The Power of Fun In Your Homeschool
When is the last time that your family had fun?
The kind of fun that leads to hysterical laughter, meaningful connections, and moments that cause you to lose track of time and forget to check your phone?
As a homeschool parent, I wear many hats. I am a teacher, disciplinarian, chore manager, devotion leader, meal maker, and more, depending on the day. Sometimes it feels like I am always teaching, reminding, or lecturing about something.
I recently read a book that was a wake-up call for me to make sure that in these crazy busy days I am fostering plenty of chances for us to experience true fun together.
The Power of Fun: How to Feel Alive Again, was a book that asked me those same questions: when was the last time we just had FUN? The Power of Fun is a guide to helping adults understand the importance of and make time for “true fun”.
Catherine Price provides an incredible amount of research to back up her theory that we lead happier, healthier, and less stressed lives when we have regular opportunities to experience joy. She also points out that in our culture, our idea of fun has been diminished to binge-watching TV, scrolling social media, and playing games on our phones. Because these same activities leave us feeling isolated, unproductive, and unfulfilled, it is no wonder anxiety and depression are at an all-time high.
I found all these ideas incredibly thought-provoking on a personal level, but they also made me contemplate them through the lens of a homeschool mom.
Of course, I want to give my children a solid education, but I want it to be so much more than the daily drudgery we are all just enduring. I want them to enjoy learning, to even seek it out for themselves, and to find joy in our days together.
While I think do think you should read the book – I’ve pulled out several ideas from The Power of Fun (and a few from myself) that can be applied to our families and homeschool to invite more fun into our lives.
Spontaneous and Unexpected Fun
Sometimes the best fun comes from spontaneity. My family loves to travel and visit new places. My husband’s job makes it difficult to nail down specific dates too far in advance, so most of our trips are planned spur of the moment. We have stumbled upon some amazing places because of our willingness to be impulsive.
One New Year’s Eve we did not have plans, so we did a search for celebrations within driving distance of our home. We ended up in Chincoteague on the Eastern Shore of Virginia where they have the most adorable Horseshoe Drop. We explored the downtown area, had our picture taken with the statue of Misty, searched the National Seashore for wild horses, and discovered an amazing new restaurant. That one visit turned into a New Year’s Eve tradition that has lasted for several years.
(Have you read Misty of Chincoteague? Such a good book)
We had a similar experience on the Fourth of July one year when we went in search of a place to celebrate. We ended up at Patrick Henry’s final home at Red Hill where their Independence Day celebration had a band, face painting, colonial demonstrations, many opportunities for the kids to participate in colonial handicrafts, and of course, fireworks. They even had a descendant of Patrick Henry dressed in character to deliver his famous “Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death” speech. It was one of our most memorable Independence Days yet.
On another day we went in search of ice cream and decided to visit a local dairy farm and its newly opened creamery. After ice cream and visiting with the cows, we stopped by a nearby state park and explored a trail along a river with some enormous rocks. Our boys played for hours climbing on the boulders, chasing tadpoles, and throwing rocks in the water.
My children’s lives have been full of little excursions like this because my husband and I are both willing to be spontaneous.
These wonderful memories of “true fun” moments are a reminder to me to continue making time for these outings because as my boys are getting older our calendars are filling up and free time is becoming few and far between.
Do Something That Feels Rebellious
Kids get a thrill of excitement from participating in activities that feel a little rebellious.
Just a few weeks ago my younger two sons were outside playing in the dirt and my older son came inside grumpy and complaining because they wouldn’t stop to play something else with him. I immediately suggested that we should go on a bike ride together instead. His eyes lit up and he was so excited to “sneak out” and go on a bike ride with just mom. We had such a great time and he felt important and lucky to have my undivided attention for a while.
My boys especially find joy in the days when we ditch school and spend the day at the zoo or meet friends at the park. I have recently been thinking of surprising them one morning with a trip to a local doughnut shop or packing up some materials, completing some schoolwork while getting ice cream. Pick up some milkshakes and have school at the park, pull out a new board game or outdoor game that they didn’t know about as a fun surprise in between subjects.
The possibilities are endless, and it really depends on what your kids enjoy. The element of surprise and the opportunity to be “sneaky” always lead to fun.
