This post is from contributor Jacinda Vandenberg
(This post may contain affiliate links.)
Many homeschool parents, myself included, often find themselves in a funk, comparing or mirroring their teaching style and their child’s learning habits to conventional methodology and cultural expectations. Most of us don’t want our home schools to be schools at home, yet deviating from the course, skipping units, and substituting a manual’s directions with our own instinctive teaching style can feel so risky!
There is no law that says our children must do every question in the book, or complete a lesson, before they can get off their chair. If you abide by “it,” you will teach your children that learning is a monotonous, stifling routine – a bondage of sorts that can only be broken after thirteen years.
However, if you mix things up and change them around, foster out-of-the-ordinary learning experiences, experiment with different curriculum, make real life applications, and use unconventional methods to teach important life lessons, you will inspire in your children a love for learning. They will be able to self-educate and explore anything that piques their interest because you have taught them that most things in life can be learned informally.
Think back to your own education. What was the most memorable lesson you learned and where did you learn it? In your desk or cramming for an exam? Probably not. Perhaps it involved a field trip, a good book, a conversation, a dissection, a debate, an experiment, a project, a road trip – something out of the ordinary.
The following is a list of ways to create meaningful learning experiences that are fun and memorable for our children. These ideas are a mix of suggestions from moms in our homeschool group, tricks from up my mother’s sleeve that she used to facilitate the home school I grew up in, and the tools I’m implementing now with my own children.
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The Ultimate Guide To Brain Breaks by Heather Haupt.
If your child is showing a lack of interest in his textbooks, gets antsy, or is easily distracted, it may not actually be the textbook’s fault. He (or she) may just need a Brain Break!
A Brain Break is an activity that gets oxygen moving to the brain which stimulates a person’s ability to focus. If your child exhibits any of these symptoms while they’re trying to study, it’s time for a recharge and the 60 activities included in The Ultimate Guide to Brain Breaks will help them do just that:
- Their eyes have glazed over and won’t focus
- Their mouth is hanging open.
- They start to get disruptive.
- They start to get over-emotional.
- They ask questions that have nothing to do with the task at hand.
- They stare out the window.
- They become listless—taking FOREVER to accomplish a task.
- They fidget constantly without making headway.
If my daughter starts behaving like this when she’s working through her math, I say, “Okay, it’s time for a Brain Break!” I’ll read off one of the suggested activities to her and she’ll perform it. It could be anything from Toe Writing to the Billy Goat Bump (which are all explained in the eBook). After 5 minutes of movement and refreshing, she is back in her seat and able to focus once more.
Every family can use a copy of The Ultimate Guide To Brain Breaks (especially if you have boys!). It will teach you how to recognize the signals our bodies send to tell us that we need to move! Brain Breaks keep learning enjoyable for both teacher and student. It will be the best $7.99 you’ve ever spent ($5.99 with coupon code: “GROWINGHOME”)
I grew up listening to Kathy Troxel’s Audio Memory Songs on cassette and now my own children are listening to them on MP3’s! “You never forget what you sing!” is Troxel’s slogan and it’s true. Twenty years later, I still sing the multiplication song in my head and know where most countries are located, thanks to her catchy melodies.
The CDs are nice enough to listen to on long drives without making me go bonkers. The kids love the upbeat tunes and I love that they’re putting useful facts to memory without frustrating themselves.
Imagine a home school where your children beg to do geography and get hyper when you announce it’s time to do some creative writing. Stop laughing! Your dream really can become reality if you turn these subjects into a game. Two favorites:
Map Tangle – Twister meets Geography. Object of the game? Your children must locate, and place their feet on all of the landmarks and geographical locations in the deck. The team leader (Mom) will draw the cards for each player but will not play on the mat. The child who has “traveled” to all one hundred and three geographic locations and landmarks wins.
Story Cubes – to use when the painting you ask your child to creatively describe results in masterpieces like: The sky is blue. The man in the picture is old. I like the lighting. You can tell it’s winter because there is snow on the ground. 9 cubes, 54 pictures, and 10,000,000+ different combinations equal an infinite number of creative stories! Simply roll the cubes and let the pictures spark their imaginations. You can even add on to each other’s stories with another roll of the die. It’s even better when Mom plays. 🙂
At our provincial homeschooling conference a few years ago, Andrew Pudewa suggested taking a year “off” from homeschooling and spend it reading. “Do nothing but read,” he said, “and see if they don’t learn more that year than they have in all the years prior.”
When you read to your child, you give them your undivided attention, which in turn makes them feel loved and secure. It increases their vocabulary, imagination, and critical thinking skills. It builds longer attention spans and strengthens their listening skills. It provides your child with opportunities to exercise logic, expand their interests, and think in abstract terms in addition to filling their knowledge bank with useful information.
Of course, it matters what you read. Hand That Rocks The Cradle by Nathaniel Bluedorn is a great resource of 400 classical children’s titles for Christian families, if you’re looking for ideas.
By “field trip” I mean “just get out of the house and go somewhere.” Anywhere. The pond. The gas station. The candle factory. The cookie factory (that was my personal favorite – you get to eat all the “ends”). The auto plant. The Creation Museum. The grocery store. The library. The soup kitchen. A nursing home.
Talk to different people. Ask them about their job. What do they love about it? What do they hate? Observe, investigate, take notes, discuss, discover, summarize. Let your children interact with the world they live in. Take a hands-on approach and watch their love for learning grow.
What else would you add to this list? I’d love to hear your suggestions!
Latest posts by Jacinda (see all)
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- How to Keep Toddlers Busy While Homeschooling - January 16, 2016
- Following in Their Footsteps: Reflections of a Second Generation Homeschooler - February 19, 2014
- Who Can Homeschool? - September 26, 2013