Let’s Make Learning Fun!

Photo by Jeremy Alford on Unsplash

Make Learning Fun with We Love to Learn Stations

As parents, we’re sailing in uncharted waters right now, with the social distancing, stay at home requirements of the COVID-19 pandemic. Many parents are teaching their children academics at home for the first time. All parents are likely getting complaints from their children that they want to play with friends or go do something they aren’t allowed to do because of social distancing. I’m hearing parents say they’re feeling overwhelmed and frustrated.

Whether you’re a homeschool family or an emergency distance learning family, having some fresh ideas for making learning fun can help change your children’s attitudes about being stuck at home!

The first idea I want to share will help your children enjoy learning more with the “We Love to Learn Stations”.

We Love to Learn Stations

In the dead of winter here in Minnesota, we often have to stay at home because of the weather, our days get long, and kids can become bored. That’s why I typically added a learning station’s day on Fridays to give us all a change of pace.

 This pandemic with the stay at home requirement is the perfect time for you all to try a Learning station day! It only takes a little time to prepare for it, and your kids will LOVE it!  Basically, you’ll set up learning stations throughout your house, and your children will rotate to the various learning stations doing whatever you’ve set up there. (Teams of two work great, but if you don’t have enough children for teams, you’ll need to participate or set up stations that can be done by one child at a time.) You can even use some of the learning resources that you already have, either from your school teacher or your curriculum.

All you need to do is prepare your learning stations, usually the night before. Then start your We Love To Learn Stations Day with explaining the different stations to your children. Set the timer and begin!  (Approximately 15-20 minutes per station)

Prepare the Learning Stations

1. Language arts station (you can have more than one language arts station if you wish or just choose one of these)

  • Phonics game for the pre-readers or early readers (Memory, Go Fish, puzzles or see options in my recommended page.)
  • Grammar game using Mad Libs
  • Write a short creative story alone or with your partner using some story starter ideas if needed. (share your story with family afterward)
  • Audio books with audible.com for listening comprehension (free books available to children during the pandemic!)
  • Spelling game – Make your own using a manila folder! Game instructions.
https://youtu.be/oz9YsJGUrZ8
Make your own basketball spelling game!

2. Reading station

  • Have a basket with library books or topical encyclopedias (Usborne has some great ones) and at this station, they read or look at pictures for 15-20 minutes.
  • Or you can have your child read from the book they’ve been reading already.

3. Math station

  • Play math games together (see my recommended page for ideas on games) – you can use regular board games or dice.
  • If your child likes speed games, do a few speed math worksheets where they time themselves and see how many they can get done in 10 minutes. They can do this twice and see if they can beat their first try. Drill worksheets available HERE.

4. Science station

5. Geography or History station

  • Have a globe or map out. Give your children each a list of places that they need to find on the map and write the longitude and latitude.   Or have separate maps for each child and they can mark the places you’ve listed.
  • Play “Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego”?   This is a fun game that teaches geography, world cultures and history for children ages 8-12!
  • Set up a project for your children to work on related to the time period they’re studying in history. (e.g. build a teepee if studying American Indians)

6. Music

  • Set up a CD player or have a link ready for your child to listen to a piece of classical music and provide a link or print up a short biography about the composer for them to read while they listen.
  • Set out musical instruments for your children to play with (if you have older children, they could practice their music lesson for this station).
  • Provide resources for your child to make a drum or a guitar using a box, etc.

7. Art

  • Set up an art project for the children to work on.
  • Have pictures of various artist’s work with information about each piece.
  • Set up paints with information about how to mix primary colors to make secondary colors and let them have fun mixing and painting. Here’s a video to help you teach these concepts!

8. Bible

  • Choose a memory verse for all the children to learn and post it on the wall. Have them say it together three times and then write it on a note card. Then have them use one of the following games to practice:
  •  Write each word of the verse on a separate index card and mix the cards up – have your child unscramble the words to make the verse. (Include the verse address on a card, i.e. ‘Galatians 5:22-23’.)
  • Use a dry erase board and write out the verse. Read the verse through together a few times, then erase one word. Read the verse again saying the right word for the erased word. Take turns erasing words, saying the right words for each erased word as you recite the verse. Eventually you should have nothing on the board and be saying the verse from memory.
  • Play Sword Drill with SALVATION verses. (For children who can read well and know their Bible a bit.  You’ll need to help with this one) Using the list below, have each child hold a closed Bible above his or her head. Dad or Mom calls out the first reference twice and then says, “Swords ready…Go!” and the children try to be the first one to find and read the verse out loud. (If you have an only child, make the clock the thing to beat.) You may challenge your children to figure out what the common theme of all the verses is. You may also give a prize to the winner, if you wish, but everyone gets the benefit of knowing his or her way around the Bible better and of hearing God’s Word. “So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God” Romans 10:17.
  • Key Word: Salvation
  • Exodus 15:2
  • I Samuel 2:1
  • Psalm 27:1
  • Luke 2:30
  • Acts 4:12
  • Romans 1:16
  • Ephesians 1:13
  • Ephesians 6:17
  • Psalm 18:2
  • Isaiah 12:2

