Diary of an Earthed Mama

This guest post is part of our 30 Days of Homeschool: The Good, The Bad & The In-Between Blog Series30 Days of Homeschool Blog Series

I am a bit of a dreamer, one of those people who is quite happy to exist in a happy little imaginary world for a large proportion of the time. I suspect that there are many of us out there. Often I find reality is somewhat different to what’s happening in my head and brings me back to Earth with a bump…Join me on a bumpy day 🙂

6 a.m. Awake to dulcet sounds of loud slurping. Surface and find Bod3 clamped to breast. She sort of squawks a bit, and her dark eyes open. “Helped m’self mama,” she announces.

Mr S. brings me a mug of lemon and hot water which I sip slowly, feeling very holy and imagining it happily doing its work, detoxifying my liver. Hmmmm – shame that I’ll probably retoxify things fairly soon with large portions of chocolate. And stuff. Ah well – onwards and upwards! Realise that the sun is peeping through the curtains and enjoy little vision of happy children leaping out of bed to embrace the day, with joyful squeals of delight. Bods 7&11 start to wake…various creaks, groans and moans can be heard from their respective bedrooms. No-one is leaping out of bed. Consider that maybe an enormous crowbar should do the trick. Wonder if they sell crowbars that big. Reflect that that is perhaps a rather draconian measure.

7.30 a.m. Breakfast. Finally sit down having made 4 different breakfasts and having cut the crumpets and toast in exactly the right way (I hope) using a protractor. Just as bottom settles into seat, a great cry goes up. I’ve omitted to provide all the different beverages required for this particular feast. Right – I’m on it! Nothing shall phase me today!!! We settle again and hold hands to sing grace. Ah, peace and harmony, how blissful.

“Don’t want to sing!” shouts Bod3.

Smile benignly. “OK darling, that’s just fine. Maybe you can hum?”

“No! NOT humming, not anything. I don’t want to do it.”

“That’s fine darling. Let’s just hold hands.”

“NOPE. Not even holding hands.”

“Jolly good darling. But the others want to, so just listen then…”

Close eyes and imagine, through the screeching and the mumbling, that we are something like the Von Trapp family – singing in exquisite close harmony. Attempt some harmony.

“Hey – Mummy – what ARE you doing???” they exclaim en masse.

“Harmony?”

“Well don’t! It’s muddling!”

Right. Onwards and upwards.

9.30 a.m. Music practice. Hide in kitchen. It is possible that cats are dying in the music room. Decide not to investigate unless called. A battle between cacophony and polyphony rages for an hour.

10.30 a.m. Decide to head to beach with kids and dog. Indulge self for a few merry moments conjuring up marvellous vision of self standing windswept on beach in bright sunshine whilst children and dog cavort merrily in waves around me. Perhaps we’ll find some fascinating sea creatures washed up on the beach which I will know all about of course and will expound at length to a captivated audience. Reality somewhat different. The sun has now gone, the sky grey, the wind bitter, the sea rough. Large wave condescends to dump huge amount of water all over Bod3 and soak her to the bone. Of course, no spare clothes to be had. In 11 years of mummy-ing I have consistently failed to remember to bring spare clothes. Bod3 now yelling and demanding to go home. Bods 7&11 refuse. The beach is currently the only place in the entire world that they wish to be. Right. Fight ensues. Dog, in the meantime, has caught an interesting scent and charges off up the beach. Realise he is now a distant speck on the horizon, so charge off after him waving arms and screeching. Pause, after a couple of metres (running on shingle is hard – right???) and wonder if there is a less demanding means of encouraging him back. Remember packet of dried sprats in pocket that stink to high heaven. Whip them out and waft them in breeze in enticing fashion. No response. Realise am downwind from dog. Ah. Eventually dog turns to see crazed woman, squeaking and waving and wafting, and decides it would be prudent to return. Time to go home.

12 p.m. Lunchtime. Everyone is apparently starving and ravenous, with concave stomachs that rumble like pits of lions. Prepare food and think it will be lovely (and fun!!! Get me! Fun mummy!) to have a picnic in the garden, with children munching happily in the tree house and me rocking gently on the swing seat. It turns out there isn’t enough space for three children AND their lunches in the tree house. Various bodies fall out and/or get ejected. Call upon advanced negotiations skills…which fail. By the time everyone is settled happily, the desire for food seems to have passed, the desire to play has taken over.

