I sat here tonight looking over our lesson plans for Monday and started thinking, “Jeeze, we cover a LOT of stuff. Even in just the first week back to school, we are busy, busy, busy!” Then I look at the curriculum I created and I’m so thankful we are not tied to too many textbooks. Which in turn got me to thinking about how much work we do, and how many ways we learn that are NOT attached to the traditional way of learning. If you are just starting out homeschooling, or if you are a veteran looking to break away from the chains of textbooks, I give you Generation Homeschools Amazing Alternatives to Textbook Learning!
Our favorites include:
- The History Channel
- The Biography Channel
- Happy Kids
- PBS Kids
- The Knowledge Network
- National Geographic Kids
- Smithsonian Channel
- Documentary Depot
- Bob Ross – Fine Art
- LeapFrog – Reading, Writing, & Math
- Monster Math Squad
- Super Why – Reading & Writing
- Bill Nye the Science Guy – Science & Nature
- The Magic School Bus – Science & Nature
- Planet Ocean – Science & Nature
- Wild Kratts – Science & Nature
- Charlotte’s Web – Literature Based Film
- The Little Prince – Literature Based Film
- How It’s Made – Science & Technology
- Brain Games – Psychology & Human Interest
4. Public Locations Do you ever just sit and watch people. Perhaps you’ve been to Wal-Mart or other supercenter where benches are strategically placed throughout the store. Just by sitting and watching your kids can learn quite a bit. For instance, in a recent conversation about this very thing, my son reminded me of how I was “starting to look like them”. When I asked “who is them?” he replied, “those people at the store who never smile”. *gasp* Not me! The RBF (Resting Bored Face in our house) had landed! But aside from seeing the disdain and disappointment, he also reminded me that he had learned manners from our visit, such as “excuse me” when trying to get past a gaggle of teen girls who hadn’t seen each other in a week! Like O-M-G! Why is it so trivial to say excuse me? Because we would still be standing there, waiting for them to move had he not spoken up. Why is this a big deal? Because manners are not being taught in public school! Oops! Did I say that out loud? 😊Watching people in a public area is an excellent way of learning social skills from a visual perspective. Next is applying those skills through conversation, group gatherings… and future trips to retail outlets.
5. Museums I cannot say enough about museums. Each one is specifically curated to the area in which it is located. From military memorabilia to fashion, housewares to natural minerals – museums provide a ‘hind-sight’ experience that will encourage a deeper appreciation for how far we’ve come as a civilization. You can find tons of museums across the country and some offer discounts for schools. Be sure to tell them you are a homeschool family and make those savings count!
6. Lectures/Guest Speakers Local community colleges are a great place to find guest speakers. Our children were able to visit the local community college to meet and hear the story of two very special people – Holocaust survivors – who came to tell their story. An experience they will never forget, and a prime example of learning through others.
7. Documentaries Whether on Netflix, Hulu, from the library, or on Television, documentaries offer an epic look into some of the greatest taboos known to man. While they can sometimes be one-sided, the fact that they exist, in some degree, to educate viewers will always hold a special place in my heart!
Past documentaries we’ve enjoyed include, Rise of the Superbugs, Supersize Me, Religulous, Zeitgeist, and An Inconvenient Truth
This year we’re watching:
- The National Parks: America’s Best Idea
- Bigger, Stronger, Faster
- Time for Kids
- CSPAN Lesson Planet
- Scholastic News Magazine Online
- Khan Academy
- PBS Learning
10. Newspapers/Magazines Nearly a lost art, Newspapers and Magazines provide a textual resource, however limited in length. As such, it covers the “basics” or the “must know” parts of the topic without drowning out the message with unnecessary text and graphics. National Geographic magazine is my absolute favorite because it is factual, elegantly laid out, and provides some of the most stunning photo journalism one could ever hope to see.
11. Old Sit-coms/Television Series I know I’ve already mentioned Netflix, but this segment pertains to a select genre of shows that depict problem solving skills, character growth, and promote excellent discussion with kids. For instance, we are currently watching Highway to Heaven on Netflix. Michael Landon and Victor French (both from the TV series Little House on the Prairie) star in and direct the episodes. Both characters bring charisma and character behavior that kids today simply are not familiar with and so desperately need: compassion, thoughtfulness, and the ability to see past anger for a greater purpose. Sounds cheesy, eh? You’d be surprised at how quickly a fight between our boys slowed to a rational conversation after just a few episodes. Along with Highway to Heaven, we also enjoy:
- The Andy Griffith Show
- The Wonder Years
- Leave it to Beaver
13. Conversations with Elders There is nothing like listening to the stories elders can tell. The next time your in a small town with a diner, do yourself a favor and stop in. Take the kids. Order a soda pop and just listen. Introduce yourself. Let them know your kids want to learn from them. Encouraging our elders to tell their stories gives them a feeling of being wanted, establishes a foundation for our children by respecting elders, and by far, gives them the opportunity to hear what life was like “back then”.
14. Public Tours Contacting local public works offices for tours of facilities, such as police departments, fire stations, water works department, parks and recreation department, and others offers a wide array of “learning” without the hassle of textbooks. Also, who doesn’t enjoy a field trip? Plus, this is a great way of showing those public service workers that people do care about the job they are doing and gives them something to look forward to, as well.
15. State Parks Nature at its most real form is a great way of learning. From trees and plants, to birds and snakes, the living creatures found in state parks are just waiting to be introduced to your young ones. While you wouldn’t need a textbook, you certainly would want to have some information on hand about the types of plants, trees, birds, insects, reptiles, and fish you might encounter!
16. YouTube Yes. YouTube. It’s not just for “challenges” and “funny stuff”. YouTube offers a great platform for not only teaching and instructing, but for learning. Prime example: My husband and I both are not very mechanically inclined. The two of us together can effectively operate a hammer, a screwdriver, or a washing machine. So, when our vehicle needed new brakes and we were strapped for cash, we did the only thing we could think of – learn how to do it ourselves. We turned to YouTube. After a crash course in brake pad replacement, we ventured to our local parts store, and returned home to begin, what looked like a daunting, day-long job. But after replacing both in less than an hour, we were impressed. That’s when I realized YouTube is a great resource for learning.
**Word of Caution** There are some videos on YouTube that are simply not child appropriate and I encourage you to view YouTube with your child, to prevent them from seeing anything to risqué!
These are just some of the ways you can break the boredom of textbook learning. Incorporate as few or as many as you wish to help your children learn! After all, learning is what it’s all about and the way in which we learn is just as important as where we learn!
Something I have made it a point never to do is bring politics to my blog – I don’t have time for it. But this will be the one exception. Homeschool families, businesses, public and private sector schools, just about everyone turns to the internet for information, contact, and correspondence. However, there is an issue in our society today about Net Neutrality. I urge you to read up on this very sensitive and important matter. I also urge you to contact your leaders and officials to maintain and uphold net neutrality. Otherwise, this and other great articles you seek to find and read may not be available should net neutrality end!