Geography, quite frankly, is where it’s at. *pause for laughter* In all seriousness, geography is a cornerstone of learning about the world around us, but isn’t always something fun to study. Simply memorizing where places are and an interesting geological feature about each place just really isn’t that engaging. Gameschooling is a long-time family favorite it our homeschool, and it’s a perfect fit for studying geography! Check out some of these great geography games that help make learning a little more fun, and the world a little smaller.
A classic game (and the much-loved book) The Scrambled States of America Game is as educational as it is fun! 10 Days in the USA challenges players to plan trips from state to state, and United States Geography Bingo is pretty self-explanatory but plenty of fun. You could take the United States Memory Matching Card Game on the road with you, or take a pretend road trip with Race Across the USA. To get the whole family in on the fun, plan a few nights with the American Trivia Family Edition!
The whole world opens up when we learn about the world around us, and games like The World Game are perfect for those competitive learners who can’t quite travel the globe. Mapominoes Africa is part of a great series of dominoes that teach the geography of all the continents, just as Ticket to Ride: Asia is part of an enormously fun and beloved game series that explores the countries through various games and expansion packs. Explore the World, Continent Race, and Globe Runner are all wonderful games that add the element of competitiveness and excitement as players learn about the world in a race to win the game.
Geography isn’t just for big kids! With games like Little Passports Where To? and Wild Kratts Race Around the World Game, planning trips around the world is more fun than overwhelming. Tools like the United States magnetic puzzle, an Our World jumbo puzzle, or this Seek and Find Around the World book are perfect for younger siblings or little learners to begin familiarizing themselves with the great wide world. And as part of the great Ticket to Ride series, there’s a fantastic version for younger players, Ticket to Ride: First Journey.
Geography can be a lot of fun to study, especially when including games. Try adding in international snacks, history, music, and all the culture you can gather to really help build deeper connections to the places you learn about in your homeschool. There are so many ways to learn, why not have a little fun while you’re at it?
We love differently-wired kids around here. We’re used to quirks and differences, square pegs and outliers. We understand that our little babies can deal with some very big things and we do everything we can to empathize and advocate for them. Sometimes we make big decisions and battle through little progress, but we never, ever stop trying to help our kids, despite the journey often requiring us to take paths we never imagined with maps we don’t understand.
Sometimes during the privilege and pain of raising such spectacularly different children, we encounter traumatic, unforeseen, upending events. When raising a differently-wired or twice-exceptional child, sometimes this means a mental health crisis. Whether it’s a bout with depression, an explosion of rage, or admission to inpatient care, these mental health emergencies have the power to halt everything. Once the crisis has passed, however, it can be difficult to re-enter life as it was before. You’re different. Your child is different. Suddenly everything feels more fragile than before, and you’re left feeling as though you’re walking on eggshells trying to get back to “normal“. You may feel isolated and unprepared, and in a way you are, but this is not something you have to navigate blindly.
When faced with a mental health crisis, the focus is solely on survival. Doing the work that needs to get done, making the changes that need to be made, making the appointments, practicing the skills, and sometimes even taking the pills. Time outside of the wellness bubble can stand still or race forward, never matching up with your current feelings and experiences, leaving you feeling disconnected and living in an alternate reality. The time comes, though, when re-entry begins and you ease back into the speed of life around you.
Homeschool studies are one of the areas of life that can easily be placed aside in the midst of a crisis, mental health or otherwise. The flexibility of homeschooling lends itself to the option to wait until later, catch up, slow down. When faced with inpatient care, health crises, numerous appointments, or intensive therapies, homeschool can – and probably should – wait. Eventually, though, you will find yourself and your child needing to pick back up with their learning or needing the comfort of routine. So how do you get back into your homeschool routine once your world has been turned upside down and reality has been irrevocably altered?
First and foremost, focus on your home, not your homeschool. Remember that you are not doing school at home, and academic timelines are created by public schools to fit the majority of typical students. Your child does not have to finish Algebra by 9th grade, does not have to speak a second language by senior year, and does not have to graduate at 18. However much time off you need to take, take it without worry of getting off schedule. Focus on making your home feel safe before you worry about it being educational.
Everyone in the family has just been through a traumatic experience, and everyone will need to cope in their own ways. Check in on siblings and spend intentional time with them. Talk openly with your struggling child about how they’re feeling, what they’re thinking. Remove any potential dangers in the home, including mental and emotional ones – some anxious kids struggle with seeing the time on clocks, some depressed children need to avoid certain movies or books. Focus first on what makes home comfortable and safe so that everyone has a place to heal.
Depending on the length of the mental health crisis and the specific diagnosis being treated, your re-entry into homeschool, specifically, will need to be tailored to fit your child’s needs. If anxiety is an issue, activities like strewing can easily become overwhelming, situations that require a child to make a decision from several options. Crafts may prove to be frustrating, combining sensory irritations and the feeling of powerlessness that can accompany finished products not resembling the inspiration behind them.
For children battling depression, focus on your kiddo’s natural strengths, subjects or games that aren’t enormously challenging and will guarantee them success. Incorporate activities that encourage discussion and introspection, things like art, writing, anything that allows for the expression of emotions without a grade being assigned.
