Tag Archives: learning

Real Life… Learning in the Outdoors

brooke catching minnows

Catching minnows in a lake.

Children of all ages enjoy exploring the outdoors. When the weather is nice I like to take our learning outside. From watching clouds slowly moving across the sky to catching tadpoles or minnows. The world is always changing all around us.

Scavenger Hunt

Consider sending your children on an outdoor scavenger hunt. Give them notebooks and pencils so they can write about and/or draw what they find rather than collecting each item. (You don’t want them to collect any creatures, plus this saves your flowers and more delicate plants from being picked.)

A scavenger hunt is easily adapted to a variety of ages, just remember to keep the list of what they are looking for short for younger children and a bit longer, more time consuming for older children. For some great outdoor scavenger hunt ideas try this website: Nature Scavenger Hunt

Book Work Outdoors

Sometimes it’s nice to take the school books with you outside just to change the scenery. We’ve done lessons on our front porch (which usually involves a cat or two walking across the books or jumping into our laps). Sometimes we’ll take our books to the park and do some work at a picnic table for a while, play for a while, then do more work and repeat. Find a shady spot around town somewhere where you live. Perhaps a gazebo, picnic table or a blanket in the shade will work for your family.

schoolwork while waiting

Waiting for a local business to open. (I goofed so we were 30 minutes early.)

Another thing to consider is any downtime between doctor appointments, meeting friends, or waiting for a group class to start your children can do a little book work. All it takes is a bit of planning before hand to remember to bring the books and supplies with you. I like to choose easier subjects that my children can work on with minimal input from me. For my third grader this is usually grammar and spelling. For my first grader this only leaves spelling because most of her other work requires me reading the instructions to her.

Don’t attempt to get lower elementary children to do their work in the car. It’s difficult for them to hold the book in their lap and write at the same time. If it’s a single worksheet on a clipboard or lap desk then they can probably get it done, but if it’s a workbook or text book you’ll find they perform much better at a bench or sidewalk.

Just find a spot where your child isn’t in the full sun or near the street. Also consider the weather. If it’s too hot or too cold they may not be able to concentrate. Instead of book work I’d consider playing a game like I-Spy or having them practice reciting some things they’ve learned in the past. (Grammar jingles, 50 states song, multiplication rhymes, etc.)

Exploring Nature

butterfly and chrysalis

One Monarch drying it’s wings, another still inside the chrysalis.

In good weather go on nature hikes, visit the park, explore trails in the woods (make sure you aren’t trespassing), visit a U-pick farm. You just never know what you’ll find. Often children see things that we adults would never notice. I think partly it’s because they are lower to the ground, but also it’s because we adults are so busy focusing on where we are going next that we tend to forget about enjoying the present.

Take the time to stop and smell the flowers. Watch the butterflies, admire a roly-poly, explore mushrooms and fungi on fallen trees. There are so many things to investigate and explore outdoors.

Let children ask all the questions they want about what they find. Don’t worry about not knowing the answers, simply explain that you’ll look up the answers when you get home. You better write down or send yourself and e-mail of their questions though, because if you are anything like me you will have forgotten what they asked by the time you get home.  🙂

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Posted by on May 16, 2014 in Real Life


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Real Life… Learning Around Town

schoolwork waiting room

What does the term “homeschooling” mean to you? Do you picture a family sitting around the dining table with workbooks? Perhaps sitting on the couch reading and discussing a lesson together? These are both valid thoughts, however not every day has to be that way.

Some feel that “home education” would be a better term for what we do every day. BUT, even the term home education has the word “home” in it.

For our family, homeschooling is NOT about staying home and doing book-work all day. We have frequent dentist appointments, visits to the library, we take grandma to the hospital for outpatient procedures, and other time-consuming events which pull us away from home during the typical school hours.

dentist office work

On top of everything above I try to plan a fun day once a month. We take our books with us to either the park, Chick-fil-a, or Pete’s Party Castle (indoor play-place with obstacle course, slide, and arcade games).

My rule for these fun places is they must complete 20 minutes of work to get 20 minutes of playtime, then repeat. Feel free to adjust these times as fits best for your children. I certainly do!

Side note: for restaurants such as Chick-fil-a, make sure to go between their peak hours so you aren’t taking up a table from their other customers. I try to be courteous and aware of my surroundings. When the lunch crowd starts pouring in it’s time to leave.

Whether your family is visiting someone at the hospital, going to a doctor or dentist appointment, or perhaps visiting your spouse for lunch; education can happen anywhere.

book cafeschoolwork hospitalcounting bugles


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Posted by on October 23, 2013 in Real Life


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Overlooked Benefits of Using the Library

The public library has sooo many resources to benefit homeschooling families.

  • phonics blendsEducational DVDs available to rent for FREE (science, history, math, phonics, foreign languages,
    and MUCH more)
  • Music CDs (classical, jazz, rap, country, gospel, etc.)
  • Kids InfoBits – Online resource of reference materials, magazines, newspapers, maps & flags, charts & graphs, images.  (Use password = gulfcoast)
  • Mango – Learn a new language for FREE – up to 14 languages available
  • Inter-Library Loan (ILL) – Looking for a particular book that your branch doesn’t have?  What about a book not available at ANY of the local libraries?  ILL services will try to locate a copy at other libraries across the southeast and have it shipped to the local library of your choice for only $2.  This is very helpful for research and our family has used the ILL services many times.
  • Local History & Genealogy Services
  • Storytime – geared towards children ages 2 – 6yrs.
  • Books on CD with read-along books (perfect for emerging readers)
  • Audio books – Taking a long ride in the car?  Put a favorite book in the cd player.  Everything from Magic Tree House or Beverly Cleary books to Harry Potter or the Hunger Games.
  • Non-fiction books – this may seem obvious, but you’d be surprised how many parents only check out fiction books for their children.
  • Fiction books – Don’t forget to let your child check out graphic novels.  Sometimes they just need a different format to grab their interest.
  • Computers to use while at the library with Magic Schoolbus and other popular learning games.

