Cures for the Winter Blahs, Part 1
- Debra Bell Columnist, author and conference speaker
- 2008 21 Jan
Am I the only one who gets bogged down about this time of year? I don't think so. At least I've noticed my friends have hit that wall where they begin reviewing their options for next year. "Have the public schools improved dramatically while I've been busy home schooling?" "Isn't there a classical, Christian school opening soon in my neighborhood?" "Maybe I should verify just one more time that these are all really my kids!" Just a few of the comments I've heard a few pondering.
If you live anywhere from Maine to Georgia these days, I,m sure the steady cycle of snow, sleet and ice hasn't helped your outlook either. Our family has certainly exhausted the thrill of shoveling, scraping, and shivering.
So what's a mother to do when your home-schooling banner is drooping towards the ground? Let me suggest a few pick-me-ups that might help you make it to the spring convention (where weary home-school mothers are renewed once again through repeated use of a charge card.)
The first thing I do when I feel burn-out coming on is look for some place interesting to go. I'm not by nature a homebody, and neither are my kids. But I've also learned over the years that there is a right way and a wrong way to take a field trip.
Here are some tips that will bring you home invigorated, educated and refreshed.
1. Call ahead and find out if any school groups are scheduled for the day you plan to attend. Avoid them at all costs. (Do I need to go into detail?) Go early or late. School holidays, such as Presidents' Day, usually means light attendance at area museums.
2. Line up a guide, or have someone in your group function as such. There is nothing like a knowledgeable docent, or an amateur enthusiast to make an otherwise dull landscape meaningful. As Gettysburg is just in my backyard, I've been there numerous times, but nothing brought it to life like the field guide we hired to escort us around the grounds. My husband, Kermit, loves AAA travel guides. He always reads them before we travel anywhere, and he shares interesting details he has gleaned from his reading as we drive. Assign a parent in your group to brush up on the background of a place if no guide is available.
3. Prep your kids for the field trip with videos, reading, research, projects, etc., and then bring closure with follow-up activities after the event; i.e., a scrap book, a report, an oral presentation. If you are going to a historic site, then biographies about the key figures involved is the obvious first step. Research over the Internet is another avenue for finding out more about your specific site, too. If you are going to a business or a science center, studying about the principles involved with age-appropriate materials will help your kids get more out of the experience than they would otherwise.
4. Keep your group small. Some places require a large group to receive a decent discount, but if that isn't a factor, I find eight children at the most is the best scenario. That way each child has plenty of opportunity to see what is going on and to ask questions. I've returned from one too many field trips more exhausted than when I left because I was coordinating far too many families .
5. Teach your kids to ask questions. They will get a lot more out of the experience if they are conditioned to be actively involved during the trip. If I am taking a co-op class to a place like the newspaper, I have the group brainstorm about possible questions to raise before we go. That way the children know they are expected to interact with the folks they meet. And they end up getting a lot more from the effort.
My daughter Kayte and I visited Harper's Ferry earlier this year. Several folks told us before we went that they had found it a rather dull place to visit. Yet Kayte had done so much pre-reading (she was writing an analytical paper on John Brown's Raid) and she engaged the docent in such a lively discussion, that we spent hours in the place while others quickly completed the tour and left. It was a great time. We'd love to go back.
Field trips are typically among the high points of our home-schooling year. Next time I'll share a list of great trips to consider in your own backyard and I'll give you home remedy #2 for the Winter Blahs.
*First published January 21, 2008.
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