As the snow settles on your holiday celebrations, have your children become disinterested in their recent gift accumulations (or maybe this only happens with my children)? Oftentimes, I have found when it comes to the holiday season, anticipation overpowers reality. So, how does a weary homeschool mom (or any parent) inspire their children and avoid boredom during the holiday break?
Taking a break from academics is often one of the most anticipated events during the holidays, yet my children would often become restless (and dare I say bored?) with the days upon days of unstructured time. If you are like me—a homeschooling mom who needs unstructured time to rest and enjoy pleasure reading, or even to tackle household projects left undone during your busy homeschooling days – your desire is for your children to be happily productive so you can achieve success with either possibility.
Early in our homeschool journey, I heard the term; “Productive Free Time” which simply defined is time spent exploring interests as a means to develop individual interests and skills. Using a predetermined set of time during your holiday break to develop the habit of Productive Free Time will have eternal results as your children freely learn about what really matters to them. There are many things my children have explored during their productive free time including science experiments (prepackaged and of their own design-with supervision), and games, poetry reading and writing, creative writing, Lego building, in-depth studies on a topic of interest (learn about our Titanic journey in the Unit Study PRO workshop) and so on!
While productive free time will look different for every family, as each our children have been created with unique gifts and talents by our ingenious God, here are a few ideas to get started.
First, as parents we need to focus on our goal to encourage the individuality of our children and equip them in developing their unique traits. If you have never introduced productive free time in your home, begin by asking your children what specific interests they would like to explore. And this is important: interests they would like to explore! As Mom/Mentor, our goal is to provide the tools and allow them freedom to discover. Learning flows from their explorations as you encourage them to ask questions and find answers. You may also ask them to “document” their adventure with a digital camera and simple notes of where their exploration has taken them.
Once they have selected one or two areas, provide them with the tools necessary for success, which may be as simple as common household items or as elaborate as prepackaged building or science set. After the tools are available, you will want to schedule productive free time into your day. Some families prefer to schedule a block of 2 (or more!) hours, while others find scheduling two 1 hour blocks to be more effective. The goal of scheduled productive free time is to ensure children have plenty of time to explore. Initially, children may find this block of time intimidating, but as they begin to focus on their passion, they will beg for more!
Remember, the goal of productive free time is not forced learning and regurgitation of facts, but rather a time to slow down and explore areas of interest, whether the interests lies in electronics, creative writing/poetry, science, arts/crafts, puzzles and games or a combination of these areas. Provide your children with the tools they need and allow them freedom to learn (please note: if your children are creating their own science experiments you will need to provide supervision).
It is my hope that you will introduce a block of productive free time in your home this season (or expand your child’s curiosity if you are already using productive free time) to create a new routine and watch your children flourish! I would love to hear stories from your family’s adventures: email me or drop by Facebook and comment.