1 p.m. Everyone peels off to pursue different activities. While elder Bods are busy, think it would be nice to set up an art activity for Bod3 and anyone else who cares to dip in…Envisage long, peaceful, creative spell, the breakfast room a hive of productive activity. Ah yes, this activity should take, oooooo, well, an hour? And by the end we’ll have some fabulous works of art. People will exclaim at my gifted children as I proudly display their work on the walls. Optimistically put the kettle on… After about 5 minutes, it appears that this activity has run it’s course. The room looks like Jackson Pollock has held a rave in it, and the “artwork” looks like a miserable soggy Rothko in shades of brown. Remind self that it’s the process that is important. End result matters not. Takes me most of the rest of the afternoon to clear up.

4 p.m. Decide to do some yoga. Announce this grandly to herd of children, hoping for smattering of applause, which is not forthcoming. Children grunt assent. Absent self to bedroom for peace and stillness. After 5 minutes Bod3 potters in.

“OOOOOO look mama! You made a house for me!” she exclaims with joy. “Can I sit on this bit of you? Make another house! Can I climb on this bit?”

“Right – now I have to do a balance,” I explain, “Please, please, do not wobble me.”

“Shall I huff and puff and blow you down mama?”

“Ummm…..not just yet?”

“Well I’m huffin’ an’ puffin’ – you have to fall down NOW!!!!!”

After a while she sits patiently to watch and wait. The other two wander in.

“Whatcha doing Mummy?”

“Mummy is doing balancing,” Bod3 clarifies solemnly, “Don’t wobble her.”

I find the 3 pairs of eyes boring into me rather disconcerting and I fall over. Enough yoga.

5 p.m. Look at clock and realise with horror that it is dinner time and haven’t thought about what to cook. Enjoy for a moment image of self, glamorous and coiffured, creating marvellous culinary delight in sparkling kitchen whilst children, rosy cheeked with smooth hair, in freshly laundered nightgowns greet Father as he returns from work. Reality a little different. Race around kitchen opening cupboards frantically, trying to find foodstuffs that will ‘go’ together. Can’t find much so finally decide on ‘fusion food’. Dinner burnt because at critical frying moment Bod11 enters kitchen with a question:

“Mummy – what’s a quark?”

“Well…..weeeeeell… (must buy self some time while grey matter kicks into action – quick, think of something…) it’s what posh ducks say?!”

Snigger at high level of my own wit.

“Mummy, please don’t be silly.”

Right.

“Umm…of course…well…. it’s a very small, um, sort of bit of a particle.”

Look round triumphantly at Bod11’s expectant face.

“Is that all you know?”

“Um, yes. Perhaps we should look it up?”

At this moment, Bod3 rushes in, clutching her bottom in dramatic way and bellowing “WEE COMING!!!!”

Abandon cooking as High Speed Toileting Service springs into action.

By the time Mr S saunters in there is a towering pile of burnt saucepans in the sink, closely resembling the Leaning Tower of Pisa and the kitchen looks like a bomb’s hit it. Dinner barely edible.

7.30 p.m. Storytime. Ah my favourite bit of the day. Time to cosy up together on the sofa with hot chocolate, a chance to be peaceful, a chance to indulge my inner thesp. Dog has decided to occupy half of the sofa, he’s so blissed out that can’t bring self to move him. The rest of us squeeze into remaining half. Bod7 is suddenly afflicted with a bad attack of Ants in Pants. Flings legs over head in alarming way and with increasing exuberance, narrowly missing tray of hot chocolate several times before achieving a direct hit. Oh, and apparently, when I get into it, my scary voice is too scary. Put thesp back in box.

9 p.m. Bod3 asleep and the elder Bods reading. Decide it’s safe to have a bath. Run water and drizzle in some posh bubble bath that Mr S. bought me which I save for when it’s been One of Those Days. Relax in warm water, close eyes and breathe in heavenly scent. Door opens and in stomps Bod7.

“Oh hi Mummy. I need to do a poo.”

Right.

“Shall I get out then?” I ask.

“Nah, s’alright Mummy. I like talking to you while I poo.”

Great.

“Can I just open the window then darling?” (please?)

“Oh, hee hee, but then I’ll get a cold bottom won’t I?” she giggles.

Fine. Of course. Take one last sniff of heavenly scent and resign self to fate. We have a lovely chat.

