If you are homeschooling you know that some days are better than others. Because of this every teacher has a bunch of “fall back lessons” or methods they use on those days when they can’t be there 100% or when the unexpected happens (like an illness). I remember when I was a child we could always tell when my math teacher or social studies teacher were having a bad day because they would suddenly announce that we would be reading in class and answering the questions at the end of the book or that we would be doing some worksheets. I remember a Waldorf teacher we had would always get out some extra watercolor paper on those days.
What methods you choose are personal to you and your students so there is no right or wrong method. However, having some sort of “back up plan” is essential to keeping things running smoothly and to cultivating a sense of confidence in your student(s). When the students feel like the teacher is “out of control” or “lost” they lose confidence and often behavioral problems can result or lessons can be more difficult to conduct in the future.
I would love to hear ideas from other homeschooling parents and teachers about what methods you use. These are some of my favorite “fall back” plans:
1. A Field Trip: Teaching from home this is easy to do. I have a list of favorite places and a list of “places I want to go to” like the Japanese Garden or the Hawk Watching Building downtown. We keep a Main Lesson Book just for field trips so they feel more official and so we have a nice record of what we have done every year. All you need to do is grab the main lesson book, some colored pencils and go. Don’t worry about getting every last learning experience out of it with the pre-research and preparation. Sometimes just going with an open mind is even better.
2. Reading Time: We always have an epic book (Like “The Physician” by Noah Gordman or “Hawaii” by James Mechener or smaller books for little kids) that we are reading together. These “lost” moments are the perfect time to get out that book and read a few chapters together. These books are always in line with the theme we are studying at the time.
3. Classroom Organization: Sometimes we just don’t feel settled because the classroom is disorganized or messy. We work together to clean it up, organize it and talk about how this can be better accomplished in the future. I have already seen the happy results of this in all my kids. They all keep their rooms meticulously organized (11, 13, and 15) and are good at organizing outings with friends, business ideas, books, writings, parties and even people at their volunteer jobs.
4. Take a Nature Walk: Take an extra one if you already took one. Nature is a great way to center one-self, to gain some extra time to think and perhaps even be inspired with a new lesson. And if all else fails, it can always be called “gym class” or “recess”. A good idea is to keep a Main Lesson Book or small notebook and bag JUST for nature walks. Have it pre-filled with plant ID books, tree ID books, binoculars, and other things. We call them “nature bags” and have them hanging by the front door.
5. Free Time: As children get older they actually have a lot of individual creative energy. They often have amazing ideas on their own and are able to educate themselves in many ways. Look for these opportunities to take a break. It will be good for you as the teacher and good for the student who will then have an opportunity to learn something from their own heart and inspiration. In the past month Sofi has requested “time to herself” and has come up with amazing things. Yesterday she created a mechanical device, another day she created and entire series of paper dolls, scenery and a story to go with them and other days she has written stories, constructed fairy houses, designed clothing, fixed her blanket with the sewing machine, and more.
6. Math Worksheets: I am not a big fan of worksheets and in early Waldorf education we don’t use them. However, as the child gets older (11 and up) it is sometimes beneficial to have them simply practice what they already know and math worksheets are a good way to do this. You can have them do one or two each day or only when needed from www.math-drills.com. I’ve seen worksheets like these used in regular private Waldorf schools.
7. Research: So do you have about five million books and you’ve only read a few hundred of them? Have your student(s) choose a theme from your shelves and research a topic. Reports can be given in any form – written report, verbal, poetry or drawing.
There are so many more! Over the past 15 years I’ve accumulated so many! I’d like to hear what you have to share, too 🙂