Hands-on experiences help students integrate and apply what they are learning, making it a powerful teaching tool. According to the U.S. Department of Education, students of teachers who used hands-on experiences in the classroom outperformed their peers by 40% in science and 70% in math. Due to the personalized nature of homeschooling, there are far more opportunities for hands-on learning experiences, both in and out of the home.
In The Home
Many everyday activities provide excellent hands-on learning experiences for the homeschooled child. Math and science can be taught through cooking. History can be made more concrete by building dioramas, writing and performing a play, song, or poem, or building a paper mache replica of an Elizabethan town. Marilyn Burns, noted math educator, offers a wealth of hands-on math learning activities that can easily be used in the homeschool environment. Another simple, hands-on experience for homeschooled children is to have them create their own books. Even planning a party, vacation, or outing can be a great hands-on learning experience for children.
In The Yard
Gardens, weather vanes, are sundials are the stuff of learning. Children soon learn to love spinach and tomatoes when grown from seed and it is easy to implement experiments on the effects of sunlight and water deprivation at the same time. Gravity, flotation, and other physical laws can be explored with the help of a tub of water on a sunny day. Art projects, exploring the use of musical instruments, and building bird houses and bird feeders provide many hands-on learning opportunities while being easy to clean up after when done in the yard.
Bringing In Outsiders
The homeschool community is full of specialists willing to come to your home to teach academic and nonacademic subjects. In addition to regular teachers, there are other people who specialize in fascinating subjects and love to share their interest with students. Wildlife rehabilitators, lace-makers, robot aficionados, woodworkers, master gardeners, artists, and musicians can share knowledge that you do not have with your homeschooled children from the convenience of home.
In addition to the standard field trip fare of zoos, museums, and historical points of interest, homeschooled children can explore valuable hands-on learning experiences elsewhere. They can be challenged to find the most and least healthy breakfast cereals at the local grocery store. They can scavenge a variety of leaves or rocks at a park and return home to categorize and display their finds. For social skills, spatial awareness, and gross motor development, nothing beats regular visits to a local ice skating rink, batting cage, or mini golf course.
One of the greatest benefits of homeschooling is the interactions that occur between parent and child. You can discover many hands-on learning activities simply by listening to your child as they learn about different subjects. Encourage them to ask questions and come up with ideas for investigating a topic more deeply and you will both benefit from the experience.