If you homeschool your children, it can be very easy to fall into a routine that becomes boring for all of you. Even if you have the most fundamentally-sound lessons, without some creativity or innovation, you will not engage your students as well as you could. It may be time to consider thinking outside the box to spark your teaching and your kids’ learning at home.
- Connect Math Lessons to Real Life
One of the most frequently asked questions in any classroom is, “When will I need to know this?” Kids don’t always see the relationship between the concepts they learn and the real world, so consider thinking outside the box when planning math lessons. This trick is especially helpful when teaching measurement, geometry, and finances. There are several lessons you can use with students at nearly any learning level to connect math to real life.
For example, you can instruct elementary students on planning and designing a playground given a certain set of parameters for perimeter, area, or budget. Or, you can instruct older students to design their ideal bedroom and determine how much flooring, paint, furniture, etc. they will need. If you choose to use one of these real-life math lessons, you will need graph paper so the kids can visualize their designs and make their projects true to size at scale.
- Multidisciplinary Butterfly Lesson
While some teachers get caterpillars and raise butterflies with students, there are extending learning opportunities you can add that will engage students more thoroughly. Of course, the science lessons kids learn by raising butterflies include metamorphosis and life cycles. Rather than purchase a kit for raising butterflies, however, you can increase the engagement for students and teach them about plant and insect identification by having them look in their own yards and nearby parks for caterpillars that transform.
To go outside the box with the butterfly lesson, give students fiction and nonfiction books about monarch butterflies. Ask them to compare and contrast their knowledge and share what they have learned as a result of the reading. Then, connect the lesson to geography by asking students to map the migration of the monarchs. You can also connect the lesson to mathematics by measuring the caterpillars and their chrysalises, calculating the distance they fly, determining how many survive migration, and so on. You can adapt the lessons and questions to meet the academic levels of your students.
You also can go even further outside the box by completing arts and crafts activities relating to butterflies and their colors with your students. Younger students may enjoy making butterfly magnet crafts to hold school projects on the refrigerator, while older students may enjoy completing a butterfly needlepoint craft that they could donate to an assisted living facility as part of a community service project.
- Enhance Social Studies and Foreign Language Lessons with Technology
ePals is a community of classrooms that collaborate to engage in cross-cultural exchanges, project sharing, and language learning. Go beyond traditional social studies and foreign language lessons that incorporate reading, writing, speaking, and listening to include students from the areas about which your homeschoolers are learning and to learn from kids who speak the foreign languages natively. A modern spin on pen pals, ePals will give your homeschool students the opportunity to learn about another culture from kids who are a part of it, and to share their own culture with others.
ePals also delivers a platform for learning about proper ways to communicate via social media in a safe way. Introducing students to email and chat and online presentations with ePals helps them develop writing and speaking skills while using technology in a natural, real-life way. You also can work with students to share their thoughts and lessons from using ePal in a journal. Students will be able to communicate with you via writing journals that share their reflections.
Creating new and innovative lessons for your homeschoolers will keep them more engaged throughout the school year and help them connect their learning to their real lives. They will gain a deeper understanding of concepts and hone their skills more thoroughly when you think outside the box while designing your lessons.
Joyce Wilson may have retired from teaching but that doesn’t mean she has lost her passion for education. On her site, TeacherSpark.org, she is working to build a resource of engaging lesson plans, activities, and other fun learning opportunities for her fellow educators and for parents.