Sunday, January 29, 2012

“School” and “Fun” in the same sentence

Ask the average student if it’s possible to use those two words in the same sentence and the answer you’ll probably get is “No.”  The roll-call question at a recent 4-H meeting was “What’s your favorite subject?” and the most frequent answer was recess.  Let me be clear that I don’t think it is my job to entertain my son through school every day, but I do believe homeschoolers have an edge at making learning more fun.  For starters, We don’t have the mundane busy-work that classroom teachers have to assign to keep kids quiet while they deal with the slow learners.  Of course I only have one child so when he’s done so is the whole class.  We can dive into a new subject or he may be rewarded with a few minutes of free time for finishing so quickly.   Class doesn’t have to take place sitting at a desk or in a classroom.  We often do Bible study laying on our tummies on the living room floor.  Fritz’s favorite place to listen to read alouds is on the porch swing.  I do have to be careful with this because he tends to get distracted by the dog. 

  Field Trips

Everything is more fun to learn on a field trip.  I’ve always said the best person to teach a subject is the one who is passionate about it.  For the most part, the docents, volunteers, re-enactors, and interpreters at art and science museums or historical sites are there because they have an interest in the subject.  And if they find they have a receptive audience just watch them spew out fascinating facts and funny anecdotes.   We fortunate to live near a group committed to preserving the history of the Corps of Discovery.  These men actually built replicas of the pirogues and keelboat of Lewis and Clark and used them to follow the original expedition during the recent bicentennial.  Since we don’t have constraints like being back at school for lunch or only scheduling Monday through Friday during school hours we have a lot more field trips to choose from and a lot more opportunity for one on one time with the experts.  Sometimes Schnickelfritz is the only kid surrounded by adults dying to share their knowledge.  He has been taught how to start fires with flint and steel, been able to light the fuse of a cannon, and been given samples of goodies being cooked over an open fire.    You can click on my Field Trip tab above to see everywhere we’ve gone, but here are a few of our favorite trips.

Camp Jackson Affair (Civil War/history)


We love to learn with games.  My Schnickelfritz is more of a kinesthetic learner so whatever I can do to incorporate motion into learning is a help.  I used to take his Spanish vocabulary words and hide them on cards around the basement.  Then I’d give him the English word and he’d have have to tear around the room looking for the correct translated word (No classroom teacher who wanted to keep her sanity would try this).   Other times we use commercially made  games to re-enforce facts we’ve learned in lessons.  Made for Trade is based on colonial times.  The Scrambled States of America helped us memorize state names, capitals, and nicknames. Of course I just wrote a post about our favorite math game, Muggins.  Here’s an excerpt:

At the next level of the game we use three regular dice but any of the four math functions.  You either add, subtract, multiply or divide two dice to get a new number and then add, subtract, multiply, or divide that number by the face value of the third die.  You can see where the possible choices of marble placement expand dramatically. 
Here are just a few options (assuming I'm blue) with a 3, 4 and 6 :
3 + 4 + 6 = 13,  already occupied
3 + 4 - 6 = 1,  available but it doesn't make a run or block anyone else
3 + 6 - 4 = 5,  this would put an end to one side of black's run
(6*4)/3 = 8,  this would keep black from forming a 4 marble run
6*3 - 4 = 14, this would give blue a run of 3

You can read the whole post here.

Okay, I'm probably dating myself here but didn't you used to get excited when the teacher brought the A/V cart into your classroom?  It meant you were going to get to watch a film strip or movie.  Yes in those days the teacher had to actually thread film into a movie projector--not even VHS tapes in my day.  It's not nearly so hard these days to watch films with Fritz.  I picked up a copy of "A More Perfect Union" at a Tea Party Rally. What a great intro to a seldom discussed period of US history--we could hardly be described as "United" under the Articles of Confederation nor during the Constitutional Convention when they debated on how each state should be represented.  We've also used Disney's "Johnny Tremain" in our history studies.  I'm saving the more violent representations of war till Fritz gets older but we already have "Gods and Generals," "Sgt. York," and "Midway"  in our movie line up.

DVD's are not just good for history.  One of Fritz's favorites is called EZ Math Tricks.  It begins with some short cuts for regular math--how to multiply by 11,  squaring a number that ends in 5, etc.  Then it teaches you some "magic" tricks based on math manipulations.  We checked the DVD out from the library so many times, I had to get our own copy.

In the past year some of our favorite DVD's have been from the series "The Science of Disney Imagineering".  We got them all through inter-library loan in preparation for our Disney World Vacation.  Each covers a different principle of science, visits several Disney attractions based on that principle, and has a "do it yourself" experiment to reinforce the learning.  Titles cover

  • Energy
  • Friction
  • Design and Models
  • Fluids
  • Trajectory
  • Animal Adaptations
  • Newton's 3 Laws of Motion
  • Levers & Pulleys
  • Gravity
  • Electricity
  • Magnetism  
I've written detailed reviews of most of these titles (a project I really need to finish)-- listing vocabulary, attractions, and the home experiment, etc.  You can check them out here.

Be sure to visit the Homeschool Blog Cruise to see how others are adding fun to the homeschool day.

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