We are one of those homeschooling families that homeschools all year round. We don’t stop, except for winter holiday, those two weeks immediately before and after Christmas. I wanted to teach my children the meaning of sharing and of Christmas, rather than the commercialism that’s now attached to it. However, even at Christmas, things can feel rushed. So here are some of the ways I spend special time with my kids (and they work all year round).
Mom and Me Day
Once a month, I set aside time to be alone with one of my kids. We see a movie, sit and have a cup of coffee at Starbucks, have an ice cream cone or share a banana split at Baskin Robbins, or go book hunting at Barnes and Noble. We do whatever that child wants to do within reason. I say within reason because there always seems to be at least one child who wants to all the expensive stuff you really can’t afford to do for each child. Sometimes we cook together and my children now have wonderful recipes in their recipe boxes as well as a love for cooking.
I think my personal favorite activity for Mom and Me Day is just sitting in bed all day watching a movie marathon or having a readathon. We’ll sit and read our own books, but then stop and share the best parts together, summarizing the parts we’ve read so that it’s like the other person is also reading the book. Imagine reading two books at once. That’s what it feels like. I put a sign on the door that reads “Mom and Me Day” so the other kids don’t “accidentally” forget that it’s a special day. At the same time, I still allow interruptions from my other children so they don’t feel neglected.
One of the benefits of Mom and Me Day is that your children will tell you if they’re having any problems. Problems with a particular homework assignment you’ve given them, troubles with a sibling, or just feeling bad about something they said or did. They don’t want to share in front of the rest of the family, but on Mom and Me Days everything comes out.
Do Nothing Day
I’ve heard other homeschooling families have something similar to this, but with variations. Here’s how we do Do Nothing Day.
The rules are simple:
- No errands
- No chores
- No electronics
- No TV (this can be a hard one for some kids)
- No friends over
- No texting or phone calls
On Do Nothing Day we do exactly that–nothing. If we go outside to spend time on the lawn, we don’t garden. We just lie there. We talk to each other or just doze on and off and relax.
One of the things I teach my kids to do on Do Nothing Day is to become more aware of their bodies. Yogis are very in tune with their bodies and have amazing health. Lie flat on your back (on the floor, sofa, or bed), close your eyes, relax your toes, then your calves, then your thighs, then your hips. Relax your abdomen, your stomach, your chest, and your breathing. Breathe slowly in. Breathe slowly out. Relax your fingers, your wrists, your arms, your shoulders, and your neck. Now relax your mouth, your jaw, your eyes, and your mind. Lie there for as long as it feels comfortable. My kids and I fall asleep in this position and it does wonders for your outlook on life. It’s like a little Pollyanna Pose.
Field Trip Day
We take a field trip every week. Every week. Even if it’s just to the local coffee shop and pet shelter, we go somewhere. The only rule is that we come home at the end of the day, so it’s not a vacation, it’s a field trip. Here are some of our favorite places:
- Science museum
- History museum
- Art museum
- Pet store
- Animal shelter (usually to drop off donations)
- Fishing pier or wharf
- Nature preserve
- Historical landmark
- Local museum (if a city is larger than 100,000 people chances are it has a museum)
Most parents read to their kids right before they go to bed. We call them bedtime stories. Few parents read to their children when they wake up. When I found that I could never fit enough hours into the day and, no matter how hard I tried, I always felt rushed doing bedtime stories, I started morningtime stories. Here’s how it goes.
Some mornings, if I am particularly lethargic, I grab a kid favorite, sit in the hallway outside of their rooms, and read. They slowly wake up, lie in bed, and listen. They start their day relaxed and feeling like a part of something bigger, our family. It also lifts a great burden of guilt from my shoulders. I never realized how horrible I felt about not wanting to read at the end of a long day. I was tired. But in the morning, I am refreshed.
Even now as some of my kids are older and they no longer want me reading books to them in the morning, I talk to them the moment I get up. They’re still in their beds, listening, and sometimes they chime in. We talk about anything or nothing in particular. We just talk. In our home, our voices carry so they do all this talking from their bedrooms. I’m usually running about the house doing chores. There’s nothing like talking to your kids first thing in the morning to make your day truly wonderful.
Movie Night is a combination of things–time to spend alone with my kids, a treat for a difficult report the kids have finished, and a way to learn (movies can be educational). It’s a way to spend time as an entire family without spending a great deal of money. Let’s face it, homeschoolers have to cut corners because we’re operating on one income.
To make the night special, I made fake tickets with Word (the software program), print them in color on our printer, and laminate them at Lakeshore Learning Center (their laminating is super cheap). Once the kids finish whatever report or unit study they’ve been working on, I issue them the ticket. On the appointed night, the kids hand me their ticket, climb into my king size bed, grab a bowl of popcorn, and wait for everyone else to arrive. I have a cartoon video playing until every child is there, just like in a real movie theatre, and when they are all assembled in my large bed, I start the movie.
I try to make movie night a new movie we rented from Netflix, something the kids haven’t seen before. Once it was a docudrama about the Roman Empire. Another popular one was Blue Planet, a BBC production about the oceans. Life of Mammals was and is still our favorite.
This is a great activity to do those nights when your spouse is out of town or working late. Instead of the kids watching the clock and asking when Dad’s coming home, they’re busy watching, bonding, and learning.
The holidays are one of the busiest times of the year. Don’t let your kids get lost in the moment. Plan some activities alone with them.
Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!
Originally published on November 23, 2013.