Nature and Culture in the Homeschool Classroom

Bringing richness into a homeschooling family can be as simple as incorporating “Nature” and “Culture” into the homeschool classroom. Here are some ideas to help make the learning experience for your homeschool families a pleasant one.

Forging a Connection with Nature

For young homeschool students the best way to start is a simple Nature Walk. Take them to a park or the woods if you have any close by. Give them a five point list of things that need to spot for a successful nature walk. For example, a blooming flower bush, a bird, a particular tree, a fallen leaf. Keep it simple to identify and add a few collectibles that they can bring home as souvenirs.

The older children can be given more arduous tasks such as growing sprouts overnight using edible food seeds. Pulses are usually quick to sprout. There are interesting videos giving instruction about growing micro-greens on a paper tissue as well. Experiment with them to see what works.

You could even have them plant a small planter with a Fairy Garden that uses tiny shrubs as well as decorations. This can be placed in the homeschool classroom if there is room, or in another convenient location in the home. If you are lucky enough to have an actual backyard area which they can access easily, go ahead and give them a few square feet of land to start their own little herb garden.

Creating Cultural Awareness

A connection with the local community is a great way to teach the homeschool students about the local culture. What is the popular tourist destination in your town? Take them for a field trip to see this place. Have a bit of history ready for them to understand why this is important to the town folks.

You may even consider taking them to local shows by performing artists that are age appropriate. Seeing people live on stage can have a mesmerizing effect on your homeschool students’ minds. They can even practice and give their own performance at home to a limited audience of friends and family if they like the dramatic experience.

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Freedom Vs Form for Homeschooling Families

The concept of homeschooling offers unparalleled freedom to parents while teaching their children. However there is a need for form and structure in the homeschool classroom if the homeschool students are to truly develop into their full potential. For homeschooling teachers who are confused about how much creative freedom to give their children, this may be interesting to follow.

Define Boundaries

Yes, encourage your homeschool student when they color outside the lines, but also teach them that to color on the walls is not acceptable. In order for them to grow up to become productive members of society, they need to understand the rules of society and the boundaries that they are expected to keep. It doesn’t make you a bad parent if you scold them when getting them to follow basic rules of living in harmony.

Give Responsibilities

Often in the garb of preserving the innocence of childhood, parents find it difficult to give chores to the children. In a homeschool family where the primary care giver is responsible for not just the education of the homeschool students but also the care of the home and hearth, this can spell disaster. It is important for the children to be given age appropriate chores as soon as they are able to handle them.

Embrace Imperfection

There is no one looking at you to be perfect. It’s alright for you to have a messy living room, paint on the dining table and even unmade beds till noon. The homeschooling mother is charged with far more than housekeeping. She is charged with preparing the next generation of humankind for all the challenges that they will face. It’s okay to make memories rather than make beds, if that’s how you want to prioritize your life.

Balance of Freedom and Form

The most successful homeschooling families don’t believe in letting the children take over every area. They find a balance between giving the children the freedom that they need for self development with the form that is needed to help them fit into a useful role in the family. Giving them structure actually encourages their creativity!

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Gaming and Homeschool Students

One of the easiest ways for homeschool parents to allow information into their homeschool students’ lives is to hand them a smartphone with an internet connection. There’s all kinds of data available that the children can go through. Unfortunately, it’s also easy for parents to hand over the smartphone for keeping the children occupied with gaming apps when they need time to handle other tasks. Gaming apps can become the single most difficult addiction for young children to kick. However, is it really so bad for young children to be gaming?

Dr. Nicholas Kardaras declared that screens turned children into psychotic zombies in 2016. His study revealed that the gaming activities had the same impact on the brain as heroine addictions did. Dr. Kardaras actually named it Digital Heroine. The study considered brain imaging research which shows that they using ipad and X-boxes affect the brain’s frontal cortex in the same way that addictive drugs like heroine or cocaine do. Would you give your homeschool student drugs? No you wouldn’t!

