So many families who never intended to homeschool are trying to figure out what to do with children whose schools have closed for an uncertain period. I wanted to offer some suggestions from my experience homeschooling two children two or three decades ago. Now there are many online resources available. My daughter and I are offering ideas for hands-on activities using things you probably have without a trip to the store or a purchase on Amazon.
We’ll be adding new activities over the days ahead. Please comment and let us know if you have any questions/suggestions/modifications. To read more about who we are and how we think about learning, and to get some suggestions on how families can keep their balance when we’re all packed in together during trying times, click here.
Stop and Think critical thinking challenge
For hands-on math and logic activities and games helping kids work with concepts from counting up through algebra, click here. If you have favorite math activities that we haven’t thought of, please add them in the comments section.
My mother helped me learn US history in a way that made its connections with our family history, and with current events, clear and interesting. Here are a few suggestions on doing that (in ways that involve better social distancing than this picture suggests):
I loved being outside, getting my hands dirty and watching the mysterious lives of wild critters, large and small. Some suggestions for hands-on nature activities, including bringing in spring pond life, getting to know small spaces as the seasons change, and making plants grow, are linked here.
Simple machines are the most basic, single-function devices for applying force: levers, inclined planes, pulleys, wedges, wheels/axles, and screws. I enjoyed the experiments my father set up to let me see and feel just how those machines worked. Click here for some suggested lever, plane, wheel, and pulley experiments, including car races and letting kids pick up parents.
My brother had an excellent spatial sense and I did not, but we both enjoyed map challenges. The map-reading games gave us a better sense of how our country and our world fit together, and the map-making games helped us understand the correlation between maps and actual reality. Here are a few ideas to get you started:
I loved reading stories and poems, so I wanted to create my own. Certain puzzles and challenges helped me to do that in ways that tickled my fancy and stretched my capacities. A few examples are linked here. Please leave your new ideas or suggested variations in the comments section.
I (Joanna) used to visit the front hall of the local high school regularly with a sign saying STOP AND THINK. At first I was offering information left out by the sales pitches of the military recruiters at the table across the hall. But after a student stopped by and asked, “Is that about sex or drugs?” it occurred to me that there were many things we needed to stop and think about, and I started bringing in resources on thinking critically about political and commercial sales pitches, and about peer pressure. One student said, “Last time I stopped and thinked was…I don’t know when,” and one adult read the sign aloud, snorted, and said, “If we did that we’d never get anything done.” Some others stopped and thought.
Social distancing requires us to stop many of the things that we usually do. This could be an opportunity to invite your kids to practice critical thinking skills and engage mindfully with news and history. Ideas about doing that are here. It can also be a time for stepping back and considering what is most essential, as discussed in the “Keeping Our Balance” section on the Who and Why page (scroll down the page to get to that section).