Homeschooling in Waiting Rooms?
Yes, it’s possible! I’ve been doing it for years!
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Most families spend some amount of time in waiting rooms.
Of course this can differ from family to family, but for many families, dentist appointments, hair cuts, music lessons, swim lessons doctor’s visits, therapy sessions, etc. are oftentimes just part of life…
…and they can really throw a wrench in your homeschool schedule – if you let them!
This can feel particularly difficult if you have a child with special needs.
Their situation may require more appointments than is typical for the other children in your home.
How do you still take care of your child’s learning when you’re so often away from home?
All of this time spent in waiting rooms can be extra frustrating for homeschool families. Oftentimes, the whole family comes along for the appointment, and that can make things tricky.
It can sometimes feel like the other children’s education is being impacted by all of the time spent simply… waiting.
However, I’m here to tell you – you can take full advantage of this time.
Sure, it may not always go as smoothly as you hope. Trust me, I’ve had some rough waiting room situations over the years. It can be HARD.
I assure you I am right there in the trenches with you. Still, after all these years, I find myself having to adjust and get creative in whole new ways.
But let’s give ourselves some grace and make the best of what can oftentimes feel really stressful and overwhelming.
Learning can and does take place EVERYWHERE – it’s not beholden to a specific physical environment.
These hours spent in waiting rooms do not have to be wasted time, because there are so many ways to make them an educational experience!
The waiting room is a learning environment!
Furthermore, your children actually learn valuable life skills during these visits.
They learn social skills, patience, compassion, consideration, and the incredibly important skill of how to be bored.
Yes, you read that right – being bored is a skill, particularly in today’s culture where there is always some sort of technology vying to fix our boredom.
Let your children be bored, and then guide that boredom into a beautiful learning process!
If it’s just you and the actual child with the visit – oh what a gift!
What a great time to spend one-on-one time with that child. You can have discussions with them about their learning, their interests, their concerns.
Being away from the rest of the family and away from home often lends objectivity to these types of discussions.
You’d be surprised at how fruitful conversations can be when you’re one-on-one with a child in a waiting room.
So, whether you have younger children or older kids…
whether all of the kids are with you, or just the one…
whether you just have scheduled check-ups or your schedule is filled with health visits…
here are various activities that can turn the waiting room into a bona fide homeschool space!
Bring Along A Read-Aloud
Perhaps the best way to spend time waiting for doctor’s appointments and therapy visits is by bringing along a book.
Or if the situation allows, an audiobook of some sort:
If you have older children that can read independently, they can get a surprising amount of ground covered in their education simply by bringing their school books with them.
However, there’s something beautiful about a family reading together while they wait for an appointment.
A good read-aloud will curb short attention spans, keep children from bickering our of impatience, and make the time pass incredibly quickly.
Have a young reader who is starting to feel more confident reading aloud? Let them read jokes out loud while you wait.
Just be sure to keep the laughter from getting too loud – especially if you’re waiting in a room full of other people.
I could see where this idea could get a little out of hand. ha!
If you’re in a season where there is a lot of time spent in waiting rooms, consider joining a book club!
Whether you start a local book club with other local homeschool families, or join one organized online, joining a book club will provide a welcome scope and scaffolding to your waiting room reads.
Print Out A Couple Worksheets
Even if you typically don’t use worksheets with your curriculum, or tend to stick to online courses that keep paper piles at bay, activity pages can be a great tool in a waiting room.
There is such a wide variety of workbooks available, for young children all the way up to high school level students.
You can use worksheets to brush up on math facts, practice spelling skills, and work on reading comprehension.
An added plus to occasional worksheet use is that many states like to see physical documentation of the homeschooling journey.
Having some completed worksheets in your folder is a great way to check that box.
Grab Some Flash Cards
Flash cards are almost tailor-made with waiting rooms in mind, aren’t they?
No need for a flat writing surface or managing pencils – all you need is the stack of cards!
Simply grab a deck of your choice, and you can run through as many of them as possible with your student while waiting.
There are many premade flash card decks available, covering a wide variety of topics. There are even ones that cover musical notations!
However, you can also make your own using simple index cards to best suit your family’s needs.
If you’ll be using them frequently, it might be handy to laminate them. Purses and bags tend to damage things like this, haha!
Fill Out Mad Libs
Mad Libs are not only absolutely hilarious, but they’re a fun way to learn parts of speech and other language arts skills.
Often, a day filled with waiting rooms and health visits equate to a “bad day” for children.
Mad Libs, however, are an almost guaranteed laugh. They’ll be sure to brighten up a potentially cloudy type of day.
As an added bonus, they’re great for the whole age range of children!
Homeschooling is often a family affair, so you’ll likely have children in the waiting rooms with you that are simply “tagging along”.
Filling out Mad Libs as a family helps keep tensions low.
Play A Math Game
There are many options for this!
Try Math Wrap-Ups.
