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Field Trips Trump Workbooks


one of the best toys in our home, the creativity is astounding

We home school year-round, which just basically means we school until we need a break, or configure in breaks because of family visits, holidays, summer camps, dad's days off, or extremely busy weeks. I've noticed we generally don't take all our allotted time off every year, but I like the idea of rolling it over to when we actually need it. We're very much in the swing of things, and eased in with three weeks 'on', before our next week 'off' when my mom and stepdad come to visit. The following week will begin with classes at their co-op, Ani now participating as a proper kindergartener. 

On my last homeschooling post, I wrote out all of our curriculum choices and you may have noticed a pattern of listening to a lot of good books, computer games, TV (BBC, PBS Kids) series, field trips, and very few workbooks. The only two workbooks we use are Singapore Math, and Explode the Code, the latter which works on reading and writing with a phonetic foundation. 

We have seen so much great learning come out of these two subjects with keeping the focus on practicing. Every page or two-page spread I assign the kids, they are practicing the skills they've learned to do, and continue to increase in strength the mind muscle that it takes to learn all types of math concepts and how to read by sounding out words and recognizing sight words. It's amazing to me that when our children are so young, they are capable of so much, even though they are 'learning' formal ways to do things for the first time when school-aged. 

With that in mind, it is our view that for young ages especially, hands-on, visual and manipulative experiences should trump numerous workbook pages and extra busywork for a good few years. What's better? To learn by seeing and touching a sea cucumber, or by writing down fill-in-the-blank reef vocabulary over and over with a small clip-art picture in the upper corner? I can tell you which option my kids will remember, internalize, and possibly synchronize in their brain in a much easier fashion--touching the actual sea cucumber (sidenote: did you know the sea cucumber vomits for a defense mechanism? I'm certainly leaving him alone...). 

I try to plan one field trip every week or two, with many outings interspersed through the week. Even watering our garden daily can be counted as homeschooling, since my kids now know which vegetables are which, what plant produces what (and how flower blooms turn to actual food), and how to harvest that plant, and when. Although I don't formally write these things down, I think these experiences are much more valuable than a workbook per school subject. Hands-on activities are much more interesting to children, and if the place promises some good old fashioned running around or playing--even better.

As homeschoolers, we have the unique opportunity to take advantage of community occasions, quiet libraries, and off-season, discounted events without lines to wait in and with very little to no crowds. Not only are we creating family memories together, the kids are enjoying the learning process through play, through experimentation, through visual stimulation, and without many requirements, including the pressure of red-letter grades. We have a rich environment that is ours for the taking. Why not soak it up?

There is a definite time and place for workbooks. Some kids excel at school because they have a work-book loving personality (i.e. they like to see measured achievement), or they are internally driven. I have one of those few personality types. The majority of young students, though, do not. As homeschoolers we get to take advantage--to use field trips more than workbooks. We can see our children spurred on by an interesting fact they learned, or that they are inspired to learn a new skill because of something they saw at a local museum. 

So take them out! Explore your area's history, culture, and art scene. See the magic that happens when a child is taken to an interactive museum, learning about the machinery in the back of the bagel shop you're getting a tour of, and ring out the interesting experiences. There will be plenty of years they'll have workbook requirements (I'm looking at you high school social studies and science), for now, let them be children and use their five senses to the fullest. For the early elementary years, we can ditch the fear of 'grade level' by treasure hunting and having fun: field trips will trump the workbooks.

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