January 12, 2021

Back-To-School January

The anticipation of Christmas morn and the New Year is past us, with all of its unknowns and opportunities. During that time, most children had a school break. 

In the northern United States, the weather is cold outside. If your family is not flush with cash, most winter sports or exotic vacations can be out of reach and the cold can drive people inside. Many children begin to veg out on electronic media.

Often times, families let habits and routines slide. Once habits and routines have been set aside for a few weeks, it can be difficult to return to them. 

"Mom and dad can hardly wait for school to start again.”

Decorations have come down and families begin to try and restore habits and routines. Many families can struggle with what to do during this time together inside. Children and parents can start to agitate each other.  As parents try to return to a school schedule, children may resist.  After decorations come down and as families begin to return to routines and homeschool, some families take a media fast and sugar fast.  Many struggle with this transition. What can they do to bridge from Christmas break to Back-to-School January?

Seven Ways to Bridge to a New Year of Homeschool

1. Daily Devotions

Study and discuss scripture stories.

Select an uplifting verse to memorize. Let it be an affirmation!

2. Restore Routines

Restoring routines can help set the tone for the New Year. 

Set a menu, so you can get dinner crafted on time for a regular dinner time.

Set a bedtime. A successful bedtime gives family the needed rest, restores health, is important for retention in learning, and vital for the rebuilding of the body and mind.

Take time after dinner, with the family's help, to make sure the kitchen is clean and the house tidy. It is amazing what this can do to getting started on the right foot in the morning. 

3. Indoor Activities

Enjoy your presents. Let the children enjoy their Christmas presents. Play can be healthy for the brain, body, and family relationships! Hopefully you continue to enjoy your presents and they are not left behind when the decorations get put away.

Take time to breathe deep and relax.

Exercise each day together. Put on some music and dance! Create an indoor obstacle course. 

4. Outdoor Activities—

Here on the western slope of the Rockies, winters are mostly mild. Most days are above freezing and up into the mid-40s. On moderate days above freezing, bundle up and get outside if possible. Enjoy winter and take short nature walks.  Keep a winter nature journal. Keep a weather log.

While our winters are usually moderate, we do get cold snowy days. Sometimes, the weather gets very cold for a few weeks. On colder snowy days, bundle up, make a snowman, or do snow angels. Come inside to a hot lunch or hot cocoa.

On bitterly cold, dangerous weather, of course, view the winter from inside and do other activities listed for indoor. Children and adults alike need to move for physical and mental health. So, do not let the coldest weather stop you from moving.

5. Read Aloud Activity

Select a book to read aloud as a family. If you do not already read aloud, start a new family tradition. Stories can spark the imagination and expand learning. But reading aloud to family builds pleasant memories with books. These memories actually build a lifelong love of learning. 

6. Documentaries

Enjoy a documentary together, perhaps more than one to give perspective. Discuss the documentary.  Learn more about the subject of the documentary.

Take a virtual trip and pretend you are visiting another country. Watch a documentary on a different country. Make and eat some food enjoyed in that country. Search online, find and listen to some music from that country. 

7. Jigsaw Puzzle Bridge Activity

Some find it difficult to get back into doing homeschool after Christmas break. I have found that setting out a puzzle is a great bridge activity.

Jigsaw puzzles have been a part of my life since childhood. I came from a family that did puzzles and I married into a family that loves puzzles. So, it is a natural holiday vacation activity for us. We almost always have a puzzle out between Christmas and New Year. One Christmas Eve I realized we had not bought the puzzle and we went out and bought one. Some years we used a puzzle we already had.

One year we found a box in the toy closet that had several puzzles dumped together. We had only one picture for one of the puzzles. The children decided to take the challenge and began the sorting and edge building and discovered we had three puzzles. There were many moments when they thought there were missing pieces. They stuck to it, they were not about to be beaten by a puzzle! In the end, it took all week and there were no missing pieces! Puzzles are great to build brain connections, problem-solving skills and build family connections. While working on a puzzle everyone is working to solve the same problem. Puzzles are non-competitive as you are all on the same team.

If your children did not get a puzzle this Christmas, consider going out early before the crowds and getting one. We found that putting a puzzle out can be helpful to bring family members together. As family members walk by the puzzle they pause and see if they can find a piece. Soon they are sucked in chatting. Everyone is on the same team. While hands are busy and eyes scan for pieces, the conversation is natural.

If you do not have a card table you can put up in the living room to build a puzzle on, we found that the back of a portable whiteboard is the perfect size surface to build puzzles. We place the board on a table cloth, on the dining room table. That way the table does not get scratched and we can gently remove the puzzles for a sit-down supper together. Cookie sheets are perfect to sort and store puzzle pieces on. 

Here are a few puzzle strategies:
1. Turn all pieces face up.
2. Sort the pieces by edge pieces. color. and shape.
3. Assemble the edge.
4. Work from the outside in.

Though we begin with the edge and tend to work towards the center, our eyes usually catch other sections and begin to see pieces that go together. My kids are used to me asking questions as we work through the puzzle. “How is solving a puzzle-like life?” or me making a statement correlating the puzzle to life—“Notice that it is easier to find pieces when you come to the puzzle fresh? Sometimes we need to just give a challenge a rest and do something else for a bit, then return with fresh eyes.”

Usually, when we finish a big puzzle after the decorations are put away, family is ready to move into home learning. This has been an excellent bridging activity for us. 

May you find joy in these precious days of the New Year together!

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