Learning from Home and Beyond

History: Brance paints his “Puebloan pottery” that he made while learning about Native Americans.

One of the blessings of living on a small farm is that it provides me the opportunity to learn. There are so many different areas where our family is gaining an education, such as becoming more self-sufficient; raising livestock; construction for projects; and growing, preparing, and preserving food. But there is another important way an education comes into play ‒ homeschooling. 

My son, Brance, turned 5 in October. We decided to homeschool him, and he started his first “scheduled” school week this fall. He might be the one starting school, but I find I’m learning new things right along with him. That’s a bonus for me, because I love to learn. I hope to pass on this love of learning to my children.      

“Develop a passion for learning. If you do, you will never cease to grow.” – Anthony J. D’Angelo

Social Studies: Trying to figure out his chopsticks, Brance eats lunch Japanese style at a low table.

Trying to keep in mind that I want my kids to both desire to learn and enjoy their education, I’m trying to approach homeschooling in an interesting and fun way. I think I can always endeavor to do better in this area (I’m learning, right?), but, so far, our homeschooling journey has been fun, and Brance is making great progress. 

Brance was an early reader, so I was able to start him in what would be considered first-grade materials this fall. That means we are able to do a variety of subjects. Brance’s favorites are math, science, and geography. 

Geography: While visiting Georgia, we take a field trip to the Capitol in Atlanta.

One of the approaches I really like about the curriculum I’m using is that it’s multi-sensory. The student doesn’t just read a textbook and then take a test over what he read. There are a variety of ways to learn about any given topic, and, since I’m the teacher, we can use whichever approach I feel would be most effective, fun, interesting, productive and/or timely, depending on my end goal. 

History: Brance designs his own tea cup while learning about the Boston Tea Party.

Another thing I love is that once a topic is discussed, you can learn about it continually. There are so many connections! For example, once Brance learned about the country of France and the Eiffel Tower in Paris, he began to point out the tower every time he saw or heard it mentioned. We not only read about it in the textbook and looked at it on a map, but then watched some internet videos about France, played a board game set in France, listened to what French sounded like, read some fiction and nonfiction books about it, colored the flag, and ate some French food! 

Kneading dough to make pepperoni rolls, like those eaten by coal miners in West Virginia, we mix some culinary arts in with geography/social studies.

In another book, Brance learned about simple machines and did some worksheets on them. We then went to that part of his science book and learned more about them, including some hands-on experiments. He then watched an episode of Magic School Bus all about simple machines. The next week, while we were visiting a children’s science museum, they had a section on simple machines. Brance enjoyed using a pulley to pull himself up and doing a tug-of-war with the help of a lever. The connections are endless once the seed is planted. I love that!

We are in the middle of learning about Russia now and have found a Russian pen pal around his age that he can correspond with through snail mail. There are so many different ways to learn about things!

Art/History: This Mayflower replica is not as easy as it looks!

Of course, not every single school activity or worksheet Brance does will be interesting and fun. Sometimes, it’s a struggle to get through something in order to practice it, but I try to keep the struggles to a minimum and the pleasure and interest high.

“Study hard what interests you the most in the most undisciplined, irreverent and original manner possible.” – Richard Feynman

Geography: Brance gets to see the Mississippi River in person.

One way to make a location or topic more real is through field trips. Visiting a place in person is such a great way to learn. We’ve done a couple of field trips already this year, but I plan to do as many as I can fit in. Every time we learn about a new place, Brance wants to go there! I wish that were possible. Thankfully, he’s welcome to visit a working farm as often as he likes by stepping out the front door.

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