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Homeschooling Mom Questioning Kids Activities

by Stacy Way
(Albion, Michigan)

I am homeschooling my two boys, aged 11 and 9. We just started homeschooling this year, so about 6 months so far.

I am using an un-schooling method mixed with some guided learning. I let them learn what they want, how they want, but I also throw some guided learning to things I think they need to learn but may not choose to. Math, grammar, writing being some of these things. I try to do this in a fun way and play a

lot of games with them with these things. My question is, when I let them do what they choose, they lean toward playing video games and watching TV. So I incorporate a 1-2 hour limit on these activities.

What other activities can I provide for them to interest them during the day? We have tons of games, at least 40-50, but these require me to play with them. One of my children has an autistic disorder so the two of them playing together does not work out so well.

I am looking for things they can do alone without me so I can get laundry, cooking etc done. Lego is one idea I have used, but the kits can get expensive. A medium-sized Lego toy is almost $80.00! I don't mind buying a few of those, but I need other ideas to expand on.

Any suggestions?

Comments for Homeschooling Mom Questioning Kids Activities

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Your Home Is One Big Homeschooling Activity - Part One
by: Annie Desantis

Hi Stacy,
I've moved your question to our homeschooling activities section, so you may find some helpful comments in the other questions.

One of the things with homeschooling, and particularly the un-schooling ideas, is there is the big commitment for the parents - or often one parent, to be very involved and very motivated.

I think you are very wise to keep assessing how this is working for your family, and many homeschoolers use a combination of more formal homeschooling and then free-play time.
Now there is a bit of myth with unschooling, that kids just do what they want. As you have found out, left with absolutely no direction, they will simply watch TV or play video games. You can have a big influence on that, in terms of what they watch, for example there are heaps of amazing nature programs or documentaries that they would learn a lot from, and you can have these less restricted than just sit-coms.

However, the biggest benefit of un-schooling, is having the flexibility to EXPAND your child's knowledge in whatever area they are interested in.

So if they are really keen on video games, have them do some research about how video games are created. Start at the beginning and follow the whole process of how a video game gets developed, marketed, transported to shops, the costs involved, profit margins, packaging, etc etc.

Everything in your life is an opportunity for a learning activity or extended activity. But until your kids learn to be self directed and curious, it depends on you to motivate them and lead them by modeling to them how to find out about things. You don't have to be the font of all knowledge, but you do need to expand your own ideas about what learning is all about and teach them to research.

Now having time for yourself to get on and do things is not always easy. But instead of separating out your chores from their learning - combine it. There is a HEAP of learning in everyday tasks. Indigenous cultures don't separate their lives the way we do, kids are learning alongside of their parents.

Apart from just learning life skills, such as cooking, cleaning and household management, everything you do can become a maths activity, or science experiment. For example - cooking can be about measurements, quantities, chemistry as in how temperature changes the consistency of food and kills bacteria. There are LOTS of opportunities for exploring bacteria and germs, or growing mold etc that can extend a cooking activity. You can do experiments with different kinds of bread as to how mold grows, what is in the bread that prevents mold growing etc.

Part Two Follows . . .

Your Life Is One Big Homeschooling Activity - Part Two
by: Anonymous

Get your kids involved in everything you do, they can learn about how to sort washing and run a washing machine, they can find out about how washing machines are made, they can experiment with different detergents and the additives in washing powder, you can move into environmental concerns about chemicals, they can do experiments around testing water or filtering water to clean up gray water (the dirty washing water).

You can have grow your own veges, build a compost bin (more chemistry) a worm farm. The more responsibility and ownership they take in participation in your home the better. By 11 my kids were responsible for two meals a week each. Some were pretty ordinary, but some were gourmet feasts. They soon learned that they liked the praise from a new dish or serving up a salad made from the vegetables they had grown.

Your kids can learn about household budgeting - learning to use a spreadsheet on the computer, learning to budget, being responsible for the grocery buying.

Unschooling requires a big change in thinking for parents. You will be learning along side them. Learning to go with their energy and curiosity, and learning to stimulate their curiosity. It doesn't change overnight, it takes a while to start thinking differently about everything you do.

You are really doing well to make learning fun, and having them doing some more formal learning in a fun way. Just extend that a bit and make your chores fun and experimental too.

