As homeschoolers, we have the freedom to choose our own schedules. We can mix in all sorts of wonderful, real life learning alongside the books and pencils. We have the freedom to teach our kids about real life instead of having to teach for the tests.
I’ve been reading all sorts of posts where moms are encouraging each other to skip the messy, time consuming lessons in favor of a more streamlined approach. And there are certainly days when this is appropriate. But I want to caution us that while this type of teaching is certainly easier on us moms, it isn’t always the most effective method of learning for our kids. And that especially holds true when we have sons.
Too often, we get stressed about what we think we HAVE to teach our kids and we throw out some of the more memorable learning that we have the PRIVILEGE of being able to teach them.
I have been guilty of this myself. Some years, I’m better at tackling real life learning than others. It’s so easy to throw a book at our kids and expect them to learn that way. No muss, no fuss. And reading is a great way for some kids to learn.
However, if we really want to cement a lesson in our son’s head, we need to add in some real life learning as well.
What is Real LIfe Learning?
Real life learning includes activities such as taking field trips, working in volunteer opportunities, chores, and adding in hands-on activities. Yes, these methods of teaching take more time. However, if you think you don’t have time to work these things into your day, there are things we can do to be more intentional about adding them to our schedule.
Here are 4 Ways to Stop Skipping the Real Life Learning:
- Make a list for the year of things you want to tackle
- Schedule them on the calendar
- Enlist other people who may also want to participate with you – grandparents, spouse, other homeschoolers, etc.
- Get your kids excited about going, which is easy to do if they know they’ll get to skip the rest of their lessons that day!
Ask your kids what kinds of things they would enjoy doing. Make a list and let them choose what to do first. If you can get your kids excited about some of this real life learning, it may be the motivation they need to apply themselves more fully to their bookwork as well.
Field trips are some of my favorite activities to incorporate into our schedule. They are also one of the first things moms are tempted to skip because they take up so much time. Resist this temptation! Your kids probably won’t remember the week that you read about Thomas Edison from a textbook. They may remember a little bit more detail from the awesome biography you had them read. They will remember even more detail about the movie you watched about his life and the hands-on experiments you attempted to recreate. But they will never forget the trip to Greenfield Village where they got to tour his Menlo Park Laboratory.
Field trips do take a bunch of time and they require extra effort in planning them as well. But they pack a punch when it comes to the amount of learning your child will do and the memories you will create. If you want to add field trips to your calendar, consider planning to go on field trips once a month.
Here are some tips to keep in mind when scheduling field trips:
- Be a tourist in your own city – You don’t always have to travel for hours to go on an awesome field trip. Stop in at the visitor’s center in your area and pick up some brochures. There are bound to be some amazing adventures you didn’t even know about right at your fingertips!
- Reinforce what you’re learning – It’s great when you can take a subject that you’re learning about and follow it up with a relevant field trip.
- Fun stuff – Be sure to schedule some stuff that’s just plain fun. Great ideas for boys are things such as zip lines, rock climbing gyms, adventure ropes courses, canoe trips, sporting events, and amusement parks.
- Virtual field trips – These aren’t as memorable as an actual field trip – but if you’re learning about something you can’t go visit, such as a foreign country, try taking a virtual field trip with your kids. It at least gives them a chance to see whatever they’re learning about. Google “virtual field trip X” where X is what you’re studying to see what is available. Many National Parks have virtual field trips available. This is an interesting activity to add to your geography lessons.
Encouraging our kids to volunteer is a great way for them to not only learn memorable lessons but to develop their character as well. And there are all sorts of places that will welcome your help. If you need help finding volunteer opportunities, either ask around at your church or contact your local United Way. They keep lists of local organizations who are looking for help and will be able to place you in an opportunity which will be perfect for your family.
Consider putting in some volunteer hours as part of a field trip. These are great trips to do with a group. Working side-by-side with their friends will leave a lasting impression on your sons.
Having our kids do chores is another excellent way to incorporate real life learning into your day. Our goal as parents should be to work our way out of a job. Part of that includes training our kids to be able to manage a household.
I remember when I first moved out on my own, I didn’t know how to do much of anything when it came to household chores. It was stressful trying to learn how to cook for myself, how to grocery shop, and how to maintain my own car. I made a lot of mistakes that I wouldn’t have made if I had been taught how to do these things while I still lived at home.
Our kids may not appreciate having to do household chores at the time, but they will certainly appreciate it when they are taking care of their own families.
Please do not throw eggs at me when I say this, but hands-on activities are a great way to help cement learning in our kids’ brains. Sometimes, we get tired and it seems so much easier to just skip the science experiments, skip the projects, skip anything that will take time and make a mess.
But we need to stop skipping all of that type of learning. Some of our kinesthetic learners will grasp a concept so much better if they have this type of lesson incorporated into their day. Don’t be afraid to have your child put down the books and pick up the scissors. Even though it’s the preferred method of teaching in schools, there’s nothing more sacred about learning information by reading it than by experiencing it.
If your lessons have felt stale or your kids have been complaining about learning, try adding some of this real life learning into your homeschool schedule. When kids are allowed to learn by using all of their senses rather than just by reading or listening, you will be amazed at how much more they enjoy their schoolwork!
And if you’re looking for some hands-on learning ideas, I’ve got all sorts of them in my books. You can find out more about them in my store!
Question: Are you intentional about adding real life learning into your schedule? Do you have any other suggestions for real life learning that your kids have enjoyed? Please leave a comment below.