With school closures happening around the world this month, many families are scrambling to find homeschool activities to do with their kids while at home. This current global health outbreak is really wreaking havoc for families around the world!
As a worldschooling family (a family that homeschools while traveling), we don’t need to worry about any kind of change in our schedule, aside from social distancing. But for families who normally send their kids to traditional schools, thinking up homeschool activities to do with their little ones can be a challenge. Especially when they have work responsibilities to take care of as well.
Even though I’ve been homeschooling my kids for the past year and a half, I still have to deal with the balance between teaching and work. As a freelance blogger and writer, and now also an online English tutor, my schedule is fairly flexible. But even I have days when I need to set aside time to work, rather than play the role of glorified babysitter.
No matter how you slice it, homeschooling is a challenge. Whether you’re stuck at home, or traveling in the world, homeschooling takes a lot of patience and juggling of priorities. And for parents who are new to homeschooling, having some homeschooling tips on hand can make this experience much more bearable.
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Homeschooling tips for newbies
I am, by no means, an expert on homeschooling. There are many parents out there who have much more experience than me when it comes to teaching their kids in a home setting. But one thing I can offer to parents who are thrust into this situation unwillingly is sympathy and advice.
My main piece of advice is to resist the temptation to make your home exactly like school. It’s a completely different experience! Your kids already have pre-existing expectations of how they should act at home and in school. And often, the expectations are different in each place. By trying to create a school classroom at home, you’re setting yourself and your kids up for countless opportunities for butting heads.
Instead, find ways to incorporate learning time into your already established home routines. For example, swap out movie time with an interesting documentary instead. Or supplement household chores with a math activity. This makes the homeschool activities less about learning, and more about family time. And in doing so, your kids will be more likely to participate and engage.
Another one of my favorite homeschooling tips for parents is to let go of the urge to plan out your whole day around school. At the most, we spend about two hours of focused school time on the days that we do homeschool. Some days, we don’t even homeschool at all! The one on one learning time that your kids get while homeschooling is much more intense than the learning they get in a classroom. So don’t feel like you need to plan for a six hour learning day. That would make anyone exhausted!
My favorite home education resources
When school closures happen, parents are usually given resources from their kids’ schools on what material to cover during the school closure. So don’t feel like you have to create a whole learning curriculum from scratch. But if you aren’t given any home education resources, or if you want to supplement what you have been given, there are several useful resources that we like to use as a homeschooling family.
In terms of knowing the types of concepts that are appropriate for each grade level, the What Your Child Needs To Know series is a handy one to have. We have the book, What Your Third Grader Needs To Know, for our daughter, and the Kindergarten equivalent for our son. I don’t follow all the homeschool activities in the book exactly, but will skim the book from time to time for ideas. These books are useful for me to set metrics for measuring the progress of my kids’ learning.
But when it comes to home education resources, my favorite ones are the ones that are free! We like using YouTube for learning. There are a lot of educational channels on YouTube these days. We also like using our public library as a resource, as it has a lot of ebooks available in their catalog. And when it comes to math, we like Khan Academy because it provides a structured progression of learning concepts that we can do with our kids at their own pace.
You don’t have to spend a fortune on resources to get you started on homeschooling. Instead, try to use what you already have on hand. Or seek out free resources online.
Thirty homeschool activities families can do at home OR while traveling
When this recent batch of school closures started happening, I saw many of my friends who are parents start worrying about how they would balance teaching their kids and working. And with the current health restrictions placed on families to stay home rather than go out, doing easy homeschool activities such as nature hikes or museum field trips are out of the question.
As a resource for families struggling to come up with ideas for things to do with their kids, I’ve put together a list of thirty homeschool activities that families can do anywhere in the world. Use this list to help you pass the time until schools open up again. Or if you’re wanting to do homeschooling when it’s safe to travel again, you can use these ideas too! No matter where you are, these activities can help foster a habit of learning in your kids.
Reading Homeschool Activities
Read a book together
We still enjoy reading a book together from time to time. The last book we read together was book six of the Harry Potter series, The Half-Blood Prince. It was fun to set aside time each night to read a chapter of the book out loud. Since we are also fans of the Harry Potter series, it was a nice bonding experience for our family as well.
Act out a children’s book
If your kids are into acting, take a picture book and try and act out the scenes in the book. We did this with Go, Dog. Go! once, and the kids had a blast! Pick a book that is easy for your youngest to read aloud, and take turns reading lines from the story and acting them out. Alternatively, choose a narrator to read the book out loud, and have the other family members act out the action in the book.
Borrow ebooks from your local library
During school closures, the library can be an excellent resource for learning. Some libraries have even started putting ebooks in their catalogs! During cases of lockdowns and or social distancing, having access to a library’s ebook collection can make being cooped up in a house more enjoyable.