10 p.m. Bed. Really must make some attempt to keep mind alive. Pick up book to read. Eyes can’t focus on page. Must employ mind over matter strategy. Woken by book falling onto face and give up attempt. Drift off instead and reflect upon wise words spoken by dear friend. We’d been chatting about the concept of the “good enough” mother and her contribution was this, “As long as you go to bed every night and think about how you could have done things better, then you’re doing a pretty good job”. Find this thought comforting and profound. When reality constantly brings you back to Earth, at least there is always tomorrow 😉 and after all, Earth is a pretty glorious place to be 🙂 🙂

Cathy Smith is co-author of www.fiveescapetheclassroom.com, a blog she writes with fellow home educator and best friend Debbie Douse. Their children bonded over a love of the Enid Blyton Famous Five stories and became firm friends. In the blog, they share their home ed adventures with the world. Follow us!!!

 

Eight Tips for When Your Child Refuses to Do Schoolwork

This guest post is part of our 30 Days of Homeschool: The Good, The Bad & The In-Between Blog Series

Homeschooling your children is one of the best decisions you can make concerning your kids. Homeschooling builds family honor, bonds, and trust far beyond that of the family that public schools their children. Homeschooling allows your child to learn at their own pace in an environment you control.
Homeschooling is many wonderful things, but one thing it most definitely is not . . . is easy.
In fact, homeschooling just might be one of the hardest things you ever do.

Eight Tips for When Your Child Refuses to Do Schoolwork

It’s no secret to homeschoolers that there are days when the kids just don’t cooperate. As frustrating as it can be, these difficult days are always worth it in the end. In eight years of homeschooling, I’ve learned a few things about the kid who refuses to do schoolwork.
Below you’ll find eight tips to help you get to the root cause of the problem.

Have a heart to heart

Having a conversation is always a good starting point. Sit down face to face and try to find out what’s going on. Is this something beyond normal childhood grumpiness?
Is she bored? Maybe the work is too easy.
Does she need some extra attention or one on one time and this is her way of crying out?

Consider a change of pace

Sometimes you just need a change of pace to turn those frowny faces upside down. A special outing or playdate are always welcome changes.
Changing location from the normal school spot can help too. Doing school outside on a picnic table or the porch always excited the kids and makes school a bit more fun. I’ve even gone so far as to pile everyone in my king size bed and do school there. It’s funny what the kids consider fun.
What about a snack? I love snacks, don’t you? Having a regular snack time each day helps break up the day and establish a routine.

Consider their age and subject readiness

Like many new homeschooling mothers, I made the mistake of trying to “do school” too early. In the beginning, I rushed the kids because I was so excited to get started. I learned I had to wait until they were ready.
That thought follows through to the different subjects too. Some kids read at five. Some read at nine.
Some kids are math whizzes and others aren’t. If this attitude is coming right after a curriculum or method change, I bet your child is frustrated with the new material.

Consider the distractions

Just like us, kids get frustrated with distractions too. Is there a baby crying? A TV on somewhere? Is someone playing the piano or a video game in another room?
Cutting down on distractions has helped my freshman enormously. She just doesn’t function well with so much going on. The answer for her was to do most of her schoolwork in her room.
Ask your child if the noises and goings on of everyday life are distracting and if so, work out a plan, together.

Consider their learning style

Establishing your child’s learning style early on will cut down on much undue stress and frustration later down the line. There are many questionnaires and tests online to help you with this is if it’s not overly obvious.
I guarantee you, if your kids’ curriculum doesn’t speak to their learning style, you’ve found the source of your problem.

Consider a short break

Sometimes you just need a break. Giving them a break from school (or a break from each other!) can be a multitude of help in getting attitudes back to the good. Whether it’s just the afternoon off or the rest of the week, rest in the knowledge that this time off will be good for everyone, even you, mama.

Don’t stress

Last, but certainly not least, try not to stress.

The work will get done in the end. Once you figure out the root problem and get it resolved, you’ll be back on the productivity track- until your next derailment – but such is the homeschooling life.
Don’t worry about the workbooks and checkboxes being done. Homeschooling is so much more than that. Trust me, when your child graduates, it’s not the workbooks she’ll remember. It will be you, and the moments you shared together.