Join In on Something They Love/Invite Them In on Something You Do
Many afternoons I go for a walk around the roads adjoining our cul-de-sac while my boys are playing outside. It is the perfect time for me to have a few minutes to myself, enjoy being outside, and get physical activity.
One day recently I was on my walk, and I was listening to The Power of Fun on audiobook. It prompted me to look around for opportunities to initiate fun. I ended up cutting my walk short and joined in on their next game of cornhole. They were so excited for me to play with them, and we have played many games since then.
Another afternoon I started shooting basketball after my walk. It didn’t take long before they were all shooting with me, which led to several games of CAT, and ended in a basketball distance shoot-out competition. We ALL had so much fun.
My boys love to help me in the kitchen. For Christmas they each got a different cookbook for kids, and they have enjoyed choosing recipes that they would like to make.
I invited my oldest son to choose a recipe from his book that he would like to make for dinner one night. He was all in and decided to make flatbread pizzas. He totally took over and we both had so much fun working together. His little brothers were also interested in helping and I totally expected him to remind them that this was his activity, and they would eventually get their own turn. I was shocked and so proud when he completely invited them in and walked them through each step. He turned into the most patient teacher, and it was truly such a fun night for our whole family.
Fun causes my boys to be much more gracious, generous, and loving towards one another!
Joining in on an activity or game that your children love brings them so much joy and is almost guaranteed to lead to lots of laughs! When we invite them into something that we enjoy or an activity that usually doesn’t include them, we make them feel important and worthy.
In our experiences, these moments have provided opportunities for bonding and character building, all while having fun.
Ask Your Kids
It may sound obvious but if you want to have more joy and opportunities for fun, a good place to start is to ask your kids what is fun for them. You might be surprised by their answers.
I asked my boys to tell me what is the most fun part of homeschool. My oldest son said that “getting to play outside a lot” was the most fun. My middle son said that science experiments were the most fun part of homeschool for him.
Next, I asked them what have we done as a family that was the most fun for them? My oldest son said that our most fun family activities have been Disney World, Top Golf, and he said, “I just really like playing outside.” My middle son also said Disney and Top Golf but he added bowling and hiking in the National Parks.
Their answers gave me ideas for opportunities for fun in the future.
Allow Space for Unstructured Time
As much as we like to plan fun activities for our kids, it’s just as important to give them plenty of unstructured time. My boys love digging holes and playing in the dirt in our backyard and playing basketball, football, and baseball in our front yard. They love making up games on the trampoline and exploring the woods around our house. They make the best creations out of cardboard boxes, elaborate forts out of blankets, and they love to color and draw.
We can easily fall into the trap of constantly trying to fill every minute of their time with some kind of activity but they can really thrive when given the chance to create their own fun.
Remember, Mary writes about not losing the wonder in your homeschool – unstructured time goes a LONG WAY in promoting the wonder!
Even if you have to hear a little bit of “I’m bored” before they get going – normally that unstructured time turns into a big blessing!
When I think of “true fun” I also include the moments from our lives that we talk about repeatedly because they brought such a joyous response in our hearts.
My older two boys are given lots of opportunities at church to serve in a variety of ways. My middle son talks endlessly about his time spent assisting in the preschool room and helping with the puppet show. They recently had a luncheon with some of the senior adults from our church. He has told me all about chatting with his new friend and helping her carry her plate back to their table. Serving others brings them so much joy.
During writing, my older son chose to write about the time that he went shopping for a needy family at Christmas time. My boys still talk about these moments and want to write about them because they made such an impact on their hearts.
Planning opportunities for my children to serve is one of my goals for this year. It is not the same kind of fun as Disney World but it IS the kind of fun that gives all of us a view of the world outside ourselves, building relationships, and provides occasions for major heart change.
I think all of us could use some more fun in our lives! What does your family do for “true fun?”
Joy doesn’t have to come from big elaborately planned activities. Sometimes our happiest times come from just allowing for spontaneity and taking advantage of the major benefit of homeschooling: WE get to choose how we spend our time, our most precious commodity.
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This post is from our contributing writer, Kristen. She is a former teacher with a passion for books, history, and her boys!
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