and sunshine next week, and we really do believe that sunny days and green grass are in store for us. We need it, ache for it. We are sick of routine and boots and coats and wet and being cooped up. Oh, for a day of summer!
The reality is, of course, that we’re still about six weeks away from the end of the semester. So what can we do to stay on track and not give in to our inner restlessness? (Hint: it has something to do with listening to our restlessness.)
1. Use the changing weather to enhance your learning. As the sun comes out and the ground warms up, look to the outdoors whenever possible! Even last week when we were yanked back into the depths of winter, Eva and I took advantage of the late spring blizzard to construct an honest to goodness igloo. As the snow melts off, we plan to create a map of our yard and garden on graph paper and plan out our new garden bed. Math and science, baby. We may also look to incorporate some wildlife habitats out there. We already have birdfeeders, but are planning a tiny pond too. Perhaps a log pile? Lots of research and experimentation opportunities here. And walks through the neighborhood make for great PE time and allows space for talking and dreaming, architectural observation and friendly neighbor chats.
2. Focus on the kids’ interests. Ian wants to record this summer, and to do that he needs to become versed in the recording software Cubase. I’ve made Cubase mastery an assignment for him over the next few weeks, using the tutorial that comes with the program, youtube videos, and direct experimentation. Eva is interested in filmmaking and preserving the threatened koala, so she’s busy writing a script for a short film that will educate others about the marsupial’s plight and provide opportunities to help.
I also wanted the kids to write an essay this semester, and realized that kind of assignment could be a buzz-kill this time of year. To make it work, I provided time during the day for them to work on their papers, and let them choose their topics. Ian chose (I know you’ll never guess) music. Eva, just as shocking, chose Harry Potter. I don’t really care what their topics are, but the papers have to be argumentative – not just a report. Ian’s still in the research phase, but Eva will be exploring the role of intelligence in the Harry Potter books. Since they both love their topics, the process will feel more joyful.
3. Provide Free Choice. In our daily schedule, Eva has one or two blocks of “free choice” during which she selects a topic from a preselected menu. Her choices are all things she’s interested in anyway, but having to make a choice from the list helps her make more intentional decisions about what she does during her day. And having the freedom to make that choice helps her feel more excited about her activities. It also allows her to delve more deeply into what she’s in the mood for instead of having to work on a particular topic just because it’s “time” to do it.
4. Rework the day’s schedule. Why wait until the semester change to rework the daily schedule? By this time of year we feel stale, and the best way to freshen up is to look at how the day moves with fresh eyes. Since Ian goes to public school for math and music, I have to work around their established schedule. However, within those parameters, I try to create a schedule that follows our natural flow. I want it to work for us, not the other way around. And my #1 rule is that a schedule is made to be flexible. This is a guideline to help us. If the day doesn’t want to follow what I’ve laid out, it’s best to listen and change course.
If you’re interested, click here to take a look at our end of semester schedule.