by Tiffany Salter, LDSHE Volunteer, Texas
Life throws you curve-balls and sometimes you find yourself in a place you never expected to be! The chaos of the past few weeks have forced many of us into having to be responsible for our child(ren)’s education in a way that we have never had to be before. We are stepping off into the unknown, and that can be terrifying. The good news is that we can take comfort in the knowledge that this is absolutely a part of Heavenly Father’s plan and that he will guide each of us on this unexpected journey! He will help each of us find the resources we need to be successful, and to not only survive, but to thrive in this tumultuous time.
Another volley of good news comes in that there are a significant number of other LDS families who have successfully homeschooled their children for years who are ready, willing and able to share their collective wisdom with you. Relax, take a deep breath, and know that YOU CAN DO THIS!
The first thing you need to realize is that your learning day does not, and probably should not, consist of replicating public or even private school at home! There is no reason your kid(s) have to sit at a desk or table and complete worksheet after worksheet all day long. Most educational research tells you that this is not the best way for anyone to learn anyway.
You can also relax and know that it is very likely that your “school day” won’t take as long as a typical school day. When you factor in the time it takes to manage a large group of children, get them to and from the cafeteria or recess for example, you may be surprised at how much more efficient you can be and the bonus is your children can learn at their own pace.
Your schools might be sending homework that has to be completed, but there are lots of ways to break things up and tons of ways to teach things in more interesting ways! I have compiled a list of resources that you can use to liven things up!
Hands-on projects – It is always more interesting to be able to do projects than worksheets. Studying ancient history? How about building a pyramid out of sugar cubes or mummifying an apple? Studying fractions? How about making a pizza or baking cookies and figuring out how to halve or double the recipe? Molecules? Build a model out of playdough or clay and toothpicks. Physics? Race cars, changing mass and weight. Animals? Build a bird feeder . Writing? Start a blog. Anything becomes more interesting if you let your kids make their own “how-to” videos. The internet provides a veritable treasure trove of suggestions for hands-on projects.
Games – If you can make a game out of it, you will make life so much easier for yourself and will make the activity way more interesting for your kids. Learning multiplication? Turn your flashcards into a game of war. The one playing the card with the highest number wins the hand. (i.e. if I have 4×5 and my kid has 9×7, my kid wins). The same works for division. You can play a matching game with sight words or vocabulary cards. Turn spelling words into crossword puzzles or word searches. Write spelling words with plastic letters or cover a sheet pan with shaving cream and let your kids “write” their words with their fingers in the shaving cream. Writing assignments? Have your kids make up their own games and write the instructions for the family to follow as you actually play their game. History? Have your kids create their own version of “Two Truths and a Lie” for your family to play. Addition? Subtraction? Factor Families? Turn practice into a game of hopscotch where they have to jump to the number of the answer to a problem.
Living Books – There are excellent books that can tie in with almost any subject your children are studying. It might be more interesting to learn about the Civil War through books that share relatable stories such as Across Five Aprils for younger kids or Gone With the Wind for older kids for example. (Bonus, read the book and then watch the movie!) On a side note, it might be fun for older kids to sleuth for historical inaccuracies in books and movies. Many classic books are available as e-books on Overdrive through your public library. LibriVox (librivox.org) is a great source for free classic audio books. The Project Gutenberg (Gutenberg.org) contains over 60,000 free online books, and even Kindle offers many good books for low or no cost. Some public libraries are also offering a service where you can order the books online and they will bring them out to your car, so check the website of your local libraries.
Videos – There are a number of excellent services like Discovery Education and BrainPop that collect video content, test questions and activities for all kinds of topics that you can purchase access to, but there is also a wealth of free content on YouTube. Just be sure you screen the video first, you never quite know what will show up on YouTube! Brainpop.com is offering free access for a limited time as is ABCMouse.com and The Great Courses. A quick Google search will likely turn up a lot of additional resources that are free for a limited time.
Field Trips – As a full-time homeschooler, I can tell you that field trips are one of the best parts of homeschooling! These days, a virtual field trip might be a better option for you and your family (cheaper too). Here are a few of the many available:
San Diego Zoo- kids.sandiegozoo.org
Yellowstone National Park- nps.gov
Farm Tours- farmfood360.ca
U.S. Space and Rocket Center- Search Saturn 5 Rocket on YouTube
Polar Bears and the Tundra- Discovery Education (note this is free for a limited time) soarwithwings.com
Boeing- Discovery Education (again, free for now) boeingfutureu.com
Great Wall of China- thechinaguide.com
Monteray Bay Aquarium- live cams- monereybayaquarium.org
Houston Zoo- live animal cams- houstonzoo.org
Panda Cam- live animal cams- zooatlanta.org
British Museum (London)- britishmuseum.withgoogle.com
Guggenheim Museum (New York), National Gallery of Art (Washington D.C.), Musee d’Orsay (Paris), National Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art, Korea (Gwacheon-si South Korea), Pergamon (Bergama Turkey), Rijksmuseum (Amsterdam Netherlands), Van Gogh Museum (Amsterdam), J Paul Getty Museum (Los Angeles), Uffizi Gallery (Firenze Italy), Museu de Arte de Sau Paulo Assis Chateaubriand (Sau Paulo Brazil), National Museum of Anthropology (Mexico City, Mexico)- all through artsandculture.google.com
Get out in nature! Outside is not cancelled. Spend time every day being curious about the new things popping up as the spring weather warms the world. Could you make a time-lapse video of tree buds opening or crocuses blooming over the course of several days? Could you make drawings of their progress? Get your bodies moving outdoors with trampoline games, bike rides, and walks. Teach your kids the games you played at recess when you were little and get a big four-square tournament or game of freeze tag happening. The luxury of having a lot of free time at home is that we can all spend time outside in the world Heavenly Father has created. We’ll see that even after growth was on hold for winter, life goes on and comes back anew–a parable for our times.
Finally, seize this time to either introduce your kids to family history and indexing or ramp up the time you spend on it! We have been made promises that if our children will join Zion’s Battalion and work to gather Israel on both sides of the veil, that they will receive incredible blessings. I know when I take time to focus on spiritual things, everything else seems to be a bit easier to do afterwards.