Jeniffer is a homeschool mom of six who focuses on collecting memories instead of things. Her minimalist attitude helps her keep the house somewhat clean and fresh, delicious food on the table without breaking the bank. She stretches every penny, makes every moment count, and is never far from a good book and cup of coffee. You’ll find her journey of frugal living and homeschooling her brood at Thou Shall Not Whine.

Setting Goals for Guidance in Your Homeschool

This guest post is part of our 30 Days of Homeschool: The Good, The Bad & The In-Between Blog Series

How to set goals for your homeschool

First, let me start by saying that at this point in our journey I AM PASSIONATE ABOUT HOMESCHOOLING my girls. However, we were not always set on homeschooling. Both of my twins had two wonderful years in a public preschool, and attended our local public school for kindergarten. It wasn’t until we found out that my daughter would be having spinal surgery when she was 5 and would be in rehab for 6 months after that. It made perfect sense to homeschool at that point. I just needed to learn how to set goals for guidance in our homeschool and I want to share with you a few things about setting goals that I have learned along our ten year journey in homeschooling.

You Will Receive Unsolicited Advice

Everyone who homeschools believes in the path they have taken. And like everyone in everything, if something is working for us we want to share it. The best curriculum, how to socialize them, what activities are important, are all things that we have to make decisions about. I recommend that you BLOCK it all out. I have participated in so many discussions about curriculum, that it makes me crazy. It is something that you will have to choose based on you and your child’s learning style.

You Will Receive Some Invaluable Advice

The one piece of advice I receive in the beginning of our journey was from an acquaintance we met while staying at the Ronald McDonald House during my daughters rehab therapy. She told me to write a mission statement and some long term goals. So I did. I named our homeschool Summerwind Academy and said that Here at Summerwind Academy we thank the Lord for our blessings, read lots of books, serve others, and create things in order to live our best lives. It was not fancy or beautifully worded, but I wrote it down on the inside of my planning notebook. My first year, our goals were these five things. Every decision I made, I ask myself if it moved us closer to these goals. It helped guide me. We did not need a full on curriculum, because we were just going to read lots of books.

Your Goals Will Change, But They Will Still Be Your Goals and Can Guide You in Decision Making

Our first year, our goals were for them to learn to read well, participate in volunteer activities, create a nature journal, and read the Bible through. In 2015, my girls were in middle school, I got divorced, and we moved. Our goals for that year were to read lots of books, and to survive the divorce. Last year my twins started highschool and our goals have changed. I set the goal that they would be prepared to enter college, even if they chose a different path. I listed out their high school graduation requirements and a list of possible electives. When we choose activities and opportunities we use this as a guide.

You Will Have Life Challenges During Your Homeschool Journey

When life happens, homeschool changes to teaching life lessons, and I have learned that IT’S OK. When we had to travel for my daughters therapy, sometimes we were out of town for weeks at a time. Our goals kept us focused, we still read lots of books, we helped other families who were suffering at the Ronald McDonald House, and we visited the zoo and the aquarium many times. When we found out that my dad had brain cancer and would only be with us a few more months, they read books to him, learned how to make juice smoothies for him, and ride the bikes that he got them. During these times many people feel like they are getting behind or their kids are not getting the education that they need. I would encourage you to LET IT GO. My daughters and myself, learned life lessons during these times, when life happens.

In an effort to provide full disclosure: My girls are not geniuses, musical savants, or walking trivial pursuit games. They are both very well rounded individuals. They are both going to graduate high school very well prepared to start college if they choose that path. I say if they choose, because right now it seems like they are both on the path to being entrepreneurs. I am proud of what we have done so far, and I LOVE HOMESCHOOLING.
I am happy to have the opportunity to share with you here at 30 Days of Homeschooling: The Good, The Bad, And All the Rest.

Hello!  I’m Heather. I am a mom to twins. I enjoy nature, photography, and serving others.  I love my family, fishing, donuts, and homemade pizza. I am passionate about homeschooling my girls, the benefits of being in nature, and helping others. I started this blog because I have 10 years of home schooling experience, a new found joy for life, and a desire to share what I know, so that I may help others.  You can find me at http://www.fruitful14to41.com/ , or hanging out in mom groups or nature groups on Facebook.

