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Unique Homeschool

Updated on August 18, 2015

Ideas for Education Outside the Box

Education should not by dry and boring. Education should inspire. An active child is a learning child. A far cry from the public school's dry and fact-filled textbooks, there are plenty of alternate styles of learning covered in this lens. Some of the ideas below are carried out in separate lenses in more detail, while others are linked to established programs.

This picture was taken on a field trip. Learning covered: plants and animal habitat, stream habitat, environmental concerns, insects, etc. Real world learning at its best. Parents or teachers who use this type of teaching are innovative and flexible. While a core curriculum may be used as a foundation, the child's learning style, interests and gifts is considered while creating the whole curriculum. Listen to your child as he encounters the world. What does he look at most often, what toys does he play with, and what does he hear? Include these ideas in the curriculum and you will be rewarded by an engaged child, a child who is eager to learn.

Whether you homeschool your children, are a teacher or just looking for exciting ways to present education, this series of lenses will give you ideas and inspiration. Each child needs the freedom to explore his interests and take advantage of everything that can be used as a learning experience.

Most of all, have fun!

Unit Studies

A unit study takes a theme topic and integrates various disciplines together such as history, science, the arts, math and language arts. This type of study allows the child to get to know the topic from all angles at one time, rather than at different times during the day or week. For example a unit study on airplanes might include a timeline of the history of airplanes, the science behind flight, drawings of airplanes, mathematical equations relating to aerodynamics and reading or writing stories about pilots.

Field Trips

After unit studies, this is my favorite form of learning. Whether you go on a trip with just your family or on a guided field trip, your child will be immersed in the real world. Here are some ideas for field trips:

  • Behind the scenes at a local grocery store
  • Check with your local Metro department for guided tours by naturalists.
  • Plays in the Park
  • Fire station
  • Doctor or Vet clinic
  • Science museum or aquarium
  • Zoo or Petting Zoo
  • History or Art Museum
  • Police station tour
  • Ride a train, boat, airplane, bus
  • Living History Site
  • Beach
  • Visit a chef in a restaurant
  • State or National Parks
  • Hiking
  • Factory Tours
  • Bank Tour
  • Visit a Lighthouse
  • Pick your own produce at a farm
  • Theme restaurant
  • Dude Ranch
  • Visit a Seaport
  • Go Camping
  • Bowling
  • Play Mini-Golf
  • Visit Your State Capital


Clubs like Boy or Girl Scouts, 4-H, FFA, etc almost make it seem like cheating they offer such great learning opportunities.

I used Boy Scouts a lot for my son, by expanding on their Merit Badge system. Scouting promotes teamwork, teaches basic skills and encourages community service. Each merit badge requires the scout to practice skills such as research, writing, art, science, interviewing and speaking. Completing merit badges instills a sense of great accomplishment as well as outdoor skills.

Girl Scouts encourage the power of girls together through fun and friendship. They also over a merit badge program as well as community service projects, field trips, cultural exchanges and environmental stewardship. Scouts earn awards and badges on different journeys learning and growing in experience and confidence along the way.

Camp Fire is a program for boys and girls. They encourage working and playing together, participating in group activities and service programs. They also offer after school programs and summer camps.

Head, Heart, Hands and Health are the principles behind 4-H . Instead of individual badges, in 4-H you meet with a small group or club. The club is based on one topic such as gardening where you might have a year long garden project or a rabbit club where you raise a rabbit and learn to care for it.

Earth Champs are encouraged to be responsible citizens promoting a sustainable, and peaceful world. Children participate education, activities and service projects.

If your child is facinated with airplanes, consider the Civil Air Patrol. Set up for teenagers, their program is divided into three areas: aerospace education, cadet programs, and emergency services. The training can lead to a military position or even flying a plane.

The Future Farmers of America was first developed to teach children about feeding the masses. It was about agriculture the science. Today, the program has expanded to keep up with our modern world by offering programs for Future Biologists, Future Chemists, Future Veterinarians, Future Engineers and Future Entrepreneurs of America, too. Their programs are extensive at local, state and national levels.

Who Doesn't Love Games

The list of games is endless and can provide great educational value. Not only can you learn basic facts, you learn strategy, spelling, math, teamwork, and good sportsmanship. Use games as part of your curriculum or give your children a break from paperwork or you can use games as a goal or prize. They don't need to know that they will be learning something with the games you choose. I used to have games day once or twice a month. We would just play games all day, each of us picking out one or two games. My son't favorite was Solar Quest. This was a Monopoly type game with planets and moons as the properties. We sure learned a lot about the planets.

You can get great games at thrift stores, yard sales or on ebay for good prices. Just be sure to check for missing pieces, or more importantly, the rules. The list below is an abbreviated one.

