scooter boyTOPIC:

What do you do to get away from workbooks? What are things you add to your day to shake things up? What are your favourite resources to make learning more fun? What do you do when you find you need a bigger change in your school routine?


Recently, I started mixing math and gym together. My girls are learning/ reviewing their multiplication times tables. To make the learning more active and fun for them, I begin by giving them a multiplication question. Then, I have them answer the question and then do a physical activity (i.e. jumping jacks) the number of times as the answer. So, for example, if their answer is 12, they would do 12 jumping jacks. If their answer is high (i.e. 144), I would have them run, skip, or hop for 144 seconds. Sometimes, I challenge them and say if they could divide the answer by another number (i.e. 144 / 12 = 12) then they only have to do a named physical activity for the number of times as the new, smaller answer.

Workbooks come and go in our family – our most faithful book is for spelling. When we need to “shake it up a bit” we bake cookies, or enjoy a cup of tea together. When we need a bigger change, we do things like clear the coffee table out of the living room, drag out all of our duvets and pillows and read and play games all cozied up. When the weather turns nice we’ll do school in the park.

Other than math and phonics, we don’t use workbooks at all, preferring to choose books from the library on topics we’re interested in. We also search out activity ideas on the internet. When school is starting to seem like drudgery, we will have a late start of bookwork (after lunch) and spend the morning snuggling in bed and reading. We will also do a park trip or nature outing, or do some cooking. When we need a bigger change, we brainstorm on what we would like to do, then hit the library. After that, we do a field trip to an indoor play place and I plan out the new stuff while they have a play day!

Apart from math, we don't generally use many workbooks, although in my newbie years as a home learner, I used to rely on them as I thought that the workbooks had all the information my kids need to know for that grade level about whatever particular subject they featured. Now that I have more confidence in my abilities and intuition, and trust that my children will learn what they need to, when they need to, workbooks no longer dominate our school work. I do use them periodically, especially when I am helping one of the kids with math, but they are workbooks the kids have chosen themselves (with some guidance) and can do more or less on their own.
...To shake things up in our day, we bake or cook. The kids always love it, and they learn all sorts of skills from math to reading to tech. We like to look up the origins of certain dishes and we always get led down a bunny trail as we uncover the answers to our questions, but that's what makes learning fun - and the kids remember what they've learned.
...The rebounder in our living room is definitely one of our favourite fun resources that we use for a variety of subjects, especially math and spelling. For example, I'll call out math equations and the child gets to bounce out the answer as they answer it verbally. It's during this time that I let the kids do flips onto the couch, something they are not ordinarily allowed to do, which makes it extra fun. We also use bean bags and a game called OgoSport. We really like crafts in our house, so anything the kids can build or make with popsicle sticks, paper mache, pipe cleaners, paint, etc, is a big hit and a big help when it comes to learning. I'll often let the kids paint while I read to them about whatever subject we're covering. It's amazing how much they retain as their hands are busy.
...I also LOVE a website called SizzleBop ( Carol Barnier has a ton of great ideas, links, and encouragement for adding movement to learning - and they are ideas that are free (or almost) and easy to adapt to whatever you're doing.
...When we need a bigger change to our routine, we take a few days off and clean the house. (The kids don't like it, but it's very cathartic for me!)

From the March 2011 NLHS newsletter
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