Popular Children’s Graphic Novels

I’ve heard some parents say they don’t like to take their children to the library because their children are so loud or difficult to handle.  Let me just point out that if children aren’t taken to places where they need to talk softly and not run indoors then how are they ever going to learn these things?  Avoiding the problem is very rarely the solution.  If you’re a parent of 5 or more children under the age of 7 then I’ll give you some slack, but try to find the time to take the older children while someone babysits the younger ones.

Another reason parents seem to have for not going to the library is they just don’t know which books to check out.  The solution is actually pretty simple.  Go online.  Search for books based on subject.  Select the book you want and put it on hold.  Choose which library you want the book sent to and generally it will arrive within 48hrs.  You can also renew your books online.


Lastly, PLEASE allow your children to check out the books they want.  Don’t stifle their excitement over going to the library and looking at all those books by then telling them no they can’t check one out.  There is a time and a place to tell your child no, but this isn’t it.  If your young daughter wants an inch thick book because of the cat pictured on the cover let her get it.  If your son chooses a book that you know is too difficult for him to read, let him get it anyway.  Children are smarter than we give them credit for.  They KNOW what they’re capable of reading.  Sometimes they just want to look at the book.  Yes, even if it doesn’t have any pictures other than the front cover.  It’s important for children to love books.  It’s not always about reading them.  Sometimes it’s simply about looking at them, or holding them, or smelling them.  (Yes, I said smelling them.  If you read very often you know books have a smell.)

Try to schedule a trip to your local library at least once a month.  Your children may turn into avid readers because of it and that’s never a bad thing.


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Online Curriculum Review Coming Soon

Time4Learning has invited me to try their online curriculum for 30 days in exchange for an honest review. My opinion will be entirely my own, so come back and read about my experiences. Visit them for information about lesson plans, homeschool portfolios or writing your own curriculum review.




Posted by on June 10, 2012 in Curriculum


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That Blurry Grey Line Between School-time and Normal Life…

Math & Spanish playdoh activity - larger/smaller & longer/shorter

As I was sorting pictures into albums on my computer this evening I found myself trying to figure out if certain pictures belonged in the “Homeschooling” folder or in the “Family” folder.  Isn’t it funny how so many people look at their day as having “school hours” and normal/non-school hours.  For our family we consider the 8am – 12noon our school time, though I often will leave science, social studies or art for the afternoon.  I’ve been known to give an oral test in the evening before dinner and sometimes we review things out loud on the weekends.  (Children who go to school have homework in the evenings, so I figure me doing this isn’t all that different.)  Learning doesn’t stop just because the school books are closed and the pencils are put away.  Our children read or look at books, draw pictures and play card games on the weekends regularly.  This is where I think the line gets a bit blurry or “grey” so to speak between normal life and a school day.

I’ve mentioned this before, but one of my favorite books is “Learning All the Time” by John Holt.  There is no switch to turn off learning simply because a child isn’t at school or “doing school” as it is sometimes called when children are educated at home.  I believe in giving children numerous and varied opportunities to explore and learn on their own.  Guide them only when truly needed or when they ask questions.  Don’t underestimate their ability to understand things.

So, that snack that your four year old was sorting and counting… was that math time or just snack time?  When your older child is playing “Hot Cross Buns” on the keyboard over and over and over again… is that music time or is he just playing because he enjoys playing?  Why does it have to be one or the other?  I think it’s BOTH.  I want them to enjoy learning and exploring new things.  That’s what childhood is all about right?

So, when the line gets blurry between school-time and normal life then I say GREAT!  That means the children are learning and hopefully they are enjoying it.


Posted by on January 30, 2012 in My Thoughts on Homeschooling


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Why Do People Underestimate Children?

Parents, teachers and the general public are constantly underestimating the intelligence of children.  Children’s brains are like sponges absorbing information from everywhere and everything.

Here are the 3 main areas where I feel that parents are really letting their children down:

#1  Not Giving Children Enough ResponsibilityHanging on vine

Children as young as 2 years old can be taught to do a simple task around the house 1-2 times a week.  With each birthday that passes increase the responsibility a bit more.  For example, a 2-3 year old could dust with a feather duster or be responsible for using a Swiffer cloth on the kitchen floor.  (Yes, you are welcome to do it again after them, but wait until they are asleep so they don’t SEE you do it and feel as if what they did wasn’t good enough).

Elementary age children can empty the bathroom trash can when they are smaller and then graduate to emptying out all the trash cans.  Save your back and let your child empty the dishwasher for you.  Our 6 year old enjoys his task of unloading the dishwasher.  He puts away what he can reach and stacks the out of reach items on the counter where I can put them away later.

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Posted by on December 29, 2011 in My Thoughts on Homeschooling


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