Board Games - Board games involve a board or surface on which you move pieces according to a set of rules. Games include roll-and-move games such as Candyland or Monopoly; Strategy games such as Sequence, Score Four, Chess or Tic-Tac-Toe; Word Games such as Scrabble, Boggle, Crosswords, Bananagrams or Mad Libs; Race Games such as Snakes and Ladders, Trouble or Sorry.

Card Games - Card games involve a deck of cards as the primary object and can include families of games such as poker or specific games about specific topics. Each game has a deck of cards of the same size. Games can be played with one person or many following specific rules. Categories include: Matching Games including Go Fish, Rummy or Mahjong; Trick Taking games such as Bridge or Spades; Shedding games such as Old Maid or Rummikub; Accumulating games such as Slapjack or war.

Dice Games - The traditional die has six sides with a different number on each side. However, games of today also includes dice with different number of sides and symbols. Many dice games are suited for gambling; for children, you can play for candies or peanuts. Other games such as Boggle or Yahtzee are educational.

Strategy Games - In these type games, you compete to see who can best manage the various options in the game. Included are chess, checkers or cribbage. Board games might include Battleship, Stratego or Mancala.

Lawn Games - Literally played on the grass, these games are not just for grandma. This is a great way to get your kids outside including horseshoes, croquet or lawn bowling.

Coordination Games require hand-eye coordination. Games include jacks, jenga, pinball, billiards, or foosball.

Tile Games - Uses tiles as the main playing pieces. These games sometimes use a game board for placement of the tiles. Typically the object is to use up all of your tiles. Games include: Dominoes, Rummikub, Scrabble, Mahjong, Mexican Train or Triominoes.

Guessing Games - The object behind these games is to guess some kind of information such as a word or title. Twenty Questions is a good example or Charades, Hangman or Mastermind.

Pencil & Paper - Games that use a piece of paper and a pencil as the playing pieces. Hangman is one example. Dots and Boxes, Tic-Tac-Toe, or Categories.

Keep Them Busy with Crafts

Physical skill is required for craft projects including the use of hands, machines and tools. A craft is an expression of the creative mind. It requires your imagination to create something new and unique and of value.

Doing crafts teaches coordination, detail work, concentration and direction comprehension. Crafts can easily be worked into any school subject creating a fun method of teaching while your child thinks he is just having fun. Below find a list of common crafts categories.

Paper - Using different forms of paper in a variety of methods. Includes origami, paper making, model making, paper mache, book binding, calligraphy, iris fold, paper cutting, paper marbling, collage, scrap booking.

Nature - Using items found in nature, you can create a variety of craft projects. Stone or pebbles, sea shells, twigs, sand, flowers, leaves, pine cones, and even pine needles can all be used for projects.

Textile or Needle Work - These include any type of craft where you work with any type of fabric or yarn. Some examples are knitting, quilting, appliqué, weaving, spinning, needle work, sewing, lace making, and dyeing.

Decorative - This type of craft is created to add decoration to your home or work location. Candle making, stenciling, pottery, mosaic, stained glass, decoupage, basketry, beadwork, jewelry making and dried flowers fall into the category of decorative crafts.

Art - I added this in under the idea of arts and crafts. A variety of art mediums can be combined with craft project or used on their own. Painting, drawing, sculpture, carving, pastels, charcoals.

Edible - What is more yummy than something you make and looks great. Cookie, fruit and candy arrangements are decorative until eaten. Foods that can easily be created into a craft are jello, cookies, bread dough, cake, and candy. Have you ever eaten rock? If it's made of edible products, you can!


They say that volunteering feeds the soul. Volunteering is one of the best ways for children to enrich their lives now in preparation for the future. Each child is unique in their abilities - volunteering helps them see that. It can give your child a sense of purpose by serving others.

Volunteering will help inspire passion in your child. It may also help your child discover new interests or talents. Teens may find a career path to follow and gain valuable employment skills.

Your child may develop new friendships with those whose interests are the same. These are friendships that last a lifetime. And finally, volunteering literally makes you healthier. Studies have shown that volunteering decreases depression and benefits mental and physical health.

There a variety of types of volunteering, but in reality most opportunities do not allow young children. There is liability involved as well as tasks that children cannot perform. But do not let that stop you. Here are some ideas to get your children involved.

1. Have your children go through their things and select items to donate to Goodwill. Talk about what Goodwill does and why their work is important.

2. Discuss how some families go hungry. Take your children shopping and buy groceries to donate to local food banks.

3. Involve your children in a food, clothing or book drive in your neighborhood.

4. Contact your local hospital or senior homes. Ask the volunteer coordinator if your children can create get well or have a good day cards. Talk about how it would be to spend a day in the hospital or senior home and what a nice card does for these people.

5. Recycle plastic bags and make them into other items such as rugs, place mats, toys, tote bags, etc. Sell the items and donate the money to a charity.

