Thursday, March 10, 2011

*Learning Found in Every Adventure*

     As a homeschooling family, we look at every experience as a learning opportunity. Research over the past 30 years or so has consistently shown that young children (until about age 8 or so) learn best through hands on play and experience. At times, it's frustrating when your toddler is into EVERYTHING or when babies first start crawling and EVERYTHING goes in their mouth! But it's amazing to look at what and how much they are actually learning from these seemingly simple sensory experiences. As our children move out of their toddler years, their play expands more into their imagination as they create elaborate stories and experiences in their mind; when they share these thoughts and stories with us, we get a rare glimpse into their perceptions and understanding of the world around them. Remember when you were a kid and thought you could do or be anything?! Our children are naturally so full of curiosity... "What's that Mommy?" "Why Daddy?"
     While I realize homeschooling is not for everyone, we as parents are still (or should be) our child's primary teacher. Every moment we spend with them, they are observing and learning. I love how they often times naturally mimic what I do, not what I say. Or well, sometimes they say what I say! Doh! It's easy to turn an everyday "conversation" with children into a learning experience. They are such little sponges! Taking in everything around them, even the things we may sometimes miss.
     From this perspective we like to be an activity family and plan lots of family outings. Don't get me wrong, we definitely enjoy our "down time" too! Young minds (and older ones) need time to process everything they've taken in so time to relax and rest is important too! Sometimes our outings are just a simple walk or bike ride to the park down the street; ever heard of P.E.? I believe the more my boys are able to experience, the more they are able to take in about the world around them.
     It's easy to come up with ideas for learning at places like the park, the zoo, the science center, or while you're camping, hiking, or even at the store. But, what about those bigger outings or family vacations? On a family trip to the beach, perhaps, the kiddos will want to collect shells. So why not count them and make observations about them? How you are going to be travelling to your destination (plane, train, car, etc) also presents a great learning opportunity. When travelling by car children can learn basic map skills by showing them where you are starting, the route you are taking and your final destination. This can be done with a traditional map, a print out from MapQuest or children's map. If you happen to be travelling by plane you can talk about the process at the airport- check-in, where the bags go, security, what the flight attendants and pilots do, and even look at a map to see the beginning and ending locations. This also helps younger children be prepared and know what to expect, possibly saving mom and dad the stress of a panicked child. You could even request for the children to see the cockpit. Not all airlines allow this, but as you're pre-boarding you can ask a flight attendant if you're child can meet the pilot and occasionally they will grant your request.
     Tomorrow we are off to Disneyland California! At first all the learning opportunities I came up with were not quite age appropriate. There is only so much a 5 and 3 year old can understand about physics and mechanics! Although I'm sure they will ask about it (maybe) and I'll still get to tell them about how the rides work. I know not everyone is fan of worksheets and coloring pages, but my kiddos happen to like them, and fortunately Disney character pages are not hard to find. Mazes are good for logic and pre-writing skills and Connect the Dots for math, sequencing, and counting. Tonight we'll be making journals for them to document their favorite parts of the trip and maybe turn into a scrapbook (writing, art, memory recollection). My oldest son has his own kiddie camera so I'm sure he'll be taking tons of photos right along side me. There will also be opportunities to learn about literature, history and the futuristic possibilities. The library is our favorite place for picking up all kinds of books on topics related to our adventures so we'll be making a stop this afternoon. They are also a handy tool for keeping them entertained on the car ride along with creating some excitement about what we are going to see. These things are just the "extras" and most of the learning will come from all the questions they will come up with. And that's the best part!
     There is no activity too big or too small for learning. Opportunities to encourage our children to learn and grow their minds are all around us. As much as we can teach our children, they can teach us as well; never stop asking questions, use our imaginations (again), be more carefree and to just go with the flow. My dad always says having children/ grandchildren keeps you young by keeping you on your toes and your mind sharp. How can you turn your next outing or play time into a fabulous learning experience for you kiddo(s)?
Here are some resources and blogs I like to use for inspiration:
Progressive Pioneer (Great posts on Fridays "Friday Make and Do")
Handmade Childhood 
Little Acorn Learning 
Childhood 101 (Also a post about everyday learning at home)

Activity/ Coloring Pages:
Disney Characters
Suz's Coloring Activity Pages
Animal Alphabet

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