When my children were young, I often used a thematic approach when planning the school year. I would choose the main topics that I wanted to cover and then search for related material for each subject area. Sometimes the related material was a bit of a stretch, but if it fit the theme and seemed worthwhile, we would use it. This approach led us to some great resources that we might have otherwise never known.

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As my kids have grown older, the focus has shifted to individual subjects with specific books for each one. Over the past few years, I have felt increased pressure to become more “academic” in their schooling. Unfortunately, I think this has resulted in a less joyful homeschool experience for all of us. This realization came to me recently when we were driving past a restaurant on a road that we don’t often travel. When I saw it, I remembered the chocolate volcano.

Several years ago, we studied volcanoes. We learned facts about them, watched videos, created models, read fictional and nonfictional stories, and found their locations on maps. Our culminating activity was an outing to a restaurant that served lava cake, or what became known to us as the chocolate volcano. Now, this was one of those stretches that I mentioned. Although we used words like lava and molten to describe the dessert, it wasn’t super educational. Even so, it was a fun way to finish our unit study.

As we drove past the restaurant recently, I wondered if the kids even remembered our outing years before, so I asked them. What a pleasant surprise it was to hear them clearly recall the event with exuberance! Then, it hit me. We had lost something important in our homeschool. We had lost the joy. I had inadvertently replaced meaningful experiences with boring and forgettable assignments. In my effort to make sure the academic material was covered, I had completely forgotten the fun stuff that makes homeschooling so worthwhile.

Moving forward, I will be spending much time in prayer to ask for the Lord’s help in this area. I long to have the joy return. Homeschooling is more than just doing school at home. It is about creating memories while you learn together as a family. So, I encourage you to embrace the chocolate volcanoes in your homeschool and create opportunities for them whenever you can, because these are the experiences that your children will remember and you will cherish for years to come.

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