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Turning Real Life into Homeschool Lessons

Posted Feb 13 2013 2:00pm

Schoolgirl with Textbook on Head

Put Those Textbooks Aside Mom and Dad! 

Surely they have their place. (I used them mostly as a reference point.) But if you’re looking for a way to motivate your child to work more on her own, here is one way to do that! 

There is a very unique school program in the Middlefield and Durham Connecticut school district . I visited an Integrated Day Program classroom many years ago. It is amazing. It is a structured program, but it is a very different type of structure from the typical classroom. Students are taught how to integrate subjects while pursuing something they are intensely interested in.  Each quarter, the students create a book from their exploration and bind it! And those books are gorgeous and fabulous! I imagine that they may be creating other things now, such as websites. 

The entire class creates one book during the first quarter of the year so that they learn the process.  

Why Not Use Some of These Ideas in Your Homeschool?

Here’s an example.  Suppose your child is fascinated with snow right now, and there is a lot of it outside. This is an opportunity to allow your child to take the energy that comes with an intense interest and use it to learn in a natural, organic way– the way she learned when she was a crawling baby or toddler! 

Don’t believe me? 

Here is how you can use snow to create the perfect curriculum together: 

  • Let your child ask tons of questions. Encourage the questions. If she is pre-writing age or just a beginner, write them down for her. Ask her what she thinks the answers are. Don’t tell her when she’s wrong. Just write what she thinks the answers are or might be. 
  • You can add your own questions to hers. If you research first, you will come up with some that will intrigue her. 
  • Reward all of her efforts with time outside playing in the snow — building a fort, an igloo, a snowman, a sculpting, sledding, skiing, etc.! 

Integrating Science and Social Studies

1. What is snow made from? 

2. How is snow made? 

3. Where does it come from?

4. Why doesn’t it snow in Hawaii? 

Now, numbers 1 through 4 will easily lead to an exploration of weather/climate (science); cold fronts, water cycle, molecules; and geography (social studies); mountains, elevation,  map reading, etc. This can also lead into questions of culture and history (social studies):

5. How does snow effect lifestyle? 

7. How is life different in places where there are no seasons? 

8. How does the weather or climate change the way people think? The things they eat? (Find and try some recipes.) 

9. What are some stories of bad snowstorms during colonial days? During the 19th century? etc. 

10. How do you build an igloo? (And here is a great source for building a real igloo as a project.) And how did people live in them? What’s it like to sleep in one? 

6. What was it like to ride in a horse and carriage through the white and drifting snow? (Visit Amish country and do it!) 

Integrating Language Arts

I’ve shown you how you can integrate science and social studies. I’m sure you can see how easy it will be to integrate literature, grammar, reading, writing and research skills! 

  • Take a trip to the library and used book store. 
  • Search on Amazon and other online sources.
  • Involve your child in creating a plan and schedule for reading and keeping a reading journal.
  • Teach the skill of writing a reading journal, an essay, a short story, a play.
  • Your child will be trying to find the answers to the list of questions and she will most likely think of new questions to answer along the way. 
  • Once a week go over some of your child’s writing with her. Choose one or two grammar skills to tackle in a positive way. Go ahead and look it up in one of your textbooks, but use her sentences rather than those in the books. Hers are more relevant. 
  • At the lunch or dinner table, ask about the book she is reading. Ask probing questions. 

Integrating Art & Music

She can draw or paint illustrations or imitate the art of one of the cultures. Maybe she wants to try creating a colonial quilt, weaving a blanket, or knitting or crocheting a wool blanket.  She can take photographs of these to include in her book. She may want to try a period instrument or even build one. She might want to learn some songs from a culture. . 

Integrating Math & Physical Education

These two subjects may not fit into most topics studied. Whatever subjects can’t be integrated need to be tackled separate from the project. Of course in this case, physical fitness can surely be integrated with outdoor sledding, skiing or skating. There is usually a way to integrate a couple of very challenging math problems into an integrated project, but it won’t be as comprehensive as the other subjects. So keep your math textbook close by! 

Meaningful, Relevant and Deep Coverage

Integrating all of the subjects as I’ve described above is not only comprehensive, but students usually end up learning it in much more depth and breadth. Although the real world math problem in your child’s project will not be as comprehensive, it will most likely be much deeper and relevant. Even though it isn’t a page full of examples to practice, it will stretch her mind and she will learn that math is used in real life. 

I believe fitness should be an integral part of every day in the homeschool, but somewhere along the way, you should do an integrated project on some aspect of physical fitness. 

If you have a question about how to integrate your child’s interest into a project, please tell me his or her interests and age, your geographic location and any special challenges your child might have.  I just might create an entire post with the answer!

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