Well, folks, I don’t know about where you live, but January and February can be difficult up here in the north. The holidays are over, the Christmas decorations have been taken down and stored carefully away until next year, and the cold is setting in. After a semester of working hard at our educational endeavors, a crazy holiday season, and several days of deviating from the regular schedule, burnout has a way of rearing its ugly head. The struggle is real, folks! And if I’m feeling it, I know the kids are feeling it, too.
The more you put off what you need to do, the harder it is to get back into the swing of things. One way to conquer the winter blahs is just to keep going. Easier said than done, right?! Sometimes little changes or adjustments might be all that are needed to get out of a big funk. So, what’s a weary parent to do?
I love the idea of taking a J-Term. A J-Term can be a fun break from the regular schedule, the rigor, and the norm. It is less structured than traditional learning and provides for authentic, student-driven learning opportunities. Traditional academic classes are put on hold so that students can pursue different areas of personal interest. It’s a great way to reignite a love of learning in our children – especially when burnout rears its ugly head.
The flexibility and seeming lack of structure of a J-Term can be a bit intimidating for homeschool parents, but in my opinion, that’s the lure of it. Kids are in control because it is student-centered. They can design a perfect program that fits their needs and interests, it's individualized, and can meet the needs of your individual learners.
During a J-Term, students (or families) choose a topic they are interested in learning more about. For example:
It should be student-centered - involving research and new learning. They choose what to study and how to study it (you become the coach and cheerleader). At the end of J-Term, students should be able to show a product or artifact that that can be shared with others. How they go about it is up to them!
A J-Term is a great way to take a break from the norm without sacrificing educational opportunities.
Your job as the coach is to keep kids on task and help them problem solve (resist the urge to solve problems for them 😜 . Remember, kids need their parents to be involved in their education - they are not yet equipped to be independent learners – besides, it’s a great opportunity for us to spend quality time with our children and see and experience their excitement for learning.
This time is as flexible and individualized as your student makes it. But, if you’re like me, it’s nice to have a template or example to work from. A plan for learning might look like this:
1. Choosing a topic.
2. Creating an open-ended question to help guide research. For example:
How do roller coasters work?
What do the internal organs of a pig look like?
How does a car engine work?
How do you knit a blanket?
What keeps airplanes in the air?
3. Create a product or artifact that demonstrates learning. The sky’s the limit here. I hate to even list examples because time and time again I am amazed at the ideas kids come up with. Their ideas blow mine out of the water! As long as they are producing something to show what they’ve learned, it’s acceptable!
4. Reflect on the process at the end of your term. Take some time as a family to debrief. What went well? What needs to be improved next time? What was the best part? In what areas did your child grow?
I love the fact that in a committed homeschool, parent educators see almost every opportunity as an opportunity for learning. They are in-tune to their child’s needs and work hard to make sure their child is getting the best education possible. For these families especially, a J-Term is a great way to take a break from the norm without sacrificing educational opportunities. It’s a great way to spend some fun and authentic learning experiences together as a family, too. Who knows, you might even set out to learn about something new as well!
Want to try a unit study for your J-Term? Check out our shop at teacheve.com!