If your homeschool students have been into gaming, should you worry and pull the plug compeltely? Not really. Dr. Kardaras said that not all effects on the brain are harmful. In fact the release of the hormone dopamine is actually good for cognitive functioning of the brain as well as releasing neuro transmitters that make children feel happy. The idea is that too much of a good thing can be bad. In this case, if you can limit their gaming activities to a few minutes a day, it’ll allow them to enjoy the game without causing any damage to their cognition.

A set of studies conducted by California State University has found that the  amygdala-striatal system, also known as the impulsive part of the brain, was more sensitive and smaller in excessive video gamers. This allowed the region of the brain to process the stimuli of social media or games faster. Gaming is not the bad guy here, but excessive gaming should be avoided so that there is a good balance in the homeschool student’s life between what he considers pleasurable activities and work.

 

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Communicating Effectively with Your Homeschool Students

The generation gap is nothing but miscommunication between parents and their children. The parent says one thing but the child takes it in another manner causing dissent and tension all around. By having effective communications skills parents can avoid a whole lot of teenage drama over discipline, responsibility and personal safety. Contrary to popular media, parents are not just looking at ways to kill fun. They are genuinely worried about the emotional and physical well being of their children, but many homeschool students may have issues about their home school teacher’s controlling attitude if the reasons are not explained in advance.

Talk About It All

Often homeschool parents would like their children to follow instructions as soon as they are given. This is especially true when they are outside the home. The homeschool student sees this as a curtailment of their freedom of movement and expression. This can be avoided if you let your homeschool students know the rationale behind your behavior and instructions well before you reach the point where you pass the instructions. When they know what’s coming and why they may be more accepting of the instructions.

Connect With The Child

Simply walking up to the child and looking them in the eye while you speak can make a huge difference in how communication takes place. Most homeschool teachers will find their homeschool students are willing to listen to them with more ease when get the child’s attention by walking up to them and making eye contact. Younger children respond well to a more physical connection where the parent may place a hand on their shoulder while speaking to them.

Handling Conflict Effectively

There will naturally be times when what the parent wants done is not what the child wants to do. This will lead to conflict between them. How the homeschool teacher handles conflict in the homeschool classroom can make the difference between endless hours of fighting and a whole productive day. Don’t get competitive with the child just to prove your authority over them. A little backing down and compromise can actually make for much better communication.

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Movie Based Lesson Plan

Who doesn’t enjoy watching movies? A well made movie can actually work as a wonderful supplement to a topic that you may be covering in your homeschool classroom. You can combine family fun time with learning in an enjoyable way. Here are some suggestions to convert a regular family entertainment evening into an education experience the next morning in the homeschool class.

Pick the Right Movie

There are historical movies, movies that throw light on social issues, others which deal with human relationships and a ton of more topics. Take a look at your homeschool students. What are their interests? Will the movie be age appropriate? Does it teach them something new? What lessons can you help them derive from the movie when you discuss it later at a family? It’s best to start with child friendly movies, even animation ones. Then work your way up to something more complicated.

Prepare a Worksheet

Have a basic worksheet that the homeschool students have to write out after they have watched the movie. You don’t need to make this repeatedly. It can have general questions like who were the main characters, where was the movie set, what was the story line or plot of the movie, and so on. You may have the summarize the story in a paragraph or two. They can even give their own impressions about what they liked or disliked about the movie. Keep the questions open ended to allow them more freedom to answer. You may even have them write a review of the movie and post it on a blog.

Have a Class Discussion

Once you have finished watching the movie, have a small discussion about it with the children. Have them think about what cause-effect sequences they could identify. Give them an example of how a particular character’s actions led to repercussions for them. Ask them to come up with more examples from the movie, or even from their own lives about these cause-effect situations. You can even talk of a specific incident and the lesson that it contained. Let each member speak about at least one point they liked or disliked about the movie.