*These memory games and the Bible game were taken from Growing the Fruit of the Spirit, a wonderful family Bible study guide for children of all ages, available on my store page or on Amazon.

Growing the Fruit of the Spirit A family Bible study guide for children of all ages.

8. Create your own station to help your children learn about something they are currently studying in their school lessons!

I hope you enjoy having your We Love to Learn Station Days!  Please comment below with your ideas or let me know how it goes if you give it a try!

Finding Joy in Your Homeschool Journey

The holidays are done, and the new year stretches before us. It’s time to begin a new semester of school…and I’m guessing that some of you may not be feeling very excited about getting back into a school schedule again.

Maybe you feel a bit overwhelmed with the idea of a whole new semester ahead of you. Or there was a difficult subject that you’re not looking forward to teaching again.  Maybe it’s just that the daily school routine has become boring and you need some changes to happen.

Sometimes homeschooling can feel like a lot of work, right? I remember only too well. Other families are sending their kids off on the bus and you’re teaching your kids again AT HOME. And YOU are responsible for what they learn. It can feel like a heavy burden at times, even though it’s what we’ve chosen, right?

So how do you find joy and motivation when you really just want to go back to bed, or go read a good book, or go hang out with a friend instead of doing the “school thing”?

If this is you, let me give you some ideas for how to find JOY IN YOUR HOMESCHOOL JOURNEY AGAIN!

  1. PRAY AND SEEK THE LORD each day! Rest in Him…

First and foremost, it’s important to remember that you’re not alone in this homeschool thing! God is with you and wants to help you and give you wisdom for every day and every situation as you teach your children. As you begin each day, spend time with God, seeking His strength and asking Him to give you a thankful and joyful attitude.  Many times, when I’m feeling discouraged or unmotivated, I really just need the Lord to help me change my attitude so it’s in line with His will in my life. He can help you get motivated and find joy in each day. He can help you look for things to be thankful for as you go through each day. I remember one year when I was feeling down and discouraged, not really looking forward to each homeschool day. I sought the Lord’s help and He reminded me of the many blessings I had and helped me to look for things to be thankful for each day. He also helped me see that I needed to take better care of myself…more on that shortly.

Remember that your attitude will rub off on your children! If you’re excited about a new day, looking forward to all God is going to teach you, your children will be too! A joyful attitude is infectious!

Romans 12:12 “Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer.”

Psalm 90:12 “So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.”

 

 

  1. REMEMBER IT’S REALLY ALL ABOUT RELATIONSHIPS!

 

We often get so focused on academics and making sure we’re getting everything accomplished that we forget that one of the most important things about homeschooling is that we’re building relationships:

  • Our children’s relationship with God
  • Our relationship with our children
  • Our children’s relationships with each other
  • Outside relationships with others

Ask the Lord to help you make relationships a priority this semester.

  • Focus on helping your children grow in their faith and in godly character. Check out my blog post on ideas for building your child’s faith: Resources and Ideas for Building Your Child’s Faith. I also have several posts on godly character – just put that phrase in the search box and you’ll find them!
  • Focus on spending quality time enjoying being with your children, playing a game, reading to them, or just snuggling.
  • Focus on helping your children love one another, helping them to develop a deep friendship with their siblings.

You’ll be surprised at what this change of focus will do for your family and your homeschool days!

 

  1. TAKE A LITTLE TIME TO RE-EVALUATE

 

  • Are you possibly struggling with burnout? Do you give so much of yourself that you’re not taking time for yourself and your needs? Homeschool burnout is very real! You need to take care of yourself, get proper rest and exercise and eat well plus allow yourself to enjoy the things you like to do sometimes in order to avoid burning out. That same year when I was so down and discouraged, I realized that I needed to get more regular exercise and so we joined a gym as a family and I found that getting regular exercise was good for me and also for our children! Check out this blog post: “Encouragement for the Burned-out Homeschool Mom” 

 

  • Do you need to consider a change of curriculum? Are you finding you dread a certain subject? Or have you noticed your children seem to complain about doing some subjects? Maybe it’s time for a change of curriculum. Check out cathyduffyreviews.com for new ideas on curriculum and read this post on Choosing Curriculum.
  • Focus on developing a love for learning using delight-directed studies and adding some fun ideas and games into your school day. One year I was just so tired of the “same old, same old” everyday, and so I purchased the book “Ignite the Fire” by Terri Camp. It was so helpful to get me out of the rut we were in! One idea she had was to have the kids each make their own mailbox (decorated shoe box!) and then write letters to each other (creative writing).  The kids loved it!  She has many wonderful ideas to help your children love to learn!

