Children need to share what they are learning, and your family needs to have celebrations or special times children can look forward to and depend on with a degree of confidence. A formal family sharing time once a week can accomplish an effective equivalent to “show and tell.” This includes all members of the family, whether it is the family member who spent the week cutting a tooth or whether it was daily routines or work goals parents accomplished (or made progress toward). Children benefit from knowing what parents do and how they (the children) can help. If children are schooled at home, an audience to help motivate effort and persistence is essential.
Showing and sharing with the family involved is a good relaxed time to do some assessment (gathering information) about the unit just completed. Informally assess and record the student learning that took place by gathering some information in a nonstressful setting with people to encourage your student and celebrate progress.
You can share thoughts on the unit theme or on a certain topic, using listening skills and practicing asking questions that keep the focus on the person talking. (Holding a microphone or a microphone-substitute helps remind everyone whose turn it is to talk and who should be listening.) Some ideas for topics to discuss are:
The prettiest thing I saw this week…
I learned something I never knew before…
I noticed something special someone did to be helpful…
The hardest part of my work is…
When I feel sad or lonely, this is what cheers me up…
Hobbies can be shared or started. An evening can be spent singing each person’s favorite song. One family project we worked on (and still go back to occasionally) was “A World Book of Friends” in which we wrote about special friends, categorized by the country they are from.
Both parents and children can share something meaningful from their week or demonstrate a newly acquired accomplishment. It is important for children to learn that adults struggle too, and this honest sharing can allow parents to model appropriate responses to failures and difficulties. Through times of sharing, a family can support one another and celebrate growing, learning, and overcoming obstacles together.
Special food is a big part of celebrations at our house. We try to fix something that goes along with the unit theme. When the boys were in kindergarten, we focused on a different letter of the alphabet each week. For the B week celebration we made brownies, C was chocolate chip cookies (what else?), D was doughnuts…. Now our themes cover two weeks, so we have our celebration every two weeks. For our Wild Animals theme, we had a picnic outside with Ostrich-Egg Salad Sandwiches, Tiger Tomatoes, Gorilla Gorp, Antelope Apples, Beaver Bananas, and Pink Flamingo Lemonade.
We often play games at our family celebrations. We play math games or other board games that go with the theme (“Pin the Tail on the Donkey” for our animal theme). Here are some other possible activities:
Put on a play.
Sing a song (songs with motions are especially fun).
Ask student questions about topics covered in the unit.
Have student read a book (especially when student is just learning how to read).
Display artwork or other school project and applaud student accomplishments.
Have student read a self-authored story.
Share family photographs that show celebrations that have been special.
Model reading by sharing in a family D.E.A.R. time.(Drop Everything And Read)
Read a story to the family orally, but include individual silent reading as well. Model reading enjoyment by selecting something to read and curling up comfortably together. Allow the student to freely select what he/she wants to read during this time.
Perform reading in some way, such as choral reading a selection together, taking turns reading aloud with lots of expression, dressing up or masking yourself as a story character and telling about yourself, or giving a creative book report.
In addition to weekly celebrations, we have Half Graduation (at the conclusion of the first semester) and Graduation (at the conclusion of the year). It is good for the students to review their year’s work and to have a chance to show off their favorite projects. By displaying writing samples from early and late in the year, growth can be seen and admired. Invite visitors, so the students will have an audience.
For the Half Graduation, we had a menu of half-snacks such as half sandwiches, half cupcakes, half glasses of drink on paper plates cut in half.
For Graduation, these are a few of the ways we celebrated:
The boys processed into the living room while a colleague played “Pomp and Circumstance.”
The principal of our school (my husband) gave a speech and handed out diplomas.
We had balloons.
The boys each received a wrapped graduation gift.
We designated different rooms in the house for different subject areas: Art Room, Science Room, Math Room, Language Arts Room.
We had a Wonder House experiment (Blast Off—the boys’ favorite) set up in the Science Room, along with the four “Science in a Nutshell” kits we had completed.
Joel made a big poster of all the animals he and Micah learned to draw during the year from Ed Emberley’s Drawing Book of Animals. It was the centerpiece of the Art Room, along with some weaving and leather crafts, which the boys learned from an artistic colleague of ours.
We had stories the boys had written pinned up on all the bulletin board strips in the schoolroom and down our hallway.
The boys displayed their portfolios and wrote captions for their displays.
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Sonia Dettweiler serves in Nigeria with her husband and they raised their two sons there. These are notes from her talk on family celebrations at a homeschoolers’ retreat. Sonia credits getting most of her information from the CHED Kindergarten and First Grade packages, which unfortunately are no longer available.