Hands-on Learning, Part Two of a Three-part Series
There are an unending number of activities you can incorporate into your home education adventure with very little preparation, time, or money! Even if you’re not especially creative, don’t despair. This list will inspire you and get your creative juices flowing. Use these suggestions as a springboard to find resources at the library or on the Internet that will give you more specific ideas and directions.
Motion-based activities are perfect for the kinesthetic learner or a child with lots of energy!
Marching, Rolling, Jumping, Bouncing a Ball
Have your children say their math facts (skip counting, times tables, etc.), spell their spelling words, or answer questions while marching, rolling, jumping, or bouncing a ball.
One of my girls’ favorite activities when they were learning phonics was “Tumbling with Mom.” We would pick a word ending like “at” and then take turns doing a forward roll on the carpet while adding a letter and making a word (cat, bat, sat, rat) until we couldn’t think of any more words with that ending. What they loved most was that I wasn’t on the sidelines watching them; I was doing it WITH them.
Have your child answer a question then toss an object into a basket. The object could be a ball, small stuffed animal, bean bag, or rolled up pair of socks; the basket an empty box, a laundry basket, a plastic bin, etc.
Felt is an inexpensive material that can be used for myriad activities. Use a permanent marker to write numbers, letters, facts, etc. on pieces of felt. Call out a question and have the child jump onto the correct answer. You can attach pieces of adhesive-backed Velcro® to a ping pong ball and have your child toss the ball onto the felt squares. The Velcro® will cause the ball to stick to the felt. This would be a great way to learn the books of the Bible in order, for example.
REVIEW GAME AND WORD GAME IDEAS
Anytime you can review what you’re learning in a fun, creative way the more apt your child is to remember it.
A game of Concentration is a great way to reinforce vocabulary. Write each vocabulary word and definition on separate pieces of cardstock or index cards – use one color paper for vocabulary words and another color for definitions. Place the cards face down on the floor or table – definitions in one area, vocabulary words in another – and take turns choosing one of each to try to make a match.
Create a Word Puzzle
A favorite review exercise at our house was for the girls to take their vocabulary words and create a crossword puzzle or word search (plus answer key) on graph paper. We made photocopies of the puzzles for Dad and others to solve.
Create a Board Game
Let your children use a piece of posterboard or cardboard and other art supplies to create a board game. They can compose question cards that go with a topic they are studying. Designing the game board layout and rules of play helps them learn strategy and organization as well.
Pictionary, Scattergories, Trivial Pursuit
These are examples of board games you can play with words pertaining to what you’re studying. If you have any of these games, go through the cards and find ones that go with your topic, or you can create your own cards. Then play the game according to the rules using those cards you’ve selected or made.
Younger children can learn to sort and sequence (smallest to largest, shortest to tallest, lightest to darkest, smoothest to roughest, etc.) using household objects, food, clothing, toys, and objects from nature.
Create Bingo cards to go with a topic or theme. For example, your children could use stickers to create Animal Bingo cards, putting a different animal sticker in each box. You can create a grid on the computer or draw one by hand with as many boxes as you like. Nine to twelve boxes works well for younger children, and 16-25 boxes for older students. We often played Preposition Bingo with our girls when they were learning grammar. I would give them a blank Bingo grid and they would write prepositions they chose from a list that I would provide. I used the list to call off prepositions until someone got Bingo. To make your Bingo cards reusable, give your children little candies (a roll of Smarties works really well), cereal such as Cheerios, or plastic counters to mark the spots that have been called.
There are a number of good resources available for using songs to reinforce concepts and facts - or you can make up your own. Examples include multiplication, skip counting, addition, subtraction, etc. There is also a really good product called Lyrical Life Science that puts science information to familiar (and some not-so-familiar) tunes.
Words-within-a-Word is a great language exercise. Choose a long word or a short phrase that goes with what you’re studying (such as “The Human Body” or “The Declaration of Independence” or “Metamorphosis”). Set a timer for 2-5 minutes and have each person make a list of as many words as they can find using the letters in that word or phrase. Each letter may only be used once (i.e. if there are three E’s, then only three E’s may be used in any one new word).
This is a very easy way to help children memorize a Bible verse, quote, or other saying. Write each word on an individual index card. Tape the cards to a wall, door, or other flat surface. Read the entire verse together out loud a few times. Then, one at a time, start removing the cards. (The cards do not necessarily have to be removed in order – a student can remove a card from anywhere in the saying.) Say the entire verse out loud after each card is removed until all of the cards are gone. If you have several children, have them take turns removing cards. At the end, have them say the verse together without any visual cues, and then see if they can put the cards back up in the correct order.
A favorite review game for the end of a study is to make a Jeopardy game. Create categories and 4 or 5 questions for each category, giving each question a point value (100, 200, 300) with the lower point value questions being easier and the higher point questions a bit harder. Tape the cards to a wall with the point value side facing out (questions hidden) and have your children take turns asking for and answering questions (“I’d like Invertebrates for 400, please.”). Jeopardy is a great review game for the end of a co-op, too. For a study on the human body, for example, categories might be The Integumentary System, The Skeletal System, and The Circulatory System. Or for U.S. Geography, the categories might be Landmarks, Notable People, and Capital Cities.