Also check out these blog posts on delight-directed learning, teaching tips and using games to help make learning more fun:

 

 

  • Download my free “Homeschool Evaluation and Goal Setting PDF” available on the sidebar to help you assess any changes you may wish to make for this second semester.

 

 

  1. BRAINSTORM with your spouse or other homeschool friends on ideas to make this semester better for you and your children…

    so school is something you DO look forward to! I also do homeschool consulting and would love to meet with you to help you think through how you can bring more joy into your homeschool days if this is a struggle for you. For the month of January 2019, I’m offering a 15% discount for consultations as well!

 

  1. RELAX AND ENJOY LEARNING WITH YOUR CHILDREN!

So much learning can happen without textbooks. Allow yourself to relax a bit, to allow some learning to happen naturally as your children ask questions about life and things that happen in their world. That’s called Discovery Learning – and because it’s something they’re interested in, they will be much more attentive as you research together about the topic of interest. Discovery learning provides some of the best learning and often the information you learn through these types of teaching times will be retained better than when you use some fancy lesson plan!

 

  1. EXTEND GRACE…

    to yourself and your children as you get back into the routine of school after a holiday break. Don’t be too hard on yourself if it takes you a week or more to get back into a regular routine with school and life.  REST in the LORD on a daily, moment by moment basis as you teach and have a blessed school year!

Please comment below if you have other ideas that have helped you find joy in your homeschool journey… I’d love to hear your ideas!

*Photo credit  Kelli Tungay on Unsplash

50 Great Games to Use for Learning

 

50 Great Games to Use For Learning!

This is the fourth and final post in a series on using games for learning. The first three posts were on the benefits of using games, and then great games to use for teaching language arts and math:

Just a quick review of the benefits of using games for learning from the first post:

  • Games strengthen focus and memory skills
  • Games aid in building fine motor skills for younger children
  • Games help develop socialization skills
  • Games strengthen problem-solving & analytical skills
  • Games help with cognitive growth.
  • Games develop executive functioning skills giving children the ability to accomplish tasks.
  • Games offer the opportunity to build character, helping children learn self-control and good sportsmanship as well as giving them the opportunity to learn to cooperate with others.
  • Games help build close relationships within the family
  • Games often give children a sense of accomplishment.
  • Games are a wonderful way to teach and reinforce information that our children need to learn

The fun thing is that you don’t have to use a game that is classified as “educational” for the game to provide many of these benefits! There are so many games out there that people play just to have fun that ultimately end up benefiting children (and adults too)!

Below you’ll find a list of 50 games that were recommended by myself and other homeschoolers – so they are tried and true! I encourage you to invest in some of these fun games that also just happen to be educational even though they weren’t necessarily designed to be so!

Logic/Strategy Games

  • Rush Hour (ages 8+) helps with critical thinking, reasoning and planning skills, and judgment skills, recommended by vision therapist also
  • Tip Over– (ages 8+) teaches critical thinking, problem-solving and strategy development

  • Clue – (ages 8+) problem-solving skills  
  • Outfoxed – a cooperative game for ages 5+, 2-4 players

 

  • Catan ages 8+, 3-4 players, strategy, problem-solving, planning 

 

  •  Village – ages 12+, great for building planning, strategy skills 

 

  • 7 Wonders – ages 10+, 3-7 players, critical thinking skills, strategy skills 

 

  • Istanbul – ages 10+, critical thinking skills, strategy skills  

 

  • Race to the Treasure – ages 5+, 2-4 players, a cooperative game where players  work together to beat the ogre to the treasure

  • Chess – ages 6+, a classic strategy game

  • Quirkle – ages 6+, sorting, counting, patterns, stacking, spacial recognition, planning, and problem-solving skills. 