6. Look into Adopt a Soldier programs that allow you and your children to write letters to soldiers.

7. Contact your local humane society or animal shelter. Ask if your children can make food treats, bedding or toys for the animals. Organize a dog or cat food and supply drive for a shelter.

8. If your neighborhood has a community garden, they may allow supervised children to work.

9. Contact the city or state agency in charge of community or park cleanup and see if children are allowed to participate.

If you are looking for organized volunteer opportunities, go to Volunteer Match. Here you can target the areas you want to volunteer as well as causes. You can also choose to find opportunities that accept children.

Fun Books

I am an avid fan of the library. I especially love the new book section. This is a great way to keep up on what's new in the world and offers some really fun books that provide educational opportunities. Get to know the dewey decimal system or take a look at the list below. The numbers are the dewey decimal numbers for each category of books. Most libraries also have "new book" shelves that display books just purchased by the library and are the most current publications.

300-399 - Social Science including: cultures, anthropology, customs, folklore, law, government and transportation.

400-499 - Language - learn a new language.

500-599 - Science including math, astronomy, biology, life science, physics, chemistry, paleontology, zoology, and earth sciences.

600-699 - Technology including inventions, medicine, engineering, agriculture, home economics, and constructions.

700-799 - Art including drawing, painting, architecture, landscaping, sculpture, graphic arts, photography, music, and theater.

800-899 - Literature including poetry, drama, fiction, speeches, and humor.

900-999 - History including history of any country, geography, genealogy, biography and travel.

Use Music to Learn

Music is said to be a university language; there is music in every corner of the world. Music promotes reading, creativity and comprehension skills. Have you ever noticed that a child learns to sing the ABC song before they understand the letters. There have been many studies indicating a connection between music and reading or math. Here are some ideas to add music to your curriculum.

1. Expose your children to a variety of music from a young age. Experiment with different styles of music to see which has the most affect on your child's learning processes.

2. To not play music all day long. This will only cause the music to be simply background noise. Your child will learn to ignore it and not appreciate it.

3. Use music to wake up and revitalize your child. Music can relax your child and encourage them to listen and pay attention.

4. Don't just listen to music. Have your child be an active participant. Sing, or do finger plays to the music.

5. Introduce musical instruments to your children. Your child can sing along with the instrument or add some sort of rhythm background.

6. Have your child to identify the musical instruments while listening to music.

7. Encourage your child to play different musical instruments.

8. Play Guess That Tune - have your child identify the name of the song, encouraging listening, and problem solving skills.

9. Music is said to enhance math skills; certain musical structures stimulate brain circuits that allow children to decode math problems more easily.

10. Dance! Movement is important to all children, in particular those who are kinesthetic learners.

Get Active With Sports

It's third down and three. The ball is passed and… Is it the thrill of victory or the agony of defeat? Sports teach teamwork, playing by the rules, respect for authority, respect for your body, discipline, preparation and humility. These skills will help you all through your life.

During your training or during a performance, sports teach us that you are part of a team, that it takes all the members of the team to make the machine work. Sports are about competition. During your training, your desire for success is strong. Unfortunately there are more opportunities for failure, so we are taught to be calm in either situation. If you develop this attitude, it will help you in your relationships with family, friends and co-workers.

Check with your local school district. Most allow your child to participate in school team sports such as football, basketball, soccer and baseball.

There are many other great sports offered at a city level that your child can participate in. For example:

  • Gymnastics
  • Tennis
  • Sailing
  • Rowing, Kayaking, Rafting, Canoeing
  • Karate, Judo, Aikido, etc.
  • Swimming
  • Volleyball
  • Skateboarding
  • Surfing
  • Skiing
  • Snowboarding
  • Bowling
  • Hiking, backpacking
  • Climbing
  • Bicycling
  • Diving
  • Fencing
  • Boxing
  • Yoga
  • Dancing
  • Equestrian
  • Golf
  • Handball, Racquetball
  • Hockey, Skating

Using Workbooks

Using workbooks may seem like you're just buying a set curriculum. They can be expensive and your children may not like using workbooks. You can create your own workbooks by copying worksheets off the Internet.

Workbooks can help you in many ways. They keep all the work in one place. They can be used in addition to other activities you are doing and then used as a method of review. During back to school season, you can find workbooks on sale. If you live in a larger community, check for teacher stores. Here you can check out the workbooks in person and once again, they will always have sales.

Personally, I used workbooks for my daughter, but not my son. My daughter has always been a book person and loves everything neat and tidy. She helped me pick out the books she wanted to use. I would then build on the workbooks with other activities. Since I was using the eclectic method of homeschooling, the workbooks helped me keep track of the different skills learned at each stage (or grade).

Here is a short list of online sources:

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