Our guest writer is Sarah Tippett, editor for HomeschoolBase.com, the largest volunteer-driven resource and news website for homeschoolers.
William Shakespeare once said, “All the world’s a stage.” For educators, we can adjust that to, “All the world’s a classroom.”
Education for the modern homeschooler can easily address the premise that a child is always learning, everywhere, and at any time. For traditional classrooms, the same is true but addressing this premise in one area poses some obstacles. Many home educators embrace the idea that changing the student’s environment can lead to enhanced learning simply by allowing the student to touch, see, feel, and experience the ‘subject’ in a more holistic way. It’s easier for most people to remember or ‘make memories’ when they are experiencing something new. Therefore, moving the classroom can stimulate the brain in a whole new way. Of course, this is difficult for traditional classrooms as there is no “family vacation” or a “quick getaway,” but planning field trips within a homeschool framework is actually easier than one would think.
Reading about Michelangelo and his paintings is a one dimensional experience, whereas visiting a museum and seeing a painting first hand engages so many more senses. Of course, not everyone can afford a trip to a famous museum in Europe, but using short outings, day trips, or longer vacations are opportunities to take the classroom to another level. As a homeschool mom, I ‘counted’ most of our vacations as school hours because we turned every vacation into a unit study. Unit studies start with a specific topic and then study it from various disciplines such as history, math, language, and the arts. Traditional school subjects are easy to implement into any vacation.
For all students, learning begins before you ever leave the comfort of your home or school. It starts by including your student in the planning and preparation of the trip, which is a life skill in itself. Pick your destination (we’ll pick Congaree National Park in South Carolina as our example) and get out of the class. If you want to teach money management, give them a budget for the trip and work with them on how to get there, where to stay, what activities to choose and prearrange at the park, and where to eat.
Your geography lesson plans will include pre-research about this national park so that the students know some background about the history, culture, and climate. This also allows the student to focus on the area of the park that they most want to learn about and explore. This might be the unique ecosystem, the wildlife, the unbelievable biodiversity, or the history of how the park came to be. Science, Environmental studies, and History are almost ‘done’ for you with the help of park rangers, information at the parks, local museums, and guided tours.
Incorporating the arts into a vacation is as simple as packing a camera, sketch pad, colored pencils, and a journal. Keep a watch out for any number of species that inhabit the park. At Congaree National Park such wildlife will include playful river otters, armadillos, and feral pigs. Encourage students to jot down their thoughts on unique species they had never seen, sketch some Spanish moss, and get that photo of a Yellow-bellied Sapsucker.
It goes without saying, with the miles of hiking and canoeing available, but your physical education requirement will easily be fulfilled. Again, these hikes and canoe trips may be ranger led or self-led.
The most natural way to incorporate English/writing is once you get back home or to school. Because the student was encouraged to write down everything that spurred their interests, the journal notes and art pad can be used as reference for whatever assignment you want to give them. Ideas for writing are endless. Students could write a poem, choose one animal to research further, or create a photo journal of their experience.
For homeschool students, the concept of using a vacation as education can be transferred to any destination. It enlarges the concept of learning and engages the senses in a way that students/children often don’t know they are ‘in school.’ For classroom students, the same applies. Make sure your students understand that a field trip is more than just a day away from school.
The world is a classroom.
You can visit HomeschoolBase.com for more free homeschooling resources or help getting started.