Home School Life Journal From Preschool to High School

Home School Life Journal ........... Ceramics by Katie Bergenholtz
"Let us strive to make each moment beautiful."
Saint Francis DeSales

Making School Something That They Look Forward To

After seeing this post at the Nurture Store, it struck me that these are the same principals I apply to our homeschool. Sometimes people ask me how I make school so much fun. Well, this is how- I follow the same principals from the Nurture Store's playcations to our school. You can make your school seem like a playcation too, and they will learn more because they want to.
I started this pastels art lesson by beginning it first myself, and soon everyone was at the table.

Make things look tempting: When I started nature study journaling or often when I do an art project or a craft, I just get all the materials ready and begin with the project myself. In no time, they are there, dying to do some, too. We have fun finishing it together and with my head-start I can often find out the tricky or difficult spots ahead of time and warn them of them, which makes the project run smoother. I also have a model to show them if they get confused on some aspect of the project.

They have been playing with this school project, a catapult, for over a year.

Katie taught Quentin all of his letters and some other skills.
Double up for maximum fun: Making school projects that transform into toys gives them lots of extra play. They will remember their history lessons if they play them. This is a type of narration. Sometimes they come back to me to clarify some aspect of the lesson that they were not sure about that they would not have otherwise thought of if they had not been acting it out.

Enlist help: Now that I have older kids, often they will help me with a lesson for their younger siblings or even do one completely for me. Utilize their talents and energy level. It is a joy to see this in action. If you only have younger kids now, think of all the seeds you are planting now, that you will be able to reap later.

Keep it simple: Sometimes it is easy to get too complicated with a craft or project and this not only leads to frustration and confusion but also the original purpose for the activity gets lost. They remember only the activity and not the lesson. Sometimes the activity will be counterproductive. Sometimes crafts or art projects in the end will look like a historical object or process, but if they make it differently than they did originally, this can confuse the facts.

Quentin is always using craft materials to make his own projects related to school lessons.

Go natural: The more you use toys that are battery-powered, television, video games and the like, the less likely they will want to make the effort to learn, imagine and play. By contrast supplying them with lots of interesting raw materials sparks creativity. Many times my kids come up with their own crafts and activities appropriate to the lessons learned.

Quentin made a quiver for his Robin Hood figure when he saw some arrow-shaped plastic toothpicks in my cabinet.

Mix it up: If you do the same subjects, the same materials, the same times of the day -day in and day out throughout the year, it will come boring and stale. We have been doing a Mainly-One-Subject-A-Day for over a year now and it works for us because things seem new and different if you haven't done it for a week. I also vary when and where we do our lessons -sometimes first thing in the morning, sometimes in the afternoon. If they are busy playing something productive than I will let them play and catch them right after lunch.  All of this adds some freshness. I do some subjects every day, but this varies according to the student. I do each day what each student needs to do regularly such as reading, math and foreign languages. I discuss these individually with each student and they agree that they need to do these things more regularly than once a week so they are participants to this decision. You really need to be partners in their education and empower them. It is harder to grumble if you have been a part of the decision.
James especially enjoyed reviewing Roman numerals by using pieces from an old RISK game.

Add a wow factor: I am constantly on the look-out for projects that really are exciting and fun. Keeping with the same sort of activities becomes mundane and ordinary. Even if I do a complete book such as a History Pockets book, I don't do the whole thing, one chapter after another. I do one and then wait a few weeks to do another one with other projects in between. Art projects are a great way to add a wow factor because there are so many good techniques out there now. Add CD's and DVD's, games, costumes, puppets, beautiful journals to encourage writing and drawing, art materials of all types, various math manipulatives, science supplies like magnifiers and dropper or plastic test tubes to your regular activities and always a stady supply of good books. Look at how you can use the same materials you have in a new way. This is especially important when budgets are tight. Model creativity and imagination.

James made this beautiful flower from the wax covering of some Baby Bell cheese. They see art materials in just about everything now.

Upcycle: The more you use recycled materials to make learning aids or playthings, the more you inspire and spark creativity. They begin to see the potential in these things themselves and begin to build their own items to go along with what they are learning. That is when your heart really sings.


  1. Anonymous25.5.11

    I like the "Make things look tempting" part. I just read about seed tapes over at hodgepodge. I could hollar down to Jon and ask if he wanted to make some, he'd probably say No. But if I get the supplies out, and start giggling and having fun, I'll have 2 willing helpers, and a garden dug. ;) If I don't enjoy doing something, why would they?(blogger won't let me sign in - this is Angie at Petra School)

  2. Anonymous25.5.11

    I agree! We do add a lot of video games, and DVDs in too, when they tie in to a lesson. But, the toys we make ourselves are terrific fun in the process of making them, playing with them, and learning from them. Almost Unschoolers

  3. Great suggestions! Thanks for sharing!

  4. Phyllis -- this post is amazing!! I'm off to share it on FB & Twitter. I love how you say to make it look tempting. I am a big believer in the power of example! Your kids are SO lucky!!

  5. I always love to look at your blog...and was thrilled to see that first up on this post was a wonderful pastel! All of them were just beautiful! Please keep up the great work, and big hugs to you all!

  6. This is wonderful advice. I just love the way you think and approach learning. Modeling instead of telling is so important. I love the reminder to use natural materials and go low tech. It's tempting to use iphone and computer games as a babysitter now that K is getting older. I don't want her to lose contact with her environment and creativity. I also love the idea of doing one subject a day with the exceptions of reading, math, and foreign languages. That way you can go more indepth and not feel pressured to move on every 40 minutes like in school. Thank you for sharing this. It's easy to tell you are a seasoned homeschooler with great wisdom.

  7. Hi Phyllis, I know from reading your posts that your homeschool is such a fun place to learn. And you know I agree that doing and inviting is much more effective that just telling.

  8. So very true. And somethign I work hard to do, not always succeeding.

  9. What great advice! I always love reading about all the fun you have with your children. To now see how you keep everything so fun is very inspiring.

  10. Love this post! I especially like the "make things look tempting" and "keep it simple" advice.

  11. Thanks Phyllis! You've laid out precisely why I follow your blog.

    Everything you do looks fun and educational. I am so glad that you share it with us!


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