If you homeschool your kids, you have to get used to some unpredictability—some days the kids might be attentive and excited about learning new things, and other days they might be distracted, rambunctious, and only interested in re-enacting The Caine Mutiny as their educational activity.
When you start to meet with rebellion more than you’re meeting with attentiveness, it might be time to integrate some new activities into the school day to get your kids learning while still having fun. Here are a few ideas to mix things up with your homeschoolers.
Change the setting. Studying in the same space every week day can get stagnant and unproductive after a while, so if your kids are getting cabin fever, consider taking them on a free field trip. You could take them to a public library to look for books on a topic they’re interested in, to a wildlife preserve to learn about plants and flowers, or to a local history museum. Search online for educational events in your area that your kids would enjoy going to.
Make a documentary or short film. If you have a video camera or can borrow one, you can assign your kids to make either a documentary or a short film. If they choose to make a documentary, it should be within the scope of something that they can easily film, like a local farmer’s market or a neighbor with an interesting job (provided the neighbor will agree to an interview). If your kids choose to make a short film, have them write the script and figure out any props and homemade special effects they can use.
Play word games. A lot of kids will dig in their heels if you just ask them to learn a list of words for a spelling or vocab test, but they’ll improve their spelling and written communication skills without even realizing it if you turn the English lessons into games. Try buying books of Mad Libs or this ebook of Story Starters. The Mad Libs can be used to teach your kids parts of speech in a fun way, while you can challenge them to get creative and incorporate vocabulary words they’ve recently learned with the Story Starter activity.
Do a hands-on science lesson. Why stick to the pages of a science textbook when you can bring science to life for your kids? Check out Science Sparks for a list of 50 ideas for kitchen science experiments. You and the kids might have a bit of a kitchen clean-up on your hands afterwards, but they’ll get to see some awesome scientific principles in action. If you’re teaching your kids anatomy, Anatomy Now offers plastic models of all parts of the human body, and you can buy veterinary models if you have a child who’s particularly interested in studying animals. Using these types of models can be especially beneficial for visual learners. Teach your kids about muscles, organs, and tissues by showing them what they actually look in three dimensions rather than just in an anatomy illustration.
Get crafty. Take your kids to a local craft store to get supplies for an educational project. Try to find a project that isn’t just going to keep the kids’ hands busy but instead will actually relate back to something they’ve been learning. Are you teaching them about the geography of the United States? Have them make a topographical map using easy-to-find craft supplies (major rivers can be blue yarn, mountain ranges can be molding clay, and so on). Check out websites like Spoonful to get more ideas for educational crafts.
Ask the kids for ideas. Sometimes the best way to figure out how to make homeschooling more fun is to ask the kids what they’d like to do. After all, people learn most effectively when they’re interested and fully engaged with the subject. While you might have to veto some impractical ideas (you probably don’t want to take them on daily trips to an ice cream shop or pay for a hot air balloon excursion), this is a great chance for kids to find an educational project that they’re passionate about. Have older kids submit a “proposal,” which is essentially a persuasive essay outlining their project idea and explaining why they think it is worth pursuing.
Teaching your kids may make you want to pull your hair out some days, but it can be rewarding when you get to see them truly getting excited about learning. Try some of the above activities, but don’t limit yourself to this list alone. Students have different learning styles, so work with your kids to figure out the best educational tools for them.
Juliana Weiss-Roessler runs Weiss-Roessler Writing with her husband Josh. Her writing has been featured on high-traffic websites, such as Yahoo.com, and in major publications, such as PARADE and People. Follow her on Twitter, Google+, and Facebook.
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