The other thing that can be difficult for homeschoolers, is lack of support and isolation. If you are the one at home all day with the kids, you need to make sure you have plenty of involvement with other homeschooling groups. I am sure you will find some in your area - you may need to test a few out to see how supportive they are around unschooling, but you will find some like minded people I am sure. Then you can organize trips together, or time out by sharing activities - you have their kids for a morning and a planned activity and then the next week they have yours.

Talking of trips, they are great learning opportunities for kids - you can visit the local farmers market and meet a grower and organize half a day on their farm, planting or picking. Kids think food comes from supermarkets, and learning how something is grown or produced is an important learning. Some factories allow tours, or you may be able to go to your local butcher or green-grocer to see how it runs behind the scenes. Visiting a mechanic, visit the vet, volunteer at animal shelters, or other voluntary organizations.

Your Home Is One Big Homeschooling Activity - Part Three
by: Annie Desantis

Now the other thing that is most important, is you need to really take care of YOU. Homeschooling is demanding of your time, your energy, your enthusiasm, and your ability to motivate and facilitate their interests. You can't do that if you are running on empty.

You must have some time to re-fuel yourself and do some things that re-energize you. Think about the things you need, and find ways to get it. Have a relative or neighbor be on deck for the kids while you take an exercise class, or relax in the bath. Lots of elderly folk have incredible skills or knowledge they could be passing on, and that may be an opportunity for you to meet a friend for coffee or visit the hairdressers. It does require you to be pro-active in managing your household so YOU get what you need, because if you get stressed or pressured, it is going to have a major impact on the rest of the family. Make sure when your husband is at home that he takes over, and that also you both get time together.

Successful homeschooling often depends on good planning and a well maintained facilitator/Mom/teacher. It doesn't just run by itself, but neither do you have to burn yourself out to do it.

Just keep experimenting with what works for your family. If you are someone that struggles with flexibility or your kids respond better to more structure, then you can use a homeschooling curriculum to give some structure to the day. Many homeschoolers have mornings as formal lesson time, and then the afternoons are free time to do trips, or extend activities, or follow the interests of the child. The important thing is finding what works for your family and both your boys.

Yes, it can become expensive buying toys or activities, but often homeschooling groups have a library of games or activities that you can share. Also think carefully about what you buy as to the value of it. Lego can be expensive, but it is usually one of the better construction toys to purchase. You can ask for vouchers for kids birthdays so you can combine them for a bigger Lego pack.

You can also see if your local building suppliers or builders will let you have offcuts, and get some nails and a couple of hammers and let the kids construction something outside. Get some huge cardboard boxes from refrigerator packaging, and they can use them to line walls or make a roof. The local rubbish dump sometimes has a tip shop where you can buy all sorts of junk for just a few dollars and they can build a cart or make a junk sculpture.

Part Four Follows . . .

Your Home Is One Big Homeschooling Activity - Part Four
by: Annie Desantis

Another thing to think about, is they don't need to be doing the same thing. Particularly when they don't play so well together, they may need some time apart. Having one child with you while the other gets on with something they are interested in for part of the time would be a good idea.

If you build a lot of your activities around everyday things, you don't have to spend a lot. Just get creative about what you can do. And save the TV and video games for times when YOU need time out, or want to finish something.

Hopefully you will have a few more ideas about how you can structure your day so you all get some of what you want/need.

Read through some of the other submissions and hopefully some of our more experienced homeschoolers will chip in with some ideas for you too.

Other Homeschooling Resources

There are several articles on our site you may be interested in, plus as more parents post their experiences you'll have others to read.

Pros and Cons of Homeschooling

This article talks about the advantages of homeschooling and how to deal with any disadvantages.

Unschooling, a more radical advantage of approach to homeschooling

This article explores Unschooling and how it differs from more conventional homeschooling.

Contributions and Questions from Parents

Articles and Questions from other parents, discussing the pros and cons of homeschooling. Ask Questions, post your reply, share your experience.

Also our current contest is for readers to contribute an art activity, so you may find some inspiration there too: (and feel free to enter the contest!)

Art Activities

Good luck with it all!
Annie Desantis

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Do you have a question or want to send a submission to Annie? Simply click here to return to Homeschooling activities.

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