Home learning has lots of advantages, but I think the best part is the ability to learn outside of a traditional desk-and-book environment. H.O.M.E. is a great acronym for how it works.
H is for Hands-On learning. This is self-explanatory; it means we get our hands dirty. For instance, when we talk about healthy food choices, the kids cook their own pancakes (with a sprinkle of flax seed and carob chips thrown in for good ‘measure’), they help with grocery shopping, visit farmers’ markets, butchers and honeybee farms. It’s hands-on all the way. We pick our own carrots and baby tomatoes, and then compare the taste to store-bought, shipped-in goods in the local produce aisle… you get the idea.
Look for great hands-on opportunities in subjects like Science (think of your kitchen and garage as in-house labs), Language Arts (let them pick their own books to study a topic of choice) and, of course, the Fine Arts speak for themselves (think of the found-instrument band Stomp in fledgling form).
Children learn through touch, partly because it’s physically empowering and partly because it’s more mentally engaging. The hands-on element of home learning also speaks to the holistic mindset of most home educators.
O is for Observation. This is key to learning anything at any age, but the more intentional you are about it as a home educator, the better. Debriefing everything from bank transactions to what you see on a construction site or hear on CBC, for example, is priceless in terms of children being able to mentally navigate the layers of their everyday world. Adults see the world in a different way. Sharing those observations with children helps them develop their own critical-thinking processes.
Observation is also key for home schooling parents. Noticing how my children respond to different subjects, material and situations tells me a lot about their unique learning styles. For instance, I’ve noticed my son is a linear learner. He likes to know what’s coming next and does not respond well to spontaneous changes. He likes rules, plans and predictability.
My daughter is totally different. She’s a circular learner, which means her social world and talking connections are very important to her. This means she doesn’t need to know the next rule to solve a problem or move forward. She needs a physical pat on the shoulder and words like, “We can do this!” Observing these kinds of differences in children helps them succeed and makes your own day go much smoother.
M is for Movement. The advantage for a home learner is when a child’s body tells them to move, they can. This is great for kinesthetic learners (such as my little girl), who look like they have ants in their pants but, really, their brains learn best when their body is in gear. Home learning allows you to break in the middle of a lesson and act out a story that pertains to the topic at hand, or have a child pull out visual aids (such as a tray of ice cubes to demonstrate solids, liquids and gases). Just moving drives the point home more often than not.
Movement also helps the parent remember they have the freedom to move when necessary, whether it’s from one child’s learning space to another; or from the learning area to the kitchen sink or laundry room; or from the learning space to their own desk. About the only ‘rule’ we have is that no one answers the phone or checks email during prime learning time from 9am to noon. Movement does not mean moving the schedule around willy-nilly. It does mean movement (and flexibility) within the schedule, but not to the point of undermining dedicated learning time.
E is for Explore. We do this all the time. We explore the possibilities within a topic, adding a trip to the local observatory to our study of stars and planets; pinning up a star chart in the children’s bathroom. Getting up at 4am to name the constellations and walk under the Milky Way on a clear night. We explore the world around us, allowing what we’re formally studying to add to our own experiences.
Explore what your community has to offer. For instance, a compost educational centre is down the street from us, so we’ve booked a tour called ‘Wigglers at Work,’ which includes exploring the world of worms. The local nature centre offers bird-watching, star-gazing, cooking with mushrooms and plenty of snakes you can hold. There is nothing like exploring with local experts sharing in their passions.
Hands-on activities combined with intentional observation, plus movement that jives with the schedule, plus a spirit of exploration all add up to a great H.O.M.E.-learning experience.
Dayna is a freelance writer and workshop leader. She was born on the Prairies and spent 18 years in Alberta before moving to the West Coast where she and her family enjoy a pretty simple life.
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