Though making the right curriculum choice is one of the first things homeschoolers want to get ticked off their list, it isn’t the only thing that is going to educate your children. Regardless of the curriculum or resources that we choose for our kids there will be other things that fill up our day, and will be significant learning opportunities for our kids.
Every so often – be it the beginning of a school year, the beginning of a term, or the beginning of a new season of focus, it is good to take stock of what is going on in your family life, and in the life of each of your children, to see what can be considered as a learning experience.
Family life – Each family life offers different things:
- Church – whether your kids go to Sunday School or sit through the sermon, they are learning a Bible lesson, as well as skills such as group participation or note taking. They can learn to serve by setting up chairs, being on the sound desk, helping with collecting the offering, doing a Bible reading, being on the music team etc. Teens can help run a Bible study or Sunday school.
- Family night – whenever you do something as a family there are lessons to be learnt and practiced for doing things collaboratively, working as a group, showing deference, let alone the things learnt from any activity: ten pin bowling, buying tickets at the movies, watching your little brothers favourite movie, playing a board game
- Board games – so much is learn from board games they have to be a point on their own. When playing board games you are learning to be a good sportsman winning or losing, follow rules, take turns, to encourage others, let alone the skill of the particular game be it strategy, physical skill, language, numbers, or geography based game.
- Read Alouds – reading a book together as a family is not only a shared experience but also gives opportunity for mum and dad to speak into various areas of the kids’ lives. You can read a picture book, the Bible, a novel, a non-fiction, or a self-help type book.
- Camping, bush walking, surfing, skiing – whatever your family thing is – each of these outdoor activities teach our children physical skills, are character building, and give opportunity to interact and work with others.
- Hospitality – whenever you have people over be it for a short visit, for a meal, or to stay overnight, there is opportunity to teach and train your children. They can cook, serve food, and prepare a room. They can learn to greet people and introduce themselves. They also learn to clean up! Children can throw birthday parties for their siblings – this can be as simple or as fancy as the circumstance allows – either way, this can be their project where they’ll learn many skills needed in life.
- Family discussions – we talk all the time in our family – around the dinner table, in the hallway, in the car. We discuss the news, something the kids have seen on Facebook or a movie, something someone is studying or reading, something someone has thought.
- Movies – Kids love movies, and so much can be learnt from watching a movie or a documentary, not just the facts of history, science and geography, but also values, beliefs, character based choices and the consequences of these choices.
- Service – Do you have a cause or club you give your time to? Involve your kids, make it a family thing.
- Life skills – learning and becoming responsible for the practical things of family life is an important aspect of growing up: doing chores to help maintain the home and looking after their own space and stuff, learning to be responsible for their money and manage their time (as older kids).
- Gift giving – Whether you make gifts or buy gifts both offer learning experiences, and then there is wrapping the gift: some will delight in the creative in wrapping, others will be frugal or resourceful in their presentation! Learning to write words of encouragement is another skill as we write a card.
- Family Projects – Renovating a room, creating a new garden, establishing a veggie patch, cleaning out the shed, planning a holiday/vacation: family projects create opportunity for practical hands on skills as well as communication and collaborative skills.
Other opportunities come through the kids own personal passions and interests:
- Sport – both individual sporting activities and team based ones offer different opportunities to grow as a sportsman
- Music – lessons, practice, performance all are aspects of learning with music
- Hobbies – kids can learn hobbies through trial and error, a book, DVD, mimicking you, or finding someone else to teach them. Hobbies can present our kids with a mindset that “I can learn anything” as well as create a link into the community as they connect with other likeminded hobbyists!
- Interests Clubs – Pony clubs, Chess clubs, Girl Guides/Scouts (or similar), Bible study groups,
- Play (particularly for younger kids) Lego, imagination play with dolls/cars, play-dough,
- Outside play – climbing trees, skipping, hula hoops, riding bikes, playing ball games
- Social time with friends (and siblings)
When we don’t give value, or time in our day, for these types of activities our homeschool simply become an academic institution. Education needs to be addressing the whole child – their spiritual, moral, emotional, social, intellectual, physical and practical. When we write up our plans (or review them) we need to make sure that we are using every resource and opportunity we have in order to meet all the needs of our child, not just intellectual. Homeschooling is more than curriculum.