Writing and Story Telling
Write letters to family and friends
The art of letter writing never went out of style! For a writing activity, have your kids write letters to their friends or family members. This gives them a chance to learn about the elements of a letter. And it also lets them express their feelings in writing form. If you have access to a mailbox, you can mail the letters. Or you can take pictures of the letters and text message the photos to the intended letter recipient.
Write a story
Along the same topic of writing focused homeschool activities, have your kids practice their creative writing skills by writing a story. Teach them the basic structure of a story – introduction, rising action, climax, falling action, and resolution – and have them make up a story following that structure. While your kid probably won’t be writing a novel, they’ll probably come up with some creative and interesting stories nonetheless.
Do writing prompts
If writing a whole story is too advanced for your kid, give them writing prompts instead. Choose a topic for your kid to write about, and give them ten or fifteen minutes to write about the topic. Afterward, let them have a chance to share what they wrote and elaborate on it. Don’t worry about thinking up writing prompts. You can use this list of 300 writing prompts for kids to get ideas.
Play with story dice
For younger kids who can’t quite write, they can still practice creative story-telling with story dice. Story dice as sets of dice with pictures on them. Kids select a few dice to roll, and depending on the picture that comes up, they create a story using these dice. We like the story dice from Imagidice because they have a variety of pictures, which gives our kids more options for creating stories.
Learn a new language
Whether you’re planning to travel the world, or just interested in new cultures, learning a new language can be a fun activity to do with kids. The home education resources for learning a new language are endless. You can use apps like Duolingo, or you can check out a book from the library with the first hundred words in a foreign language. Get creative, and find ways to make it fun for your kids.
Create poems together
When I was a kid, I loved writing poems. With my own kids, occasionally we’ll create poems together, or read them out loud. If you want to get more academic, you can have your kids create different styles of poems – acrostic, haiku, limericks, or quatrains. Or you can kid them some creative license to write whatever style of poem they want.
Have a spelling bee
Since we homeschool, my kids don’t really get a chance to participate in one. But fortunately, you can create your own spelling bee to do at home, or while you’re traveling. Write about ten grade level appropriate words on sheets of paper and put them into a cup. Draw each word and have your child practice spelling them out loud. As an added bonus, you can give them a special treat as a prize for completing the spelling bee.
Social Studies and Life Skills
Watch videos about other cultures
As I mentioned before, YouTube is our friend! One of our favorite home education resources when it comes to YouTube is the channel, Geography Now. They are going through every country from A-Z, and creating informative (and funny) videos about that country. Each video covers geography, history, language, and culture, as well as relations with other countries. As of this writing, their most recent video covered St. Kitts, so you can bet that a country that you’re interested in learning about already has a video.
Make chores part of your homeschool activities
Put your kids to work around the house. Now that they have more time at home, you can assign them various chores to keep your house clean and germ free. Sweeping, wiping windows and mirrors, sorting laundry colors, and folding towels are all age-appropriate chores for kids under five. For your older kids, they can help with setting the table, washing dishes, or folding laundry.
Have your kids cook a meal from scratch
Speaking of food, if your kids are budding chefs, have them cook a meal for you (or with you, if you prefer) from scratch. Let them practice following a recipe, cutting ingredients (with supervision, of course), and cooking food on the stove. If you’re feeling ambitious, choose a recipe from another country, to expose them to international cuisine.
History Homeschool Activities
Create a history timeline of your favorite country
When we visit a new country, we like to learn about the history of that country. Besides going to a museum or reading a book, another great way to learn about a country’s history is through YouTube. Crash Course, Extra Credits, and Suibhne are some of our favorite channels for history. Have your kids make a timeline of their favorite country by plotting important events in that country’s history on the timeline.
Create a family tree
One of the projects we’re working on right now is creating a family tree. This is a fun way for kids to learn about their extended family. They can also see how families are connected with each other. You can use a family tree template, or draw your own family tree. Alternatively, you can modify an organizational chart template to use for your family tree.
Read about famous historical person
We like the WHO HQ series of biographies for kids. We’ve read about Galileo this past summer, and even tried doing some of his experiments around pendulums! If your child is interested in a famous person in history, there’s a chance that their biography is included in this series.
Visual and Performing Arts
Learn how to draw
If you’re looking for homeschool activities that teach your kids how to sit still and focus, then drawing is a good one to try. We’ve been going through the book, Drawing For The Absolute and Utter Beginner. It’s been amazing to see the progress the kids have made in their life drawing skills!