 

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Teaching Homeschool Science Using Art

There are so many aspects of science that can be covered in a fun art and craft class for homeschool students. Making models is a great way to use art to teach science. Here are some ideas that can be used in your homeschool classroom.

The Earth’s Layers

The core to crust of the Earth can be demonstrated in a multi layered art model. Have the homeschool students come up with ideas to display the same. Help them with colors and materials that they can use to depict the different layers and densities of the Earth. For primary school grades you can stick with a 2D model which may be placed flat on the table. However you may challenge the higher classes with a 3D model. Allow their imaginations to come up with a viable model.

The Concept of Up-scaling

Convert an empty plastic soda bottle into a planter for a seedling. Just make sure it goes through a face lift involving some paint brushes and color. You can even encourage the use of sticking material to decorate it such as paper, stickers, and dried flowers or leaves. Have them understand how a hot glue gun helps to stick all this to the plastic. Explain why regular glue will not work. If you have an old tin can, use the same up-scaling process on it and explain why different methods of decoration need to be used for this material. You can have them make a mud pot with a potters wheel to see what they can decorate such material planters with.

The Melting Rainbow

Use different colored water to make ice cubes. Now have your primary grades homeschool students use these cool colors. Have them arrange the colors in the order of VIBGYOR like the rainbow. Now place them on the edge of a sheet of water coloring paper. Gradually tilt the surface of the paper and see how the ice cubes begin to leave a residue of color on the sheet as they move slowly forward. Have the homeschool student understand why the different cubes make slightly different patterns on the paper based on the capillary action of the paper. Now ask them to see which color cube melted the fastest.

 

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Performance Based Assessment for Homeschool Students

Performance based learning encourages homeschool students to do activities that help them acquire knowledge and apply it practically in life situations. This allows the children to develop skills and practice them in a meaningful manner. Based on the assignment the homeschool student can learn to work more independently or learn to collaborate and work with siblings. Here’s how you can make performance based assessment relevant to homeschool students.

Present a Topic

Ask them to study up on a topic and then present it to the rest of the homeschool class. They can get as creative as they want with the presentation. It can be a computer based powerpoint presentation or a dramatic performance of the historical event. Give them all the scope for innovation and praise them for whatever in depth research reflects in the presentation. Remind them that this has no right or wrong answer. Each person represents the topic based on what they feel is important.

Give a Problem to Solve

This can be a life situation based project. Think of a problem that occurs regularly in the home. For instance chores not being done regularly by everyone, or people not waking up on time each day. Now ask the homeschool students to set forth proposals about how this particular problem could be solved effectively. When they are ready to give their solutions, have a debate with the rest of the class about just how effective they think the solution actually will be. Give extra points for logical thinking and critical analysis of the issue.

Long Term Project

Being excited about a one time event is quite different from being motivated to continue with a long term project. Present the homeschool students with a project that lasts over a couple of months. See how they pick up the skills to work effectively on the project. Are they able to persuade others around them to join in? Can they effectively communicate their need to collaborate with their siblings and other family members? Observe the performance on the project over the long term duration to see what improvements they are able to make.

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Adding Holiday Celebrations to Each Homeschooling Month

The greeting card companies came up with a number of holidays to celebrate just so that they could sell more cards. However, you can take some of these somewhat crazy holiday ideas and use them rather productively in your homeschool classroom as a teaching tool. You can pick one holiday each week and celebrate it. Aren’t you glad to know that October is supposed to be National Pizza Month?

Pick the Holidays and Make a List

Needless to say that you will find more than three hundred holidays on the list. Many of which may not be appropriate for your home and family. This means you need to find the ones that you would like to celebrate. So sit down and pick 54 holidays and type the list out. This way each week your homeschool students will have something to look forward to celebrating.

