I spend quite a bit of time sitting and waiting at classes and events with other homeschool moms and at this time of year, "We're behind!" is a common refrain. The worry of feeling behind is one of the main reasons I've never purchased a boxed curriculum before. We might not have accomplished everything I wanted to do by a certain date, but at least I don't have the pressure of seeing "Week 22" on papers when we started school a good 30 weeks ago. Perhaps sometimes that pressure would be a good motivator, but I've still never felt I needed it enough to go that far. Anyway, no matter how we homeschool, many of us are looking for ways to squeeze in some extra learning or practice here and there, but we don't always (and by don't always, I mean pretty much never) have big chunks of time in which to do it. Here are a few ways I've found that have been great for us!
- Meal Time: Unfortunately, my husband works pretty late most nights and sometimes I've got to feed the kids dinner before he gets home. When we have to do this, I usually wait to eat with my husband and while the kids are eating, I read aloud to them. If we've been busy and have not been having much read aloud time during the day, I'll read from our regular book, but sometimes I use this time to share a picture book that goes along with something we're learning about in science or history or to read a fun seasonal book. Meal time is great for reading aloud because they're a captive audience and their mouths are full, so they're relatively quiet, too!
- Mouthwash Time: My son knew almost all of his multiplication tables by the time he turned seven, and my tried and true method was our nightly mouthwash time after he brushed his teeth each night. Instead of counting to 10 while he swished, we would count by 2s up to 20 and then after he was done, he would repeat them back, with help at first and later on his own. When he had mastered the 2s, we moved on to the 3s and so on until he knew them all. My daughter is working on number recognition and I taped a number line to the mirror in her bathroom. While she swishes I count and point at the numbers and when she's done, I'll give her the big plastic pointy finger and call out numbers for her to point to on the number line. It's quick and simple and, since she is brushing her teeth consistently, she's practicing her numbers consistently, too. If you've already got to count, you might as well make it count!
- Bedtime: Bedtime is a great time to fit in a read aloud. It can help your child wind down a bit before bed and it's a great excuse for you to slow down a bit, too. In our house I'm the daytime read loud person, but, at night, my husband reads a novel with our son so it's some extra time that they get to spend together, too.
- Car Rides: Many homeschoolers spend a fair amount of time in the car traveling to different activities, so see if it works for you to put that time to use. Listen to books on CD or find educational games and apps your kids can play while you're driving. Have your younger kids look for letters on signs or see what words they can find that they can already read.
- Meal Prep Time: Honestly, there are days when the last thing I want to do is interact with anyone while I'm trying to get dinner on the table. If it's a day when you have the time, though, cooking is a great way to sneak in some reading and math practice and to teach them some good life skills along the way! For younger kids, put some of their letter or number magnets up on the fridge and call out certain ones for them to find. I've also put magnetic number puzzles and story sets in the kitchen to occupy my kids while I'm trying to get things done.
Before you start trying these ideas, I want to add a disclaimer! If you are a family that is hard core and has a great school schedule that you are consistent with, don't add in extras all the time. Kids need some down time to relax and just be kids, so don't overwhelm them by making every little thing a formal learning experience. If you're like many of us who are looking for little ways to help us be consistent with small things, though, I hope these ideas help you make the most of your time!