Time Off Still Leads to Learning

 It's not often that we take a whole week off from school.

With life and schooling so intertwined I don't often consider our "off" time as being an off time either though.

 Even when we're not doing book work or a planned lesson we're still learning.  

Often we're busiest on those days we take off from school.

This week I hadn't planned on doing anything.  Knowing the local schools were all closed and that the kids had all sorts of wonderful new gifts to play with it seemed like a great time to take a break.

Even if I don't always feel like we need a break, I still try to make sure we take one.   So far we've spent our time after Christmas cleaning and organizing the house.  The kids helped organize their rooms and the playroom.  They took down their trees and cleaned up the holiday decorations with me too.  We've played and hung out as a family.

They've kept busy and looking back over our last week or so we've done so much and learned a lot!
 We've been doing lots of real- life math and problem solving: 

  •  Evan has been adding up his gift cards to see how much money he had to spend. 
  •  He had a gift or two to return and asked me to look up how much they were worth and then asked me to look up the cost of what he wanted to buy so he could make sure that he would have enough money to buy what he wanted. 
  • We had him trying to figure out the price difference between the two toys by adding on to the smaller one and seeing how many fingers he had up by the time he reached the higher price. 
  • Ian too has added up all his monetary gifts and started researching the price of toys he'd like. He's debating the value of saving his money versus the one toy he'd really like to own. 
  •  Since he's older I reminded him to add in shipping and handling and tax too. 
  •  Ian has been measuring things like milk and butter while working in the kitchen (as well as reading directions).  
  • He also figured out how to put two very difficult Lego Technic sets together all by himself and even attached motor components to them.  
  • The younger two boys have been hard at work on Lego sets too.  Evan usually tries to find a way to get his brothers to make them for him but has been staying up in his room after "bedtime" working on his sets while his brothers read.

 Spelling and reading have been thrown into the mix as well: 

  • Evan got a new Pokemon video game and he's trying so hard to read all the instructions and the conversations between the people he meets in the world.  
  • Ian played a fierce game of Scrabble with my husband and I one night. 
  •  Alec has been reading his new books as well as a few of his library books. 
  •  Evan tried to play Santa a few times during our Christmas break and read all the labels on the gifts, making sure he was handing them out to the right people.  
  • Ian has been reading his Diary of a Wimpy kid book every night at bedtime.  
  • We've listened to several more CD's in our Heroes of Olympus book too.
 The boys all got new bows and arrows from Santa and have been eager to try them out.

  •  They're practicing so often and trying to perfect their aim, their technique and their skills.  They've had competitions and tried out different sized bows, arrows, and targets.  They've moved closer and farther away from the targets trying to see what feels right for them.  

I love watching them trying to master a new skill!  Have you ever watched your kids doing that?  It's amazing how you can practically see the wheels turning in their heads!

We've been exploring nature for science:
  •  We went on a family nature hike/ walk the other day.  The boys found many things to marvel at as we walked.  
  • The path in the woods was all grown over with lots of greenery (lots of mini pine tree saplings just starting out) and it was neat to see that greenery mixed in with all the brown.  
  • Evan pointed out a tree that had been hit by lightening.  
  • Alec found some unusually formed ice in the mud.  
  • We had a great time checking out the prism shape the crystals formed into as well as noticing the mottled "snowflake" looking background it created.  
  • The younger two tried to make an experiment out of it and see if the ice would make it home in their hands without melting.  Alec also wanted to try and wash off the dirt then see if he could somehow save the ice.  
  • While hiking the boys got dirty in the mud and slid down hills along the way.  
  • They found a "root cave" and explored the hills, valley's and woods.  
  • They found prints on the beach and shore and Alec tried to determine what kind of animal made them.  

A side view to try and show off the shards or ice crystals 

One large piece of ice

Inside the root cave 

 They've had lots of opportunities to work on their social skills too:

  • We hosted Christmas Eve and Christmas day and between the two the boys had a good dozen cousins to play with.  
  • They've had friends over to play.  
  • They also played with some family friends today and have plans to meet up with even more cousins tomorrow for a fun family painting event.  
I try not to supervise them too closely when they have friends over and let them work out all disagreements themselves.  I hear "than I'm not playing with you" or "then I'm going home" a lot but think that it's good for the kids to work out a compromise on their own. 

 The best way for kids to learn social skills is not for parents to intervene and work it out for them but for them to learn a little give and take.  My boys are becoming quite adept at this.

We've talked a lot about nutrition, healthy eating, and exercise too.  

With all the added holiday food my boys have taken great joy in gorging themselves on cookies, pastries, and lots of extra food.  They know that they can eat to their hearts content at parties and around the holidays.  I don't love it that they chose the fattiest, sugariest, unhealthiest choices of all but they are kids and I remember doing the same thing.

 I know a huge part of their joy in the season is all the food (let's face it; it's mine too!) but that doesn't stop me from lecturing them on healthy eating.

I try to model it as best I can choosing salads, picking just one dessert choice to try, or sneaking just a bite from my husband's plate.
  • Now that the holidays are over I'm reminding them to choose one snack a day, eat lots of fruits and veggies, and move more!  
  • They have been getting lots of exercise by riding bikes, running around, hiking, shooting hoops and even playing the Wii (my kids jump around until they're sweaty playing Wii).  
It's great to see them being kids and learning on their own terms and I just love knowing that even though we're not "doing school" they're still learning.

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