I was a Nazi homeschooling momma prior to adding hands-on activities to our homeschool day. I will say it: I didn’t like hands-on activities. All I could think of was how time consuming they would be. And what could you possibly learn from doing them that you can’t just pick up and read in a book and understand faster or watch a video.
My hallucination dream at the time the kids were small was to have a clean house, that is ALL at one time. You know what I mean. One day I had a clean commode, oh wow. Never mind the kitchen was a mess on the same day, but I was sure proud of that commode. Okay, you get the idea why a great big huge mess hand on ideas didn’t appeal to me. I was too busy being clean organized. My mantra then: Get up, get started on your school work and I don’t want to hear about being behind.
My kids were afraid of me. I was afraid of myself. Feeding my crazed notion was the fact that Mr. Senior 2013, like me, was a visual learner so he was fine with “reading” picture books as our great hands-on activity” for the day. There were many times he wanted to do more hands-on, but I failed to see the signals. Okay, no, I didn’t want to see the tell-tale signs because it meant straying off my well-laid out lesson plans and the Nazi momma in me couldn’t do that.
I added in Mr. Awesome to our school and right away, I had huge problems. Besides being overwhelmed because I was teaching more than one child now, he learned best — yep—by hands on. Horrible mom that I was, I first blamed his “resistance” on him. He can’t sit still, he doesn’t want to learn, he has a bad attitude (oh uhmm let me see he is only 4 years old) and he is behind were all things that I uttered.
I came to the point where I even considered putting them both in public school. Yes, I went there. I was not the bomb mom.
At that lowest point in my homeschooling, I had to decide if I wanted to succeed and to start taking responsibility for it instead of doing what was comfortable for me. I realized that there was going to be no quick fix, but I could start small. Yes, I set out to be a risk taker.
Here are 3 simple tips to help you be a risk taker by bringing in more hands-on learning to your day.
- The ideas do not have to be complicated. The emphasis is on “doing” and being together or fostering sibling bonds. Children are content with a lot less than we realize.
- Try to keep a supply of materials that you keep separate and already organized so that when you decide to do an activity, especially for science then you have a small stash. I use clear shoe boxes for my supplies. For example, I know that food coloring, baking soda and funnels are not going to be in my box because that is in the kitchen. I collect as I go and I do put pieces of sandpaper, magnets, corks, string, beads, beakers, droppers, magnifying glasses, tape, goggles, and baby food jars in there to name a few. It cuts down on the stress of rounding it up and allows us to be spontaneous if we want to.
- Try to do one hands-on activity a week with all of your kids, NOT per child. When they get older, then they can start helping by rounding up the supplies like my sons did.
Look at this easy list of things to do to bring in hands-on learning to your school. You can use these with a mix and match of ages. I listed hands-on activities that keeps the mess to less at your home when you don’t have the time and energy to keep your house clean.
(putting together a puzzle about the Amazon)
Puzzles girl! Yep, keep it easy. Old or young, not one of my sons complained when they put together a puzzle. Look here at GeoPuzzles too. When purchasing them just think about learning and keep age appropriate puzzles in your home when you need a break for hands-on. Love the mess on this one. (ha ha)
Do a lapbook/notebook TOGETHER as ONE family project. I know I have said it before, but lapbooks are an easy fun way to bring in hands on EVEN for older kids. You know we do ours for enrichment and to break up our routine so we go slower on them.
Several times throughout the year, we have created one family project. The first time we studied the American Civil War unit was an example of this. We did a combination of lapbooking and notebooking. Each of the boys contributed to it.
So instead of having 3 projects going on and being insane because I tripled the amount of work I had to help them finish, I managed just one and this kept it where we could enjoy it.
Cook a meal together. One year when studying about Africa, we cooked a meal together AND a side benefit to this was supper was already done.
Sometimes the practical side of me wants to take over and I let it. I think of the benefits of something hands-on to the family if we prepare food.
Think of home made bread, home made pizza when studying about Italy and baking pastries when studying about France.
Look at here Switzerland Homeschool Geography Unit Study (and Lapbook) where my son made bread.
Play Educational Games together. This year when I couldn’t really find a game they liked or didn’t have one on studying Ancient Egypt, I created an Ancient Egyptian Game. Grab it if you want it too.
Again, I can create in my own time and use the game at the time that I need it or when they need a break for something hands on.
Instead of growing plants, use them to experiment with. Growing up my mother loved to work in the yard almost to a fault. I think it is therapeutic in a way for her. She constantly had us out there digging in dirt when I would have preferred to do something else.
Call me insane, but now I have no desire to grow a plant much less dig in dirt. My siblings all love it. I am the only one that cringes with agony when I think of digging in the dirt. So I use plants already grown, thank you, to do my science activities. Oh I planted a garden one year too and it was pure agony for me. But, I did it when the kids were little so they could learn about plants.
About the picture above, one year we were investigating if a bromeliad (pineapple) could actually hold water and then the boys did play in the dirt to see if they could grow another pineapple. Another year too, I purchased a (one) tomato plant in a container when the boys were little. When it sprouted and we had tomatoes, they were enamored. I learned that I didn’t have to grow a garden for them to understand plants. A simple bean in a jar and a plant purchased works too.
Leather & Beadwork/Coffee Filter Book. Neither one of these projects are messy either. My sister is almost an expert at leather crafts so we did these pouches for our Native American unit.
But, you can buy leather craft kits already and have the kids put them together. Hobby Lobby has craft kits already put together. I love that place! So many hands on history things to choose from too.
Another easy thing is a coffee filter book. Yep those are coffee filters and we used some pastel chalk (get in some art) to create pictures on each page and then used shoe string with bead work to bind it. That’s it! Easy peasy but they loved it.
Let them “draw” those worksheets. When studying animal and plant cells, I think we probably could have yawned ourselves to sleep if we read about one more cell. Because I wanted my sons to take something away from our study, I allowed them to draw about the topic we were covering. Look ahead in your nice neat well laid out plans and see if there is something better understood by a simple, but fun drawing.
Sometimes I hear homeschoolers say that their kid learns better by just reading. That has never been my experience. What I have seen though is apprehension or fear of hands-on activities from the parent.
- the unknown;
- the mess;
- not knowing how to grade hands-on projects or not knowing how to measure progress and
- it being a flop.
True, all those things may happen and they did to me. I had a rude awakening when some things I planned did not work. However, out of that failure came self-determination to try other things because I saw a tiny spark of the passion for learning in my boys.
There is something about doing hands-on that strengthens the skills of a child and stirs him to be intellectual.
Remember, hands-on activities can have humble beginnings and stay that way until you feel like homeschooling on the wild side. They do not have to be complicated or messy. I still don’t feel like the bomb mom, but it won’t be because I wasn’t willing to take the risk.
Do you have any activities that you do that are simple, but pack a punch?
Look at these other must-reads:
- 365 Days Hands-On Homeschool Activities – One for EVERY Day of the Year!
- How to Grade Hands-on Homeschool Activities and Projects (Free Rubric for Grading)
- 21 Hands-On Math Activities for Elementary and Middle School
- Amazing Hands-on History Activities for 14 Ancient Empires (free notebook cover too)
Hugs and love ya,