Homeschooling Teens and Tweens: The Bare Truth

This guest post is part of our 30 Days of Homeschool: The Good, The Bad & The In-Between Blog Series

I am honest enough to admit that I never thought I would be homeschooling my boys through their tween and teen years.  We began homeschooling with a year by year attitude and after my first few months I really wasn’t sure we’d be homeschooling all that long.
You can imagine my surprise when I realized my oldest was starting middle school and I was still homeschooling!  I kind of freaked out a bit not knowing what to expect when homeschooling middle school but we muddled through and I realized it wasn’t much different from what we had been doing before; my teaching and guiding grew right alongside his skills and learning.
Homeschooling Teens and Tweens: The Bare Truth
Now my oldest is just beginning his freshman year of high school at home and my younger two boys are firmly in the throes of middle school.  Again I’ll admit I freaked a bit at the thought of homeschooling high school but once we sat down and sketched out a rough plan we were both excited at the thought of continuing this homeschooling journey together.
Can I let you in on a little secret??  

I actually find it much easier to homeschool middle and high school!
Tweens and teens cane be such fun ages to homeschool.
  • They’re fairly independent so I have a lot more free time to pursue my own interests.
  • They are able to communicate to me what they’d like to learn, how they learn best, and why a particular area of study may or may not be working out for them.
  • They’re funny!  My boys have a great sense of humor and I get to be around them all day.
  • We have such great discussions.  They’re all old enough to have their own opinions about mostly everything and they love to debate with both my husband and I.
  • They’re ready and willing to soak up life skills and my boys are quite helpful around the house too.
  • They have developed hobbies and often surprise me with their skills.
Is it always sunshine and roses?  
Well, no.  Of course not.
 I don’t think any stage of parenting or homeschooling is “easy” since every stage comes with it’s own unique set of challenges.
  • Tweens and teens can be moody.  Their bodies are changing rapidly and their moods often reflect the hormonal fluctuations.  One day they love me and school and what we’re doing and the next day everything is stupid and lame.
  • My boys often think they know everything and I get lots of eye rolls, sighs, and attitudes; even if they’ve just asked for help or have asked me a question they’ll usually tell me my answer is wrong.
  • Since my boys are all so close in age they either get along great or they are at each other’s throats and it can be tedious to STILL be playing referee all the time.
  • I have noticed (with middle school ages in particular) that my boys can learn a set of skills one day or week and appear to have mastered it only to look at me blankly later on insisting they’ve never learned it.  I’ve read up on this phenomenon and apparently this is a documented hormonal thing due to the rapidly growing body sapping the brain of energy.  It’s why most middle school books don’t introduce that many new topics and instead focus on mastering and honing skills learned in elementary school.
  • As independent as they can be they still need my help and it can be tough to know when to step in and help or when to let them muddle through on their own.
  • So many parents stop homeschooling through the middle school years and even more stop with the high school years that it can be tricky to help my boys find all the social interaction they often crave.  It seems like the older my kids get the less we find homeschoolers their age around.
Yet, I do think that many of these homeschooling challenges wouldn’t be much different from challenges all parents face in raising tweens and teens.  If anything I think I’m lucky that my boys still turn to me for advice and not just to their peers and friends like I know I did. And while my boys may question our rules, values, and judgement from time to time we are still the biggest influences in their lives.
While I never pictured myself homeschooling my kids right up through college I am sure am glad I was open to the idea and willing to try.
Bio: Joanne, known as Mother of 3 around the web, has been homeschooling her three boys for 6 years.  A former teacher fed up with the public school system she ventured out on her own and found a wonderful network of moms through blogging and life that have shown her what education really is.

A Homeschool Day of Power Struggles: It’s Still Worth It

 

This guest post is part of our 30 Days of Homeschool: The Good, The Bad & The In-Between Blog Series


If we look at homeschooling through the rose coloured glasses presented to us through sites like Facebook, Pinterest, and Instagram, we might think that every day is supposed to be this wonderful journey, snuggled on the couch together reading, doing beautiful crafts and worksheets, examining flowers outside and journalling about it. And maybe for some families, it IS like that. But I would think that it’s an extreme minority, and we’re all going to have power struggles in our homeschool day.

Homeschooling is hard. Wonderful, but hard. There are good days, there are fun days, there are rough days, and there are horrible days – just like parenting. Trying to meet the needs of each child in our lives can be a challenge.

In 2013, I wrote the following journal entry. This is a glimpse of a hard day in homeschooling.

