Yesterday, in Year Round Homeschooling - Sometimes It's a Necessity - How the Tinkels Do It - Part 1, I talked about why we chose to homeschool year round, and three things that we do to make year round homeschooling both possible and fun for our family. The three things that I mentioned in part 1 were:
1. We make sure we do something every day no matter how small.
2. We try make use of every possible moment and turn it into a learning activity or mini field trip.
3. We talk about current events and subjects of interest a lot in our home.
Today I'm going to elaborate on three more things that we do and wrap it up with a few closing comments.
Since, as full time missionaries, we travel quite a bit, we try to include educational things while we travel. So, today's three items are going to talk about things we do on the road, however, the first item listed is also something that can be done at home. Here they are.
- We always read to our kids. - We, of course, read at home, but we especially read when we are traveling. Traveling in the car can be an excellent time to teach many things such as map reading skills and geography, but it is also a great time to catch up on regular reading. I remember one time when we were using Sonlight History with John Allen. Sonlight uses a literature approach to learning history. Instead of reading a dry, boring textbook, they read good historical novels. Some are on grade level and some are "read alouds" that the parent reads to the child. On one trip I grabbed one of the above level read aloud books and used the time traveling to read to the boys. They loved it as did Sarah and her mom who was traveling with us at the time. They were just as excited to learn what happened next as the kids were. On another occasion we used books on CD with the boys. The series we were listening that time was "Hank the Cowdog". The author is the one who records the book on CD and he uses all kinds of funny voices for each character. Again the entire family loved it.
- We always use our travel times as educational times. - Many children can't handle long road trips but that is especially true with kids on the autism spectrum. Traveling for hours and hours on end is just not the best thing to do with them. So, we try to break up our travel days with a lot of stops and even add days so that we can stop at a museum or historic spot along the way. We have enjoyed a lot of those type things as a family. We have explored the Blue Ridge Parkway, gone to museums, visited zoos, stopped at botanical gardens and more as extra things while we travel.
- We also try to make the times at our destinations a learning experience by doing fun but educational things while we are there. Whether it be attending a mission's conference, on a business trip, or just visiting my sister, we always do something that is enriching. We take a day to visit an interesting site or do something different. Perhaps there is a unique restaurant or store nearby. I recall a business trip to Kansas City when Sarah and the kids joined me. We looked up a very unique restaurant where your food was delivered to you by a train on a track. During that trip we also visited the St. Louis Arch. When we visit my sister we always try to take a day trip to visit a historic site, the beach (which believe me is a learning experience for these Tennessee kids) or something else. There is one store, another humongous grocery store, that we always go to when visiting my sister. In her area of New Jersey, there are many international folks and this store has a huge international food section. We always buy a new snack or drink from another culture to try. Many times we find places that go along with our kid's interest at that time. On one trip to Canada Joshua desperately wanted to see the CN Tower in Toronto so we stopped in downtown Toronto (a real adventure for we country folk) to view this amazing building. Traveling, even on a business trip with the kids tagging along, can be fun and adventurous if planned correctly.
Remember, real education is a lot more than just book learning. If you read my series on unschooling, then you know that I don't all-out completely agree with that philosophy. I do feel that for some kids a traditional style homeschool is valuable. However, I also agree that there are some children that thrive by being able to explore and research areas of interest on there own. I also agree that most children learn better by using all of their senses, not just the senses of seeing and hearing that are the main ones used in a traditional school. That is why we utilize a lot of "field trip" type activities in our homeschool. Don't be afraid to count unusual things such as summer camp and travel as school activities. They are just as valuable as sticking a child's nose into some dry and boring textbook or doing another worksheet. Many families began homeschooling for that very reason. They realized that the traditional classroom setting wasn't always working for kids and they wanted to do something different.
I'm not saying to totally abandon the curriculum that you are using. What I am saying is that if you find yourself stressing over getting everything done in 180 school days then consider a different way of doing things. When you homeschool year round, instead of having 180 days to complete a school year, you have 365 days! Just do what you can each day and use each day to your advantage. Look for a learning opportunity in everything that you do. Don't stress and have fun learning!