Add an Activity each to the Holiday List 

It’s not a celebration until you have done something to celebrate it. The big ones like Valentine’s Day, Easter, Thanksgiving, Christmas, and the like are easy. They come with ready made celebration ideas. It’s the smaller ones like United Nations Day (October 24) that you need to work on. Think up of ways to celebrate these holidays with an activity that is associated with them. For instance for Armed Forces Day ( May 30) you could plan to visit the local Veteran’s home bringing home baked cookies.

Learn Together About the Holiday

Often there may be celebrations about things that you may not be too aware of. In this case make it a point to teach yourself and your homeschool children more about what the holiday represents. There are usually enough ways to get information about a holiday online. You could consider holidays celebrated in countries abroad in order to truly widen the horizons of your homeschooled kids.

The holiday list can be altered each year to add different holidays to celebrate. Keep the old ones that you enjoyed and replace the ones that bombed with something new to discover. You don’t need to be very fussy about the date, as long as you celebrate that week, it’s fine.

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Dealing with a Homeschool Slump

There are days at a stretch when you feel productive as a homeschool teacher. When the kids are doing their lessons on time and you are meeting all your scheduled goals. However, this is not always the case. There will also be days when you are in a slump. When no matter how hard you try, things just don’t get done and each passing day sees you go behind your homeschool schedule so much that you never feel that you are ever going to catch up. Take a deep breath and exhale. Now take a look at these strategies to cope with the slump.

Take a Break from the Routine

I know it sounds counter productive when all you need to do is run like crazy to catch up, but a break can actually be rather helpful. It will have you relax and unwind and think without stress about what you need to do next. So take the homeschool children to the zoo, or go with them to the park and play ball. It will help relieve the tension.

Mix Things Up in the Classroom

If you have stuck to the exact same routine when it comes to teaching the different subjects in the homeschool classroom all through the year, you may want to mix things up by switching times for different lessons. You may let them do an easy subject in the morning to set the pace for a productive day rather than start with something difficult when they are still fresh.

Give Your Students a Holiday to Take Time for Teacher Planning

It’s horribly stressful to have to make all the decisions for the homeschool students while they study and still plan out the next day’s workload even as you have not yet finished today’s. So stop stressing out everyone. Give them a couple of educational movies to watch or books to read and let them play after lunch. You can then catch up with all the different things that you needed to do but couldn’t because you were so tied up. It will have everyone come back to the homeschool classroom feeling much better the next day.

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Outdoor Fall Activities for Homeschool Families

The fall is a great time to head outdoors. It’s not quite as cold as it will be with winter snow and not quite as hot as the summer with the sun streaming down. It’s ideal for children who can be bundled up and taken outdoors for a homeschool day of fun and learning. Here are some suggested ideas.

Mushroom Hunting

There is a huge crop of mushrooms that shows up on the forest floors during the fall. The decaying leaves make an excellent source of nutrition for them. While your homeschool students may not be that fond of eating mushrooms on their own, they may enjoy the idea of going on a mushroom hunt where they can take photographs of different types of mushrooms that they see.

Building a Scarecrow

The whole concept of protecting what you grow from the birds is an intriguing one for the young ones. You can start with a lesson on how agriculture helps feed humanity and end with a practical where they build a scarecrow. Have them come up with ideas about different materials that they can use. Let them explore how they can get the structure to stand upright and the whole experience will be a lot of fun.

Climbing a Tree

It may be easier to climb a tree when the branches are bare of all leaves. It will allow your homeschool kids to see where they need to go next much easier. Do ensure that you are present when they are doing this activity. Also teach them how to test branches for safety with partially transferring their weight on to them. It’s okay to get a few scaped knees and hands.

Bird Watching and Feeding

As the trees lose leaves, the birds also loose out on food. There are no more easily accessible insects behind the leaves, and there is no fruit to peck at. Teach your homeschool students how to build a bird feeder and help the local birds not go hungry. It’s always a delight when the birds become tame enough to sit on the lawn while you are still there.

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