Build shapes with these super easy-to-make Popsicle Construction Sticks.
This has been a favorite quiet time activity in our house for many years.
Throw one of the Learning Resources electronic math games in your bag.
Use a Math Wheel to quiz math facts in a fun way.
Portable math games tend to work best for the earlier homeschool years, when addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division tables need to be drilled.
Bring A Brain Quest Deck
Brain Quest makes compact trivia decks, separated by grade level and even by topic!
Some of the questions will serve as review for the concepts you’ve covered while at home, but others will be interesting bits of trivia.
Or, you can review the cards ahead of time and pick our specific questions.
Psst…those popsicle sticks you see there have spelling words on them. Those are great for tossing in a bag for a little extra practice while waiting somewhere.
Enjoy A Planning Period
If you’ve got your children busy with independent worksheets, silent reading, or quiet activities, then guess what, homeschool mom? You have some time to breathe!
Enjoy that cup of coffee that you probably brought with you, and pull out a book of your own.
Or, pack a notebook with you. You can use this extra time to organize your homeschool to-do list or schedule the next day’s lessons.
Laughing out loud as I’m remember the days I would have the older kids settled, but was trying to keep a toddler quiet while also nursing a newborn. If you’re in this stage I just described, ignore this whole section of about sipping coffee and reading a book while you wait. ha!
Plan Mini Field Trips
If you head out of town for a doctor visit, take the rest of the day and make it a mini field trip.
Perhaps there’s a playground or a zoo or a museum nearby that you wouldn’t have driven to otherwise.
Sure, the field trip doesn’t fill up the time spent in the waiting room, but having that fun “carrot on a stick” can make the whole waiting room experience more bearable.
I’m always looking for creative ways to motivate!
It has been so helpful when a park or playground has been close by and we’ve been able to take our other kids to run and play while a sibling is in an appointment.
When that idea isn’t an option, a fun stop before or after the appointment can be fun for everyone.
Be sure to pack snacks!
This maybe should have been my first suggestion, but snacks are a must.
Especially when there are younger children in tow, I highly recommend making sure my to-go back or purse is home to at least something that can be munched while waiting.
Some parents may disagree, but as a young mom, this made all the difference for us more times than I can count.
Even still to this day, snacks are a help to us!
A Couple More Ideas to Consider:
Do you have a specific babysitting need at this time?
When we were first beginning our journey with Down Syndrome, the amount of appointments we had felt overwhelming.
During that time, our pastor’s daughter was able to help us!
We do not have any family in town, so being able to hire her to babysit our other kids while we handled more complicated appointments was so helpful.
She was such a gift to us as she spent the time with our other kids doing creative projects, etc. – and looking back, I see how God orchestrated the timing of her being available to us in that season.
If your family has entered a time when having the assistance of someone else would be helpful, don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Technology can be helpful!
I realize some families choose to avoid screens during times of waiting.
I understand their reasoning.
As explained earlier in this post, I think it’s so important for kids to learn how to be bored and experience opportunities the require them to be creative as they wait.
However, our family’s specific journey has included some wait times that have been extended and difficult.
In a variety of different situations, educational resources on the iPad have been really helpful, and I will unashamedly share a few of them with you today!
- Reading Eggs
- Teach Your Monster to Read
- Endless Alphabet – Endless Numbers
- Little Writers
- Stack the States – They also have Stack the States 2 and Stack the Countries.
- Chess Kid
- Art for Kids Hub YouTube Channel – They can bring a drawing tablet!
Don’t want to bring the iPad along? I really do understand!
A Special Note
I’d like to take just a minute to speak to the mama who has just received a world-rocking diagnosis – news that means her future includes more waiting-room time than she could have ever thought.
I may not know your specific situation, but I do know what it’s like to receive difficult news, having our family’s future adjusted in a way we would have never chosen.
In those early days, I was in survival mode!
I had a checklist of to-dos – appointments, etc. that I needed to make happen. Because I’m a task orientated person, that to-do list kept me going, but I remember the overwhelm…the exhaustion…the worry…the constant wondering. It was a lot.
Maybe you’re in that place now. In those early days, I could have never drafted a post like this.
I was in the throws of figuring out what all this was going to look like for us. Needless to say, I wasn’t feeling very creative.
This post is a collection of ideas I’ve experienced over the last several years, and my hope is that you will spot something that might help you as you’re walking the road you’ve been asked to journey.
I’m so grateful you’re here – so happy we’ve connected!
I wish I could give you a big hug right now and tell you, because of Him, we mamas can do this! Even though we may find ourselves with tears in our eyes at times, we can experience peace and strength to face those waiting rooms with joy.
For me, it has always helped to focus on the things I’m grateful for. On the other side of that waiting room door are doctors and nurses and therapists who are giving their lives to serving families like ours who need them – what a gift!
Choose Joy, my fellow waiting room mama. He has never failed – and He never will.
With So Much Love,