He sits curled up on the floor of the kitchen, barricaded into the corner by the chairs he’s pulled around himself. His eyes bore into me, daggers shooting from them wishing I would just go away. There’s a series of words being muttered to me that I can’t hear, but am well familiar the context of the intent of them. (more…)

Top Ten Tips for Tackling Those Tricky Home Ed Days

This guest post is part of our 30 Days of Homeschool: The Good, The Bad & The In-Between Blog Series

Top Ten Tips for Tacking Those Tricky Home Ed Days

Our home ed journey is over two years old now and I wouldn’t change it for the world. I feel so close to my children; their education is thriving and most importantly they’re extremely happy – they have a lust for life and for all the wonderful learning opportunities it presents, but sometimes I need some tips for tackling the tricky home ed days.

Most days it’s possible to appreciate all the multitude of benefits this lifestyle presents, such as being able to follow your child’s interests and passions; allowing them more time in nature; giving them time and space to imagine, think and explore; strong sibling bonds; no peer pressure; close friendships with a whole range of ages along with the confidence to be thrown into new situations and make friends easily; the freedom to travel and take advantage of the numerous educational opportunities this presents; the chance to learn something just for the pure joy it gives you rather than because you’re going to be tested on it, making space for creative pursuits as well as the more traditionally academic subjects… I could go on and on.

And then there are days which are not so good. Days when you question whether what you’re doing is enough. Days when you need some space from each other. Days when you’re all exhausted. Days when you’re completely preoccupied with some other pressing life event. Days when no-one seems to be learning anything. Days when you wish they’d just stop asking questions (after like the millionth question of the day) and then you feel guilty because you know this inquisitive nature is exactly what you should be nurturing.

These days are in the minority, but they happen.

Self-Reflection 

Self-reflection is not something you’d necessarily assume to be an essential attribute of a home ed mummy, but it’s fundamental. Knowing your own strengths and weaknesses as well as your “frustration triggers” can help you identify when things are not working and what to do about them. One of my characteristics, for example, is that once I have a plan in my head, I like to complete it. Sometimes this is a great attribute, but other times it’s a huge disadvantage.

Flexibility

At the start of our home ed journey, I’d persevere even if we were having one of the days described above. And we’d end the day having achieved very little, frustrated and unhappy. Over time, I’ve come to realise that, in these situations, the very best thing to do is just to stop. Stop what we’re doing and either rest if that’s what we need or do something completely different. Embrace the flexibility home ed offers. Change up our day, let go of the bad and turn the day around.

There are lots of ways of achieving this goal, but here are some of the strategies that work best for us when we need to tackle those tricky home ed days:

1. Getting outside and exploring nature

Just being in nature is a hugely therapeutic experience for adults and children alike. You can feel yourself breathing deeper, the layers of stress and anxiety lifting as you walk through that meadow or along that beach, and you’re left instead with a feeling of calm and serenity. As Richard Louv says in his excellent book Last Child in the Woods: Saving Our Children from Nature Deficit Disorder, “Time in nature is not leisure time; it’s an essential investment in our children’s health (and also, by the way, in our own).”  

Go and explore the woods, beach, meadows, rivers and lakes in your local area. Encourage the kids to make and pack their own picnic, and to carry it in their backpacks.

Let the children run, twist and jump in nature; climb trees; look under stones for interesting critters; build dens; and find interesting stones and sticks. If you want a little more structure or incentive for your walk, take along a penknife and a whittling book and spend a lazy few hours whittling sticks. Or sign up to eBird (an archive of bird sightings across the globe – more than 100 million bird sightings are contributed each year), grab your binoculars, bird book and notepad and take a note of all the birds you see in your local area. Once home, you can show your child how to add the birds they’ve seen and their location to the eBird tracker, thereby improving their naturalist and computing skills at the same time! Or tune into your surroundings by downloading a bird song identification app (such as Collins in the UK or Sibley Guides in the US) to identify the bird calls and songs you hear all around you. Or download Plantnet to help identify unknown trees and plant species you discover.

Or take a fishing net, pond/river life identification book and a bucket and see what interesting freshwater life you can discover. You could even teach them how to graphically represent their discoveries on your return home.  Or pack up a little bag of paints, colouring pens & pencils or chalks, paper, and an identification book, and enjoy some time drawing the nature around you. You might find they become enthused about this and want to start a nature journal or it may just be a one-off picture for your wall. Or take a little collecting bag and ask them to see what snippets of the natural world they can find to set up their own nature table back home. Encourage them to lay out the display, identify their finds and add the labels.

