Ponder what you are doing: Are you having school at home? What’s more important: a lesson in the book or a lesson at the front door? Has teaching your children become a burden of number of pages, score on the test, or completing a lesson plan (I’m a person who believes if I write it down in the lesson plan book, it MUST be done.)
Look around, what’s happening at home right now? Do you see some lessons not in the plan book? So much of what we do in the normal course of life qualifies as a lesson and fits within the academic headings. Let’s look at what lessons come from life and how to incorporate those in our homeschools.
“After school” activities
What are your children taking part in, which are really learning activities? My son Bryon was involved in Civil Air Patrol. He learned enough about aviation to get a one high school credit.
4-H is a cornucopia of learning opportunities, and it’s not all about agriculture. You can download a thirty-day activity guide to get an idea of what can be learned. The guide has activities covering nature, engineering, math, social skills, and more.
Many states require community service as graduation requirement. Volunteer opportunities abound. Some of these service opportunities also involve learning activities. Most libraries need help for such things as shelving books, for example. Community service can be something our children are interested in, like recycling.
Sports leagues are in nearly every town. Most children like to be involved in these activities. When children don’t really do well in group situations, individual sports, such as gymnastics or track, may be a good option. Not only do these activities qualify for physical education. They can also incorporate nutrition, health and safety, biology (learning how the body moves).
Holidays or special events
One year we studied history through the holidays. Not just the major holidays but the more modern, like Secretary’s Day (career studies.). Using the calendar each month we would decide which ones to study, look for community events, study the background of the holiday. We also included literature, people, science, career studies, and sometimes math where appropriate.
How to get started
Try one subject first
Pick a subject. I find science or history the easiest. Don’t put it in the lesson plan. (I know that’s scary.) Listen to our children. What are they asking? Help them learn to find the answer. My little granddaughter loves rocks. I can foresee she will be learning a lot about rocks as we pick them, look at them, and talk about. At this point, she is learning big and small, white and black, round and not round, heavy and light. All without a lesson plan.
Try a specific time
Spring break, summer vacation, or even a boring winter month are good times to give this relaxed way of learning a try. Again, the key rule is no written lesson plan. Yes, just sit back and see what happens. Look at what the family is doing and think about the learning opportunities. Even video games can spark learning opportunities. It’s a matter of thinking about learning in a different way.
When our family watched the mini-series Roots, we read the book, looked up the trade routes, studied the Civil War, and the later civil rights movement, even genealogy. These studies happened spontaneously as we watched the program and read the book. Each family member had questions. We learned to find the answers.
Another movie that sparked unexpected learning was Braveheart. This is somewhat based on the story of William Wallace and the rebellion against the British crown. Being of Scottish heritage, my sons were fascinated with the history. So they began to study it. One of my sons even traced our family tree back to Robert Bruce. I learned to make kilts. No lesson plan, but a mountain of learning.
Keeping track of the learning
My favorite way to keep track is with a journal. Each week I would record what was done that week, the number of hours, and academic subject. When my children reached the age of twelve, they were required to keep their own journal. Monthly I would check the journal and record the topic, hours, and subject. I did not keep specific grades. (Grading is another topic for another day.) As my children became familiar with tracking their learning, I gave them the responsibility. Eventually if a learning activity wasn’t recorded, no credit was given.
There will be a certain amount of “withdrawal” for both you and your children (probably more for you). You will feel uncertain—it’s not normal. New homeschoolers may be able begin with this way of learning at the beginning. Still, there can be moments of concern since it’s not school as we know it.
I admit, as my kids approached graduation, I wondered if they had learned enough math, spelling, history, pick a subject. Each one has survived and is doing well in the “real” world. Most importantly, each of my children know how to learn. When they encounter a problem or a new situation, they are able to find solutions.
Be brave go forth and live the lessons.
You may also enjoy “The Child Shall Lead.”
For more about lifestyle learning, get Harried Homeschoolers Handbook.