 

  • Quixx ages 8+, 2-5 players, reinforces probability, mat, and strategic thinking 

 

  • Carcassone – ages 8+, 2-5 players, strategy, planning skills

  • Goblet Gobblers – ages 5+, 2 players, strategy game 
  • Blokus – ages 7+, 2-4 players, a great strategy game for the whole family 

Geography Games

  • Risk – ages 10+, 2-5 players, strategy skills  

 

  • Ticket to Ride – ages 7+, 2-5 players, fun game for the family, strategy building skills, planning skills (cities are not always in exactly the correct geographical location)

Days of Wonder Ticket To Ride

  • Hit the Habitat Trail – ages 8+, 2-6 players, features the habitats of the world – knowledge cards ask wonderful questions and give the answers too! Wisdom cards tell the hazards to the environment.

Stack the States

 

 

Phy-ed/Break Games

Fitivities – ages 6+, 2-24 players, fitness games for the family or co-op class, great fun!

Bean Bag Toss – Triumph 2-in-1 Three-Hole Bags and Washer Toss Combo with Two Game Platforms Featuring On-Board Scoring, Six Square Toss Bags, and Six Washers

Twister  –  ages 6+, fun team building game. Add a TWIST: using foam circles, write letters or numbers on them, then lay them out on the floor and call out not just the color and whether it’s the right or left hand or right or left foot, but also the letter or number they need to put it on)

Twister Ultimate Game

Other fun educational games or games you can modify to fit your subject learned:

 Memory Game – for all ages, make your own game using index cards. Write words or draw pictures of things you want your kids to memorize, make 2 of every card. You can use this for working on letters, sight words, numbers, addition problems (make one card with an addition problem and another with the answer), etc.  Place all the cards face down on the table, take turns turning over two each, looking for matches. When you get a match, you go again. The person with the most matches at the end of the game wins.

Go Fish – for all ages, make this game like the Memory game above (you can use the cards for either of these games). Deal out 7 cards to each player and set the rest of the cards in the middle for a draw pile. Then player #1 asks another player if they have the match to one of their cards. If the player they ask doesn’t have the match, they say “go fish”, and player #1 draws a card from the draw pile. Next player #2 asks another player if they have the match to one of his cards, and if they do, they must give it to player #2. If a match is found, then player #2 goes again until he has to “go fish”.  The play continues on until all the cards are gone, the player with the most matches wins.

Sidewalk chalk – for all ages, use sidewalk chalk to make games on the sidewalk such as hopscotch or to write letters or numbers or draw pictures.

Pictionary – team game, ages 8+, drawing skills, thinking skills

The Game of Life – ages 8+, great game to understand what life is like, full of surprises

Horseopoly – ages 8+, 2-6 players, great for those who love horses

Animal Tracks –  ages 5+, 2 or more players, learn about animal tracks by matching the animal to their tracks

 

 

 

Other Fun Games to Play as a Family…

Bible Trivia – ages 7+, 2-4 players or teams

Pop the Pig – ages 4+, 2-6 players, silly but fun!

Big Bingo Bundle – ages 6+, a fun way to learn core alphabet, number, object, and arithmetic skills. Develops memory, listening, literacy and matching skills.

Skippety – ages 5+, 2-4 players, Skippity is the perfect game to hone player’s tactical maneuvers, strategical planning, and forward thinking. 

Ocean Raiders –  math game for grades 1 and above, addition skills, 2-4 players

Rack-O – ages 8+, 2-4 players

Pit – ages 7+, 3-8 players, a fast-paced, loud game that will thrill the whole family

Winning Moves Games Deluxe Pit

Othello – ages 7+, 2 player, strategy

Rat-a-tat Cat – 2-6 players, children’s card game that helps develop timing and basic mathematical concept and teaches strategy, memory building, and addition.

Taboo – ages 13+, 4+ players, fun word game

Professor Noggins Educational Trivia games – several versions: History of the World, Wonders of Science, Human Body, Insects and Spiders, Wonders of the World, Ancient Civilizations, American Revolutions, Presidents of the US, Civil War, Reptiles and Amphibians, Earth Science, Countries of the World, North American Wildlife, Safari Wildlife, History of Art, Horses, Birds of America, Medieval times. Farm, Baseball, Outer Space, & History of the US

Forbidden Island – ages 10+, 2-4 players, Strategic thinking, problem-solving and cooperation required

Uno game ages 7+, 2-10 players

Battleship – ages 7+, 2 players, strategy game

Battleship Board Game with Planes, Ages 7 and up (Amazon Exclusive)

 

NMBR9 – a fun game for 1-4 players, math skills

Nmbr 9

Azul – a fun game of strategy and planning, ages 8+, 2-4 players

HexHive – ages 8+, single player

Incorporate games into your homeschool days and see your children’s love for learning explode!

Please add a comment below if you have a favorite game you’d like to add to the list!