Or just simply walk, breathe and appreciate the beauty of the great outdoors.

2. Reading, reading and more reading!

My children relax by reading. It’s their absolute favourite thing to do. As Dr. Seuss said, “You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax. All you need is a book.” If it’s a beautiful day, set up a picnic blanket and cushions in the garden and lay out lots of lovely picture and/or chapter books for them to select from. Or make a really simple tent by throwing a rug over a washing line and weighting down with rocks. Snuggle up together inside. If it’s a miserable day, get the duvets out, grab some hot chocolate and a few snacks, and settle in for an afternoon of joyous reading.

We sometimes forget that even older children and fluent readers still relish being read to, so enjoy cuddling and reading that chapter book together. Or, if they’re deeply engrossed in their own books, take your book and read alongside them. There’s always a temptation when the kids are fully occupied to fit in just one more job, but don’t! You need a break too, and after an hour’s reading, you’ll be in a much better head space to tackle whatever else the day throws at you.

3. Let them play

Play is vital to children (and to us adults too!). It’s how they learn. Their exploration of the world through play is what forms these wonderful, crazy, creative and imaginative individuals. “Play is the only way the highest intelligence of humankind can unfold.” -Joseph Chilton Pearce.

So, step back and give them the time and space to play to their hearts content. Take some time for yourself when they’re engaged in play, but also come back from time to time and just watch. Really notice what they’re doing and how they’re playing; it’ll bring joy to your heart.

4. Watch a documentary together

Our kids don’t watch TV apart from documentaries and the odd film or two, so having the opportunity to relax in front of a good documentary or film feels like a real treat. There are some excellent documentaries available, many for free on You Tube. Ours particularly love anything by David Attenborough or the Deadly Sixty series on the natural world front, and anything with Ruth Goodman on the historical front (such as Full Steam Ahead or The Secrets of the Castle).

5. Set up some art provocations

Simply lay out a few art supplies, and possibly an inspirational book and let them while away the day creating masterpieces. My two are particularly partial to me reading to them whilst they create, but if you need a break, put on an audiobook and buy yourself some free time.

6. Enjoy some time giggling together

“A smile starts on the lips, a grin spreads to the eyes, a chuckle comes from the belly; but a good laugh bursts forth from the soul, overflows, and bubbles all around.” — Carolyn Birmingham.

Rejoice in the joy of children and have a good giggle together. Get out the joke books, or dance around the kitchen or one sure fire way to make my children laugh until their tummies hurt is to get out the Mad Libs, a super fun word game (and they can practise their grammar at the same time).

7. Take an impromptu day trip

Clearly this is not one to do if you’re tired, but if you just need a change, ditch the books, and head out for a fun day out at a museum or historical location. Savour in the delicious advantage of being able to visit these places when it’s lovely and quiet.

8. Practise some independence skills

Give them the responsibility of cooking a meal or planning the menu and shopping list for the week. Instead of whizzing through your jobs, include them and do them together slowly. The result – you get your jobs completed and the kids love being involved with the important work of running a household.

9. Play board games

We love board games in our house. Children play them because they’re great fun, but they’re also developing their logic and reasoning skills, improving their critical thinking and enhancing their spatial reasoning at the same time. Favourites in this house are Dutch Blitz, Top Trumps and Ticket to Ride.

10. Take Photos

Take lots of photos throughout the day, and just before bedtime, sit down together and go through them (if your children are anything like mine, they’ll love looking at photos of themselves!), asking them what they enjoyed learning today. Seeing the day through their eyes is a lovely way to connect with them before bedtime and gives you a greater appreciation of just how much they’ve absorbed in this hands-off, go with the flow sort of day. And more importantly you’ll end the day on a positive note, ready to take on whatever the next day holds.

Do any of these tips look like they could work for you? Have you used any of them yourself? Do you have any great tips that we can add to our bag of tricks? Comment below and let us know!

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Debbie Douse is co-author of www.fiveescapetheclassroom.com, a blog she writes with fellow home educator and best friend Cathy Smith. Their children bonded over a love of the Enid Blyton Famous Five stories and became firm friends. In the blog, they share their home ed adventures with the world.

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