If dissociating, a fugue state, or another extreme break from reality has taken place, routine will be of the utmost importance. Whether it’s creating a solid schedule, incorporating favorites into the day, a bedtime ritual, or even a specific meal, find ways to keep your child grounded at home, provide an anchor that can always be expected and depended upon. Be mindful of the stories you read together, making sure they aren’t so wildly fantastical that they trigger your child.
If you have other children, keep their needs and comfort in mind, as well. They likely have felt neglected during the crisis you’ve all just come through. They may have had to stay with loved ones during treatment, walk on eggshells during meltdowns, or generally give up more of their time and more of your attention. Take them out to one-on-one dinners, to the movies, spend an extra 30 minutes in their room after bedtime just listening and chatting. Praise and hug them as often as you can.
In all of this, don’t forget to give yourself some time to heal, as well.
When everyone is well and stable enough to begin formal lessons, start with only a handful of subjects or activities, even just one if you need to. Cuddle up together and read, out loud. Share stories. Play easy games. Watch reruns of America’s Funniest Videos or Mark Rober YouTube videos. Get back into the habit and flow of gathering together to enjoy something. Add in subjects one at a time, waiting as many weeks or months as you need. Remember, graduation dates are an arbitrary deadline that your child doesn’t need to focus on as much as they do their mental health.
It may take months or years to get back to your regular homeschool routine, or you may never return to what you previously did. Needing to schedule various appointments means making days flexible, moving co-ops or subjects around. Your former schedule may have been too overloaded, or not structured enough. It would also be incredibly beneficial to find ways to incorporate mental health learning into your homeschool, working through social stories or improving emotional intelligence together. Your homeschool may never be the same again, and that’s okay. Because the point isn’t to get back to life as normal, it’s to adjust your life to become the most supportive version of normal that is needed.
One of the most beautiful features of our new home has been seeing the night sky away from city lights and pollution. What my kids once always knew as dark has since become brilliantly illuminated with stars, constellations, meteor showers, and sometimes even planets! And since homeschooling offers us the flexibility to learn whenever we […]
As a writer, I don’t hate language arts. While I didn’t always know this was what I’d do, I was always engaged during language arts class and had a deep love for reading, writing, and, to my friends’ dismay, correcting grammar. But having always been so comfortable with language and writing, it can sometimes slip my mind that not all of my kiddos are naturally strong or drawn to it. In fact, some of my kiddos are bored by it.
Maybe you’ve got a bookworm whose love of words bleeds over into a comfort with language arts. Maybe you’ve got a reluctant writer or a kiddo who is in such a hurry to get their thoughts out that they can’t be bothered to worry about spelling. Maybe you’ve got a twice-exceptional kiddo working through a language-based learning difference. Whoever you have in your homeschool, language arts doesn’t have to be a chore, a bore, or a battle. Check out these fun resources and tools I’ve found to help add some smiles while studying similes!
Fun to Write
Writing seems to be one of those love-it-or-hate-it subjects with school-aged kiddos. Sadly, many more of them seem to lean more towards the “hate it” camp. Some of these resources are so fun that they could be seen as downright tricking your kiddo into writing, but we’ll keep that between us. Revolting Writing, while full of potty humor and gross-out writing prompts, keeps kids engaged by teaching vocabulary words that make them giggle and providing scenarios they’ll want to write, if for nothing else than the humor. Once Upon a Pancake and Finish This Book are like beefed-up Mad Libs, providing a structure and encouraging the child to create a fleshed-out story on their own. Of course, Mad Libs themselves are a fun way to play with language and review the parts of speech. Encourage your kiddos to get creative with their descriptions and story-telling with blank comic book strips, too! Equal parts writing and keepsake, the Q&A a Day Journal is a fantastic way to start every day with writing that’s meaningful.
Fun to Play
We’re big fans of gameschooling in our homeschool. Adding in an element of fun or competition always seems to draw in the most reluctant learner! Boggle is a classic game to help practice and build spelling skills, and reading comprehension dice are an active and engaging way to discuss the books you read together. Metaphors, similes, adjectives, prepositions… the Figurative Language in a Jar and Grammar in a Jar games are easy and travel-friendly ways to practice elements of language arts that don’t always show up in fun ways. No homeschool is complete without Story Cubes, which are fantastic for creative writing prompts and imaginative story telling. One of my favorite aspects of language arts is learning synonyms, which can be practiced with games like Don’t Say It!, where players must think of alternative words… or else!
Fun to Read
Explore and understand punctuation with books like Eats, Shoots, & Leaves, Semicolons, Cupcakes, and Cucumbers, or Twenty-Odd Ducks, that take black and white grammar rules and turn them into colorful, memorable stories. If you’re diving into classic literature, check out Guinea Pig Classics for a fun synopsis, like this version of Pride and Prejudice told with captivating cavies! Language arts is about so much more than just memorizing rules, it’s about learning to enjoy words and stories. Ella Minnow Pea is one of those stories, using brilliant language and techniques to enthrall readers and deepen a love for what can be done with language. If You Were an Antonym is another fun story, using pictures and examples to explain just what an opposite word is!
Language arts may seem dull, what with all the rules and red lines, but at the heart of it all is creativity – the ability to rearrange a finite number of characters into infinite words and stories. I know not everyone will join me in my natural enthusiasm for it, but these resources are sure to sway more than a few reluctant kiddos.
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