What do you have in your hand? Eight simple enrichments for homeschool or life in general

The truth is, Betsy and I are both busy moms.

We always have greater aspirations that we can EVER accomplish, more so when we read blogs about how to enrich our children’s lives. How DO we find that tender balance between giving them plenty of time to play while expecting them to develop good habits and disciplines? How can we surround them with enrichment without stressing ourselves over more things to check off our list?

What do we have in our hands? Here are a few simple thoughts (based on numerous discussions with Betsy):

1.      Nature study does not also have to be great art.

“Hey look! What is this?” is sufficient. Look it up in a field guide. Draw if you feel like it, or just observe it and move on. You might try to draw it well enough that someone can recognize it. Or choose something to admire. Ask the youngest for observations, and work up to the oldest.

2.      Picture studies can be art prints that are hung on the refrigerator.

Leave it up for a month (or until you remember to change it) and they’ll be familiar with it.

3. Do not despise the reading of a single sentence or simplified versions.

This summer my eldest son’s reading includes Beowulf and Book One of Paradise Lost. He could get through it and claim he had read it, but I want to keep comprehension and appreciation within reach. To that end, I am reading a narrative version of Beowulf aloud before we tackle the translation by Seamus Heaney, and I read ONE SENTENCE A DAY of Paradise Lost. It will probably take us all summer, and I don’t care. This is the way we have embraced Pilgrim’s Progress for the past ten years (another book he has to read for next year), by reading either Dangerous Journey or another version every year so he knows it very well. We don’t read every book that way, just the ones that really matter.

4.      Listen to audiobooks during lunch, on the way to piano lessons, etc.

I can’t read everything aloud either, and it’s better than listening to bickering. My family doesn’t have an Audible subscription so we use the library’s resources, either CD or Hoopla. Our library’s Hoopla actually includes a number of Christian Heroes Then and Now biographies and titles, but we have also listened to a lot of classic and recent children’s books. Did you know that digital audiobooks are significantly more expensive for the library to include in their catalog? I asked our librarian about getting the Anne of Green Gables series and it was cheaper for her to buy sets of CDs! It doesn’t hurt to ask.

5.      Don’t forget to read books that are just really fun, whether or not they relate to your official academic pursuits.

Read a good story because you like it, not because it’s educational. If you feel like you HAVE to read a particular book, keep the regular reading short. If you’re really not excited about it, switch to something you (and the kids) really enjoy. When you find a book that they ask you to read it and beg for another chapter, stick with it.

6.      What do you have in your hand? Take advantage of free community offerings.

Keep an eye on library programs and events on local bulletin boards. See what programs are available at local historic and nature sites. Check the local college theater page to see what they’re offering. Keep a list of options on the fridge next to the picture study and go on an outing with the kids if you’re feeling spontaneous and math just isn’t working that day. Even a trip to a free art museum is refreshing on a dreary day. Sometimes the exhibits are weird and we skip those, but visiting a couple of favorite paintings is like seeing a friend.

Younger kids can try to find objects in the paintings that represent every letter in the alphabet. Older kids can bring sketch books. And if you have one particular son like mine who doesn’t like to draw and just wanders around taking it in, that’s okay too. Keep the visit short and make sure there’s time for ice cream or a coffee shop afterwards.

7. Museums memberships are worth the investment.

But not if you renew all of them every year. We have access to a zoo, Seaquest, a couple of hands-on museums, and a transportation museum. Rotating memberships keeps them from becoming routine outings and if you plan to visit several times in a year you don’t have to absorb it all the first time. Go once for an overview. The next time, focus on a single area. Remember the ice cream afterwards.

8.      Take your kids individually on a date to the grocery store when you have to go anyway.

If you can, take just one with you and leave the rest at home. Encourage their input in the menu, point out the difference in cost per ounce and discuss quality and value, then treat them to a doughnut at the end or say “yes” to a splurge in the checkout lane.

Here are my ideas. Share yours in the comments—I’m eager to hear them!

Related Reading at Redeemed Reader

A reflection: Ordinary Homeschooling: Just serve dinner (a handful of other favorite resources)A resource: Love Your Yard: Nature study books to spark “Creation Appreciation” (because you need to go outside and enjoy it)A resource: Favorite Audiobooks: Narrators, Books, and More! (in case you need recommendations)A resource: Art and the Picture Book: A Redeemed Reader Booklist!A review: Betsy on teaching Beowulf

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