Annapolis-Severna Park, MD
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April 17, 2020 | by Elyse Hudacsko [GUEST BLOGGER]
With most schools across the country now officially finishing out the school year online, I’m often asked, “What’s the secret to homeschooling happiness?”
I think you’ll like the answer…
Focus less on the “school” and more on the “home.”
While most parents aren’t technically “homeschooling” right now, the same secret applies.
Whether you have months to plan, a fancy binder of organized lessons, and a cute homeschool room… or you’re hanging on by the seat of your pants with online assignments from your school… it’s still the same answer.
Focus more on “home” and less on “school.”
The key is family learning experiences.
My homeschooled daughters do plenty of “school” by watching videos, reading texts, writing essays, and, yes, sometimes listening to me lecture. But, the vast majority of their learning – and what they remember -- takes place through experiences we have together that support what we are learning about.
Feeding penguins when we learned about animal behavior. Cooking an authentic dish from a different country each day when we studied Asia. Touring a coal mine when we learned about natural resources. Sewing a 15th-century dress while we were learning about the history of fashion.
These hands-on “home” learning experiences may feel a lot like play. But they teach kids valuable life skills, expand their worldview, create limitless opportunities for discussion, foster determination, and inspire curiosity and further exploration. These experiences reinforce and make real what kids are learning about in their schoolbooks. Even better? They create great family bonds and amazing memories.
“Home” learning experiences can often provide the best education out there. So if you are still schooling at home, consider this an opportunity to experience this type of “home” learning in addition to, or for those of you without direction from your school, in place of, regular schoolwork.
Here are a few of my favorite home learning experiences that you can have with kids of all ages.
I bet if you think back to some of your fondest childhood memories you will find “cooking with someone special” in your top 5.
Being home gives you the opportunity to create these special culinary memories with your kids. Little kids can wash and measure and stir. Older kids can research recipes, learn cooking techniques (from YouTube if you are not so great in the kitchen), and prepare entire meals for the family.
Cooking is a very smart way to make math hands-on for almost every age group from counting the number of carrots going in the pot to manipulating fractions when you double a recipe for chocolate chip cookies. You can also talk through science concepts like chemistry and nutrition.
One of my favorite ways to use cooking in learning is for history! It is such a great expansion of your worldview to try different flavors, ingredients, and techniques. We find recipes from different time periods or geographic locations and we make them together.
Movies are one of my very favorite learning tools. Because let’s face it, Steven Speilberg and James Cameron have way more creativity and resources than I do when it comes to showing my kids what it was like to be a soldier in World War II or to set sail on the Titanic.
Sitting down together as a family to watch a movie that teaches us about history or retells a classic piece of literature is not wasted time, even if popcorn is involved!
Teachwithmovies.org is an excellent place to search for movies by age and topic. You might find something from your past that you really want to share with your kids or you can look for something that supports what they are currently learning.
I promise you that nine times out of ten when the credits roll, the discussion starts.
Building a landmark out of Legos… Baking a loaf of bread... Painting a watercolor landscape... Writing and filming a short film...
For every new topic we study, my daughters get to decide on something to make and it is always where a great deal of their education takes place. Encouraging your kids to make things related to what they are learning enables them to build skills in planning, creativity, determination, and confidence.
Challenge your kids to make something that lights them up. Sometimes they need a little push here because they are so used to being told what to do, but once you get them started it is so exciting to watch them take off doing something they love.
To make it a family experience, have your kids teach YOU how to do what they did. Better yet? Have them use you as their assistant! Trust me… these are memory-making moments. You’ll know how much they learned by just seeing how well they can answer your questions and give you directions! It’s empowering and (often) hilarious!
TAKE A CLASS, TOGETHER
Over the years, my kids have taken A LOT of online classes. And I take them with them.
Not because I necessarily want to learn how to paint a turtle.
But because I want my kids to see that I am human, I make mistakes, and I do not know everything. Because I want my kids to see that I value and enjoy education. Yes, even now as “an old person.” (Insert eye roll please.)
Learning alongside your kids shows them the joy of being a lifelong learner.
Plus, letting down your guard around your kids and putting aside the role of “parent” for the role of “peer” can ease the pressure of a new and unknown way of life – even if temporary – for everyone. Give it a try and you’ll likely find that you enjoy letting go of always having to be in charge and you enjoy embracing just being one of the kids.
And you’re kids will learn and love you for it.
Author and homeschooler, Elyse Hudacsko, shares her educational wisdom with parents around the world on www.boundless-education.com and on Instagram at boundless.education.
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