Learn a new artistic skill
Besides drawing, your kids can learn other artistic skills such as dancing or playing a musical instrument. We’re currently teaching basic piano to our kids using Alfred’s Basic Piano Library. This is what I used to learn piano when I was a kid! Since we don’t have an actual piano with us when we travel, we downloaded piano apps on our kids’ devices, so they can practice playing notes on a keyboard.
Make a stop motion movie
Last October, we attended the Family Adventure Summit, a travel conference aimed for families, and our kids learned how to make stop motion movies. Since then, they love creating stop motion movies using their Legos or other objects that we travel with. If your kids are stuck at home during a school closure, have them create their own stop motion movies with their toys around the house. If you don’t have a stop motion movie app on your phone or electronic device, you can do it the old-fashioned way by taking photos and putting them together.
Make a music video or short movie
If your kids like to be in front of a camera, let them make a music video or short movie. Give them the camera and let them shoot their own footage too. Apps like iMovie can make it easy for them to piece short clips together to form a movie. And they can add music in the background too! To give your kids inspiration, you can watch YouTube videos about the movie-making process.
Do yoga together
If being on lockdown, practicing social distancing, or dealing with school closures is causing your kids and you anxiety, try doing yoga together. There are many yoga apps that you can download on your phone. Alternatively, you can find videos on YouTube. If yoga is too difficult for your kids, you can just try meditating instead. Start with one minute of quiet meditation. Then work your way up to three and five minutes. Our kids are now at the point where they can sit through eight minutes of meditation, although admittedly they’re pretty squirmy when they do it.
Incorporate exercise into your homeschool activities
Along the same topic of health, doing exercises together as a family can be a good balance to all the academic homeschool activities that you’re doing with your kids. Since we travel, we don’t usually have access to a gym. For families facing school closures or lockdowns, going to the gym probably isn’t an option either. I like doing the Seven – 7 Minute Workout app on my phone. The kids and I go through a workout every morning. The exercises are simple enough to do for kids, but still gets your heart pumping!
Do homeschool activities based on card games
As a family, we love playing card games. UNO and Sushi Go are popular games in our household. These card games are great for teaching your younger kids math concepts. And if you have older kids, they can also be used to teach social concepts like sportsmanship and cooperation.
Use a deck of cards to run math drills
Who says that you have to use a deck of cards for only card games? We occasionally use our deck of cards to run math drills with our kids. Take out the face cards and the jokers, and use the Ace card as number one. Then flip two cards over at a time. Have your kids either add, subtract, multiply, or divide the card numbers.
Learn math skills with Khan Academy
For more structured math activities, we like using Khan Academy. Most of the online courses on Khan Academy are geared towards adults. But Khan Academy does have a curriculum for elementary school math. What I like about Khan Academy is that the kids can go at their own pace. If a math concept doesn’t make sense to them, they can simply repeat that particular lesson.
One way we have the kids practice math is by baking. We like baking cookies together, especially chocolate chip cookies. Having your kids measure out the ingredients is a great way for them to learn about fractions and measurement. If you want to geek out with them more, you can discuss the science behind why some cookies rise while others don’t.
Science Homeschool Activities
Create a science experiment
Your home is the perfect lab for your budding scientist! To get your kids excited about science, try a few of the science experiments suggested in this list by Mommy Poppins. We’ve tried the Mentos in Coke experiment using different types of sodas. Other experiments we’ve tried at home are filling balloons using gases from mixing baking soda and vinegar, and making homemade bubbles using dish soap and water.
Watch science shows on YouTube
As I’ve mentioned before, YouTube can be a great resource for your homeschool activities. In terms of science, our favorite channels are SciShow and SciShow Kids. Both channels pack so much information into easily digestible chunks. And it’s much better than having me read something to them out of a book.
Pick an animal to learn about
Even if you can’t go outside during a school closure, you can still learn about nature at home. If your kids are animal lovers, let them learn about one of their favorite animals. Watch YouTube videos or check out some ebooks from your local library.
Learn about the human body
A more timely activity to do during a school closure due to a health outbreak is to learn about the human body. When we had the flu back in December, we spent an afternoon reading about the different systems in the body. And with the outbreak this week, we watched videos about the immune system.
Getting creative with homeschool activities wherever you are
Homeschooling during school closures can be stressful for parents of kids who normally attend traditional school. However with the right homeschooling tips, families can still make the best of their time at home together.
What I’ve enjoyed the most about homeschooling with my kids is the creativity it has allowed me as a parent, in terms of helping my kids learn. Use these ideas for homeschool activities as a guide to help you plan what to do with your kids. And then let yourself get creative with the things you do.
Take this time as an opportunity to get to know your family better. Before you know it, school will be back in session, and we can all go back to our regular routines. In the meantime, stay safe, and stay healthy!
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