Traditionally schooled children often say they don’t like school but you might not hear your children make that statement if you homeschool. Home based learning has many benefits over public school. Besides being able to attend school in his or her pajamas, your child will have much more freedom to learn than his or her public school counterparts.
So many parents go into homeschooling with the mindset of checking off boxes and powering through workbooks, page after page. Whether intentional or not, we often end up trying to recreate school at home. By removing the word school, we see that home learning is so much more than plowing through curriculum materials in an attempt to prepare our kids for the next grade level—to send them climbing up the corporate ladder, so to speak.
In the numerous responses to those inevitable Facebook group questions about what to do with a kid who is refusing to “learn”—from the parent who is at his or her wits end—it occurs to me something is missing: Homeschool does not have to mirror public school at home and, by the same token you do not have to create your own curriculum from scratch or become radical unschoolers in the classic debate of homeschooling vs unschooling.
Whether your curriculum is based on your child’s school, you are creating a schedule from scratch, or you are unschooling, home based learning can be fun and enjoyable for both parents and kids! Check out these ideas to make your homeschool day fun so you can make the switch from homeschooling to funschooling!
One of the luckiest things that can happen to you in life is, I think, to have a happy childhood. ~ Agatha Christie
Fun home learning ideas without a curriculum
One way you can avoid burnout is to make homeschooling fun for your family. Fun can also make learning happen faster for your kids. That’s because laughter and joy relax the mind and make it more receptive to learning. They can also help to remove frustration and tension from learning situations.
Here are a few ways to keep your days fun and spirits high while continuing to learn…naturally.
1. Field Trips, so many field trips!
One of the things that can make homeschooling fun for children is the ability to take multiple field trips throughout the year. Whereas most public school students are lucky to take one field trip a year homeschool students have the freedom to go on as many as their parent or support group can plan.
Field trip possibilities are endless, limited only by the imagination of the planner, and funds you’re willing to see leave your wallet. Some common field trips are museums, zoos, and botanical gardens. Did you know you can also make a field trip out of a trip to a Krispy Kreme Donut store? Yep, you sure can. You can also visit police departments, fire departments, local newspapers, and recycling centers. In fact, if you can find someone willing to allow it, you can make a field trip out of almost any business you can think of.
2. Follow their lead: Let them be a part of the planning
Besides taking several field trips a year, another thing that makes homeschooling fun for kids is the ability to learn what interests them and in a way that suits their learning style. While they will still have to learn the basics of reading, writing, and mathematics, they may choose to concentrate on robots, dinosaurs, or some composer or artist.
Kids are very tuned in and probably have a few things they would like to learn in more depth. In my Home Based Learning Road Map I provide a road map or interview for parents (or the lead education guide) to gain valuable student input. Kids enjoy providing input and be a part of their own learning process. This gives them a sense of agency and ownership, and helps parents tailor lessons and activities that will be more of a hit!
3. Find the teaching moments and make the learning relevant…For them
When I was in 3rd grade, I sat in a classroom with 25 other 8 and 9-year-olds systematically answering questions such as: “Emily gets in the car at 1:30. It takes her 1.5 hours to drive across town to her grandmother’s house. What time does she arrive?”
In 4th grade, after selling our house, cars, and the bulk of our possessions, I found myself—a new world schooling kids—boarding a train with my parents in Amsterdam as part of what became our “year of backpacking travels around the world”.
“How long is the train ride?” I innocently asked my parents.
“Our train departs at 10:00 am and it will arrive at 12:45 pm.” came their carefully calculated “teaching” response.
While I may not have cared about Emily’s car ride, I suddenly had a real and relevant reason to calculate journey times.
Thirty years later, as a homeschool parent of a 2nd grader, I am able to foster this same relevant type of learning when he asks “Are we there yet?” as we venture through Shenandoah. “Can you read the time?” (he answers) “How about the ETA?” (Yep). “So, how much time do we have left on our trip?” (he calculates).
A few minutes later his little time naïve self can’t resist. “Are we there yet?” He blurts out.
“What time is it now?”
“How many minutes have passed since you last asked?”
And so it continues for 1-2 more rounds. And then, he is satisfied. Math? Check! A silent kid? Check!
4. Have fun in the kitchen
Food is a fun motivator and cooking and baking provide so many opportunities for science and math exploration. I’ve even been able to incorporate reading into our kitchen time (by asking my son to find specific words and measurements in our recipe), and geography and history on occasions. Nutrition and ADHD are a big part of our family so allowing my son to help with menu planning and meal prep has gifted him a healthy relationship with food.
Snacks such as cheerios, 100% fruit snacks, nuts, or whatever else you and your children like, make great edible game pieces for bingo, tick-tac-toe, and others. For bigger “challenges” such as a more advanced reading scavenger hunt, consider more “special” treats.
5. Incorporate Gameschooling for instant fun
Whether it’s a simple game of Simon says (in your native language for younger kids or a foreign language for older kids), a board or card game, a game you and your kids create or a physical game such as tag or soccer, games provide a plethora of learning opportunities. When my son was little and we were having a hard time engaging around the monotony of math fact learning, Sum Swamp was a hit. Zeus on the Loose led us to a semester of Greek Mythology per my son’s request, and Ticket to Ride as help with executive functioning skills (great! we have an ADHD kid), strategy, delayed gratification, critical thinking, number recognition, pattern recognition, color shorting, patience, spatial awareness, fine motor skills, and math addition to name a few.
For more game ideas, check out the educational board games we truly play.
6. Make connections
I’ve haven’t had much success creating unit studies as they are often a lot of prep work with no guarantee of pay-off. After several attempts of engagement, I finally admitted unit studies and extreme planning are a no-go in our family. What has worked, however, is to make simple connections between activities and things we are studying. If we read a book with a character from a particular culture, I might suggest we research a recipe from that culture, that next time we have kitchen time or I might plan a fun field trip that provides some hands-on learning in that area. By keeping it casual rather than overly planned, I’m better able to follow my son’s lead and he is engages more deeply around a topic as he follows his own rabbit trails.
Other ways of making connections is through observation. What do you your children like doing? Art? Legos? Minecraft? How can you incorporate math, reading, and more into these medias?
7. Let them “multi-task”
While I am not a proponent of multitasking (there are huge advantages in knowing how to do one thing at a time), having a kid sit at a desk while focusing on a writing, math, or other tedious lesson may result in burnout for many families. The reality is, my son learns much better moving his body or doing something he enjoys such as Lego building. We learned so much math, history, literature, science etc. while he builds Legos or stands on his head. When it comes to auditory and/or oral activities, letting him multitask in these ways increases his learning success.
What ways have you been making home learning fun? Leave a comment to share your ideas with other homeschoolers!
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