In an adventure game, side quests are times when the heroes and heroines journey off the path they were on, to do something else. Even though they are on their way to Mordor to destroy the one ring, they take a few days off from that to go explore a cool cave full of weird stuff. They will eventually get back to that main quest, but that is a long-term goal, and sometimes you need to just stop and have some fun or do something different.
Pause Your Regular Work and Accept a Side Quest
I’ve seen a lot of social media posts lately talking about how you can all your chores “side quests.” It is a word that sounds far more fun than “chores!” But in homeschooling, a side quest is a little different. It isn’t just referring to your daily work, but to dropping your usual curriculum and doing something different. A side quest is more like the game version of things. As the teacher, you still have the goals you wanted to achieve for the school year. Those don’t go away. But you can set them aside for a while. Take a break from your main curriculum and do something else.
For some homeschoolers, a side quest might be a unit study. I often pause our regular curriculums to do a literature-based unit study. I read my kids a novel, one chapter at a time, and we do go-along activities. My crafty child likes to sew or sketch while I read. These side quests are some of my favorite homeschool times. We leave behind the stress of the curriculums we were using and plunge into the imaginary world of the book.
Another way to do a side quest is to plan a deep dive into a single topic. For example, the ocean makes a great topic for a deep dive. There are tons of books with ocean themes from fictional mermaids to historical accounts of explorers to documentaries. You can do experiments about ocean currents and learn about the animals and fish that live in the deep. You can go on field trips to aquariums or the beach. And your side quest can last a week or a month. That is up to you.
There is no such thing as too many side quests
Sometimes parents fear that if they take too many side quests, their children won’t learn the core skills they need. But in practice, these side quests often give children a chance to use the skills they have been learning. It allows them to explore new ideas and stretch their brains in a new direction. Having new ideas helps children make new connections and that is a beautiful thing to see.
Then you go back to normal
After a side quest, students and teachers often feel refreshed to pull the regular curriculum they like back out and pick up where they left off. Or they realize that it wasn’t serving them well. After a break, you may realize it is time to try something else. That’s okay. As long as your children are learning, there is no reason to worry that they have to complete each program you take on. Just like you shouldn’t make your child clean their plate, you don’t have to finish every workbook.
So, make up a side quest and have some fun! Enjoy your kids and immerse yourselves in a new type of learning.
About the Author
Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.