Sometimes the wrench in the plans is wonderful. Family and friends from out of state make a sudden visit in the middle of the week. It’s delightful to see them again, but what about homeschool?
You Need a Plan B Day
A plan B day is an educational alternative to the normal homeschool routine. These can be days spent curled up with good books, playing educational games, or enjoying spontaneous field trips.
While we all know intellectually that we’ll run into bumps along the homeschool year, everyone tends to plan as if the year will be smooth. We pretend as if no one will get sick, there won’t be any minor catastrophes to deal with, and unexpected guests will never surprise us.
That ideal fantasy never happens. I’ve been homeschooling for over 15 years now. Every single year has brought forth its own challenges to my carefully crafted schedule.
The secret is to plan for a certain number of plan B days in the school year. Personally I’ve found we lose at least two weeks over the course of a school year to these crises. This may mean you’ll need to plan a 40 week school year instead of a 36 week school year.
Switching from a 5-day week to a 4-day week has helped to provide the buffer we need for plan B days. That one extra day each week allows us to deal with crisis or catch-up from the week before.
There’s no need to feel guilty about resorting to a plan B day. After all, even in a public or private school kids get sick. They’re going to miss class, and that’s not to mention the field trips, parties, and special events which happen over the course of a school year.
Keep in mind that plan B days are a change in routine. They inspire enthusiasm. They invite curiosity. They show learning occurs in other places than just the kitchen table.
Plan B days prevent homeschool burnout, so prepare for plan B days ahead of time.
As you’re making up your homeschool plans for the school year, create a list of possible plan B days. For instance you may have lengthy history projects the kids would adore, but the projects require an entire day's time. Keep a detailed list of the various ideas you come up with and pick any needed supplies ahead of time. Here are some ideas to inspire your plan B homeschool days.
1. Reading Day
Reading days (AKA couch days) are perfect for when the children are feeling worn out. Perhaps they’re recovering from the flu or a week of dashing around the town. These are those days you relax in the living room with a hot cup of tea or mugs of hot chocolate and enjoy some quiet time with your children.
Spend the day on the high seas enjoying Treasure Island, explore Narnia in The Lion, Witch, and the Wardrobe, or introduce your children to Anne of Green Gables.
Pull your favorite books from childhood off your shelf and read the books to your children. Great books only get better with time.
2. Audiobook Day
Then there are the days you wake up unable to speak above a whisper. The children are sedate, either coming down with or finally recovering from a bad cold. Everyone just wants to lounge quietly in the living room.
Keep a few audio books on your bookshelf at all times. Each year purchase a few audio books ahead of time in preparation for quiet days at home. Try literature that ties into the time period you’re studying. Purchase great biographies of scientists such as Marie Curie or explorers like Amerigo Vespucci.
Enjoy quiet days at home letting someone else read to the children.
3. Movie Day
Have you ever woken up in the morning to discover the kitchen sink was clogged and you needed to call the plumber? Or discovered a banking error and needed the house quiet so you could spend the day tracking down the financial mishap?
Movie days are perfect for these plan B days. You need the children quiet, safe, and out of the way while you deal with whatever problem arose. If they’re learning something, it’s even better!
Remember movies give you a visual view into other countries, other cultures, and other times. Keep a list of movies which relate to topic you’re studying by adding them to your Netflix or Amazon Prime watchlist before you even need the plan B day.
If you’re studying pirates, or have just read Treasure Island, watch the movie. Bedknobs and Broomsticks goes well with a study of World War 2. Donald in Mathmagic Land is another excellent choice to tie history, art, math, and music together.
4. Documentary Day
At the beginning of the year make a list of all the documentaries pertinent to the various topics you’re studying. These topics can include art history, history, music, science, scientists, and geography.
My family has enjoyed the Connections series. Each episode connects history, science, and technology together and shows how a small invention causes a huge change elsewhere. The Bill Nye science series is another favorite show. If you feel it's not "school-ish" enough, have the children compose written narrations of what they learned.
5. Game Marathon Day
Over the years I’ve discovered board and card games are an excellent investment. Friends may have dropped by to visit. The last thing you want is to be trying to talk over the television. Instead of turning on documentaries or movies, let the kids play games.
Monopoly is a fantastic game for older children. It teaches business, math, and the basics of investing. Uno and Settlers of Catan are also very popular with all ages. My teens have enjoyed playing Apples to Apples with friends. It’s a great icebreaker and develops language skills as the children make comparisons. The younger children adore Chutes and Ladder which is wonderful for kids just beginning to count.
Choose a Curriculum That Gives You Plenty of Room for Plan B Days
6. Arts and Crafts Day
Sometimes everyone needs a change of pace even though, thankfully, there’s no crisis to deal with. Instead of trying to push through a faltering homeschool day, pull out arts and crafts to occupy the kids.
The best way to prepare for an arts and crafts day is with kits you've stored away for this purpose. You can find kits for sewing teddy bears, learning how to weave, or making friendship bracelets.
Another option is to pick up a few arts and crafts books to keep on hand. Send the children browsing the books to find a project they’d enjoy doing. Since many projects use similar supplies such as yarn, paper plates, cotton balls, and glue, prepare and stock up a supply kit. You’re now ready for most projects the kids may dream up.
7. Hobby Day
Along with arts and crafts projects, kids enjoy having time to spend on their favorite hobby. If everyone needs a short break from the normal routine, declare a hobby day. Encourage the kids to knit, make pottery, make a new outfit, program a computer game, teach the dog a trick, or work on a model airplane.
8. Science Kit Day
Quite frankly, you can never do too many science experiments. Reading books and watching documentaries don’t give you the same hands-on experience.
As you’re picking up your school supplies for the year, invest in extra science kits. Don’t worry if they line up perfectly with your science program. Instead aim at kits you’re kids will adore. My children especially loved the candy and gross science kits. Electrical kits are also a blast because kids use them to make fans, lights, and even radios.
Hunt for kits which are at your children’s level so they can work on the kits independently. If you’re not feeling well or need to be on the phone, it’s handy to have the children happily occupied exploring science without a lot of input from you.
9. Nature Hike Day
Nature hikes are obviously something you’ll need to head out of the house to enjoy. However these still make a perfect plan B day if you need a break or family drops by to visit. Keep a list of suitable hikes in your area along with the mileage. Small children can’t travel as far as teens.
Also pick up some small, easily carried, books on local birds, plants, and geology. Toss one into a backpack with water, snacks, and a compass and you’re ready to enjoy a hike.
10. Local Field Trips Day
Every homeschooler has been interrupted by family and friends coming to visit in the middle of the week. These days throw the entire routine off kilter. However if you’ve planned to enjoy a variety of plan B days, you’ll be ready for the latest invasion.
Over the summer create a list of fun local spots you can take visitors. Often it takes a while to dig up the information you need about each spot. You’ll want to list the hours, cost, drive time to visit, and amount of time needed to enjoy the location.
Start by researching local zoos, aquariums, art museums, science museums, children’s museums, reptile zoos, and bird centers. Also remember to ask friends for their favorite spots to visit with kids and family. You should be able to pull together a list of 10 to 20 field trips to suggest to visitors.
The children will learn quite a bit about local history, biology, science, or art. Your guests will have a fabulous time, and you’ll feel proud of yourself for doing an excellent job at balancing entertaining your guests while educating your children.
With a bit of planning, plan B days can become the highlight of your school year. You’ll create beautiful memories of time spent together while preventing burnout from ruining your homeschool.