You had finally found your homeschooling “groove.” Lessons were zipping along, your students were working like well-oiled machines, and then it happened: something came along that broke that wonderful, systematic rhythm. You may have known it was on the calendar, but that still didn’t prevent it from upsetting your entire homeschooling apple cart. Now you feel as though your students may never regain their previous momentum.
Rather than taking an entire day off, you may be able to salvage the remaining portion of an interrupted day and manage to keep enough of the energy that the interruption is merely an insignificant blip on your radar. Here are several ways to complete “school” when the normal routine has been interrupted by doctor’s appointments, a minor family crisis, a field trip or co-op class, a funeral, or any number of other inconvenient breaks. These measures may also help you get through a bad weather day, a not-feeling-so-well day, or a we-really-overdid-it-yesterday day. (Tip: In the case of a minor family crisis that lands you and your loved ones in the local Emergency Room, try to redeem the experience as an impromptu field trip: encourage observational skills and appropriately timed Q & A sessions about what the medical professionals are doing, so that your students gain knowledge about other career fields along with the immediate medical attention. Plus, it can also help focus children’s minds away from pain, suffering, and generally frightening situations.)
1. Half-Lessons–Scheduled interruptions (such as dentist appointments or well-child check-ups with the doctor) can allow you to plan ahead for a half-day of lessons. Shorten each subject’s work load to a portion of its regular size and zip through your schedule in record time. Your students will know they have covered the usual subjects, and the results of the faster pace can spur your students into working more quickly on “normal” days, too.
2. Consumer Math–Shopping is necessary for every household, so incorporate it into your curriculum by posing price comparisons to your students. Show them how to read the labels for ingredients, size of contents, or any other vital statistics, and then help them compare brands and sizes to determine the best value for your family’s needs. Yes, this can make shopping take longer, so I do not recommend doing this with every item when you are already pressed for time or when you are restocking a nearly bare pantry.
3. Life Skills–Sewing on buttons, hemming a skirt, ironing shirts, following a recipe for cooking or baking, washing windows, folding the laundry, cleaning out a closet, organizing the kitchen “junk” drawer, or sweeping out the garage–all are vital skills for life that can redeem the productivity of an interrupted school day.
4. Phys-Ed–Let ’em run. Dust off the bicycles, roller blades, baseballs, or jumpropes. Everyone needs a physical break now and then, and younger children need them even more often. The physical exercise relaxes their tired muscles and gives their brains “processing” time. You may be surprised at the creative ideas that are hatched during this “down” time.
5. Snuggle Up & Read Day–Grab your favorite books and head for the sofa. Read to each other or just let each person read his own book, side by side. Snuggle up with warm blankets and thick, warm socks. I love soaking in the warmth from a sunny window when the winter weather is too cold to enjoy venturing outdoors.
6. Craft Day–There is something infinitely satisfying and therapeutic about creating things with your own hands. Whether you make silly masks with paper plates and colored markers or intricately detailed ornaments for your next Christmas tree, the time spent with your children provides an opportunity to talk together, create together, and giggle and laugh together. Check hobby stores for ready-made craft kits if you need help getting started.
7. Cooking or Baking Day–Make an extra-large batch of cookies or soup and freeze the extra for use on your next too-rushed-to-cook day. Dicing onions, celery, or carrots to freeze for future use in soups or casseroles is a time-saver as well as an opportunity to work and talk together with your children.
8. Game Day–Play your favorite board games. Combine the pieces from several games and invent a new game. Don’t keep score, but focus on the aspects of strategy and sportsmanship, instead of on winning and losing. Show lesser-skilled students how to plan ahead and think through their moves to help them strengthen their abilities for next time.
9. Nature Study–Take a walk. Sit under a tree. Watch and listen to the birds. Weed the flower bed. When the disruptions of life have intruded upon the security of your routine, regain control by surrounding yourselves with the peace and solitude of God’s handiwork. It can be even more refreshing than a nap!
10. Video Day–Watch a favorite movie. Watch a new movie. Watch an old movie. Use technology to your advantage and pause the movie at strategic moments to discuss why the characters act the way they do or discuss how the plot would have changed if a key character had chosen another option at a crucial point.
Life Happens. I repeat that often to explain what has disrupted my formerly-planned day. When Life happens to your schedule, use it to your advantage to teach valuable life lessons. And remind yourself that children sitting in orderly rows in a sterile classroom are missing out on the inevitable spontaneity that is Life.
For further encouragement on the topic of interrupted days, missed lessons, and messed-up schedules, see:
A Day Without Lessons,
Reschedule, Refocus, Regroup, and
Sick Days, Snow Days, and Other Interruptions