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Homeschooling: How to Strike a Balance Between Work and Play

As a new homeschooling family, you’ve probably put initial focus on choosing the right homeschool curriculum and figuring out how to make sure your kids get the most beneficial education. It’s important that lessons are covered and your homeschooled kids feel confident with their academic knowledge, and you can rest assured using CEA that you have that covered. It’s equally as important that they have time to play outside, be with other kids, and use their imagination. As homeschooling doesn’t come with a manual or prescribed schedule, it can be tricky figuring out how much play time is natural, and how to fit it in with everything else you want to achieve during the day. Here are some things to consider while working out your individual work-play balance.

Make it part of the daily plan

When you’re making your way through your homeschool routine, it’s easy to prioritise the lesson plan to make sure you’re getting through your CEA curriculum at the pace you’ve set for yourself. If things get behind schedule, which they likely will on various days, play time might be the first thing that gets forfeited. However the CEA program is designed to only require a portion of the day, rather than the full day. CEA ensures the focus is to cover the curriculum not fill in the day. When they are finished with their daily lessons, they are finished. While free play and running around outside may not check anything off your academic list, it is an equally important aspect of education and childhood. Kids (and adults too) need to balance work with play, so just make it an official part of the plan. Think of it as another learning subject and factor it in so that there’s always space for it. 

Schedule in trips

Daily play time is crucial, but you can also put some excursions into your weekly or monthly schedule to provide variety and relevance to your lessons. If you’re short on time or resources, just plan some single-day excursions midweek, or an overnight on the weekend. For these shorter trips you might even leave the formal lessons at home, while extending their learning by making visits to historical sites, incorporating maths or writing into trip planning and budgeting for food and petrol, or calculating distance and time to get to destinations. Getting away for a day does not only provide a sense of fun and adventure, it will likely help your kids feel fresh for the more formal, sit-down learning the following day.

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If you want to actually hit the road for an extended period, check out our post on homeschooling while traveling. 

Be mindful about the timing of playtime

Schedule play time mindfully. What does this mean exactly? If your kids run around all morning and exhaust themselves, they may have trouble staying alert and concentrating on lessons later in the day. That said, a little bit of moving around and getting some blood flowing first thing will allow them to be more still and focused for a few hours. With this idea in mind you might slot in 15 minutes of play in the morning that could involve dancing to some music, jumping on the trampoline, or simply getting some fresh air outside. Longer play time can be scheduled later in the day when they need a break from learning.

The point here is to make it work for you and your children. If your homeschooled kids work better by having regular, shorter play times, then do that. If they can power through all morning and enjoy the rest of the day free while you take care of your own work or errands, go for that option. Take a moment to consider the timing that works best for your family.

Play with other homeschoolers

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If you’ve built up a bit of a homeschool community then it’s a great idea to link up with other homeschool families for some play time during the week. A great idea is to meet at a playground during normal school hours when it is generally quiet. Kids will get exercise, use their imagination together, and it’s a good way to make sure they are socialising throughout the week. You can even plan some meetups for doing educational play together to help them integrate concepts while having fun with other kids. If it works for the other homeschool parents in your area, you can even alternate who chaperones the group playtime so the other parents can have a bit of time off.

Get work done ahead of schedule

When homeschooling your kids you’ll generally have an idea of your yearly goals and what you want to achieve academically. This will often dictate how much you need to “get done” each week in terms of formal lessons. If you can deviate slightly from the normal weekend and summer time off schedule, you might be able to give yourself a more lenient daily schedule.

 For instance, some homeschool families add in a few Saturdays or Sundays of lessons here and there so they have more leeway to take breaks or have more play days when needed. You might also consider doing some schooling in the holidays so that you can take more time off in the middle of Term that you know will be quieter and cheaper to have trips away. Homeschooling is great because it’s flexible, so use that to your advantage. If you have more free time, get more work done. If you’re ahead of the game work wise, you will be able to play without stress.

Incorporate Play into Work

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It can be beneficial to intentionally take time away from lessons to have free play, but work and play don’t always need to be mutually exclusive. A great way to integrate the two is to incorporate hands on, creative activities into your lessons. This is where CEA is different. We are passionate about combining fun, hands-on, creative activities into all subject areas. Some lessons are very straight forward, at the table, over the books. That is necessary at times. But if you can get creative during lessons and get your kids drawing out concept posters, building models, acting things out and so on, the play becomes integrated and often indistinguishable from lessons.

Listen to your kids

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Ultimately, your kids will be the ones to let you know how much work they can handle and how much play they need. You’ll likely get some pretty clear signs when they need a break from work, such as being less focused, fatigued, or simply asking for a break. If you’ve scheduled in a particular play period for the day based on the usual natural flow of things but they are extra distracted and restless, try shifting things around. Homeschooling your kids means you can make things work for you!

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