Educating Children Outside of the Classroom
There are no limits to our imagination...
Most of us, when we think of educating children, think of sending our kids off to school with the latest trendy lunchbox, a new set of clothes, and a new haircut. We hope that our children will be with the best teachers and learn everything easily so that they can end up in a great college or university. This is pretty typical of the average American household, regardless of income. We want our children to be bright and successful in their quest for education. This is part of growing up in America. There are many great schools and teachers in our country. We are fortunate to have these resources, as some countries don’t. But in all reality, we can’t expect the schools to fully educate our children. Education begins at home and should be a part of the family dynamics.
How do we as parents educate our children outside of the classroom? I have written previous articles about education and its importance for a young child. In this particular article, I want to concentrate on other forms of educating our children. Parents cannot have the false assumption that it is only the schools responsibility to educate their child. The greatest teachers will always be the parents, the family, the environment in which the child lives. There are many places and different ways in which to give your child a diverse, rewarding education in conjunction with the school system or home schooling you have elected for your child. Let’s step outside of the classroom and see what we can discover.
The Velveteen Rabbit - Read By Meryl Streep
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How to Learn Outside of the Classroom
One of the greatest ways to instill curiosity (which is paramount to learning) is introducing your child to the library. They love books and stories, beautiful, colorful pictures and hopefully, reading to your child is a daily routine. I used to read to my sons before bedtime. They were already bathed, dressed in their pajamas and calmed down from the day, ready for a story. I signed them up for their own library card and let them pick out a certain number of books, of their choice. I also would pick out a few I would enjoy reading to them. (I have listed a few favorites.)
They were then responsible for keeping their books in a safe location and could read them at anytime. They also would accompany the parent returning the books to the library. Most libraries also have a childrens hour with a story, or play. This is a great opportunity to let your kids learn in a different environment with different people.
When you’re reading to your child, pause to ask questions, read with expression and make it come alive. You can also change a word sometimes and see if your child notices. They usually do! Ask them what they like about the story, would they change anything if they were the character. The more you can get your young child to think and consider, and use critical thinking skills, the more you are helping your child’s brain to absorb and process information. Plus, you are helping your child learn how to communicate and express feelings and ideas. Remember, they don’t always have a lot of time to verbally communicate in a school setting.
A Day of Educational Fun!
Play: How It Shapes the Brain, Opens the Imagination, and Invigorates the Soul
Discovery Fun at Museums
Another great way to help educate a child is by visiting museums. In many cities now, they have exclusive childrens museums or sections of museums designed for young people. These are hands on opportunities in which the child is able to participate in activities which make things work, or they can make something with different kinds of art materials and take their project home. The Association of Children's Museumshas a wonderful website listing all of the children’s museums internationally on maps of your respective country.
They are great places where families can have fun and learn together in a non-judgmental manner. It’s all about discovery! There are usually exhibits which can be understood easily in any language. A good idea is to allow your child to set the pace. Don’t try to see everything in a detailed manner. Ask questions that require more than a yes or no answer. Allow your child to take the time to observe and figure things out. Since much of this is hands on, be sure to take some hand sanitizer along to be on the safe side! Most of all, have fun and make sure you’re not hungry before your adventure
Lifestyle of the Family
Educating our children should be part of our lifestyle as a family. There are areas in every part of the country where a mini- day trip or an afternoon outing can be both fun and educational. Take a hike at a park with or without a guided tour. The park office often has literature and exhibits of types of trees, plants, wildlife that may be seen in the park. A zoo is a favorite destination for children of all ages. Shelling at a beach can be a learning experience. Go online before your trip and find some information with pictures of different kinds of shells and print it out and take with you. Have your child help to identify the shells by matching to the photos or if older, he can read about the type of shells found. Fall festivals in farm areas are a great way to learn about animals, produce grown on the land.
Even taking a walk together can be a great time to allow your child to talk about anything. A glance up at the sky, observing the different kinds of clouds, watching and listening to the birds flying overhead, feeling the temperature outside; everything we see, hear and feel can be a source of conversation that often leads to better understanding of how nature works together. Being with your child in a relaxed, natural setting can invite communication that will bring you closer together and gives opportunity for the child to see his parents as more than authority figures or providers.
Discover the night sky
Simple Suggestions for Education Outside of the Classroom
- Cooking together, following recipes
- Extra curricular sports/dance programs ( best to limit this to ONE that your child chooses) don’t make the mistake of filling up each afternoon!
- Art materials
- Construction/building materials like blocks and legos
- Experiment with simple science activities, look through a telescope
- Children's book section at the larger chain bookstores (check for activity times also)
- Trip to the local fire station
- Family history, looking at old photo albums together
- Let your child dictate a made up story and record it on video or an older child can write his own story.
- Help a younger child to make simple books with construction paper, pictures and a glue stick. Secure together with clasps or yarn.
- Let your child have his own camera and take his own pictures
- Listen to different kinds of music in your home and learn a few folk songs/dances
- Be sure to allow your child quality free time
Children have great imaginations and encouraging them to use and expand their minds by learning and actively participating in life helps to give them a well- rounded real life education both in and outside of the classroom. I hope this article has helped give some new ideas, and feel free to share it with others. Education is the key to unlock the doors to life.
One More Thought
Your older children benefit as well from these suggestions. Although they tend to break away and form much needed independence, one can enjoy educational times with an older child. Recently my youngest son, who is in his early twenties, and myself went to a park on the water with a pier and watched the birds, enjoyed observing a pelican swimming with the wind, observed the differences of the water at low tide. Then we followed an elevated wooden path into the woods that ended up towards the shoreline. It gave us a wonderful chance to enjoy nature together.
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