Putting the fun back into school

As part of our natural learning approach to homeschooling, most of our ‘schooling’ comes in the form of fun activities. Because of this, games and stories are major contributors to the education of our children. Here are some ways we incorporate learning through these mediums at our house.

Fun Games

  • Orchard Games has a lovely range of good quality games designed to help young children learn different concepts.  Some that we have and enjoy are:
    • Shopping List – builds memory and can be used to talk about life skills to do with shopping.
    • Ladybirds – excellent game for early counting and adding skills (we have also used it to talk about multiplication, patterns and art, with a bit of creativity!)
    • Tell the Time – really nice game for learning to tell time in both digital and analogue.
  • Time Bingo by Learning Resources is another great game for learning analogue time telling in 1/2 and 1/4 hour increments.
  • Boggle, Scrabble, Scattergories and other adult games can also be used with children. Prince especially loves playing simpler versions of these games with us, and they provide opportunities to improve writing and spelling skills.
  • One game we are about to start using is ‘top trumps’. Prince turns 6 this week, and we have ordered him this ocean creatures version for his birthday. I anticipate this being a great fun way to learn and memorise facts about ocean animals, and there are many other versions available on a wide range of topics that could also be useful learning tools.
  • Living Water Bible Games and Online Maths Tutor are two websites (created and run by my Mom!) which have a great range of games that can be used to teach lessons on these two topic respectively.
  • Some games can also be played when you are out and about, either walking or in the car.
    • ‘Bus Stops’ is a game my family made up when my brothers and I were little, and now we adapt for our own kids. The idea is to get as many points as you can by spotting various things on your journey. The point system is as follows: bus stops = 1, buses = 2, double-decker buses = 3, Volkswagen camper vans = 4. Playing this game has significantly improved Prince’s mental arithmetic skills, due to the Very Great Importance of keeping track of one’s score, and attempting to beat one’s Daddy.
    • I Spy has been a great favourite with our kids for a while, and they have learnt a lot about spelling and phonetics by playing this over the years.

Playing 'Shopping List'

Fun stories

  • At the moment Prince’s interest has been captured by Usborne’s phonic reader stories. We have the complete collection all in one book. Now, this a pretty thick book, and though Prince is really getting into reading now, I was still somewhat surprised when he picked up the book for the first time, and read all the way through 11 out of the 12 stories yesterday! I was yet more surprised when today, he asked for the book again and read all the way through the whole thing! I asked him what he liked about these stories, and he said, “I like them because there is a pirate one, which is called Big Pig on a Dig. And Ted in a Red Bed is a very nice one. I like all of them, Mommy.”
  • Another fun way to learn about all kinds of topics is through what Charlotte Mason calls ‘living books’. This simply means books which have been written about one topic, by an author who has an obvious passion for their subject. I like the definition given here:

“Living books are usually written by one person who has a passion for the subject and writes in conversational or narrative style. The books pull you into the subject and involve your emotions, so it’s easy to remember the events and facts. Living books make the subject “come alive.” They can be contrasted to dry writing, like what is found in most encyclopedias or textbooks, which basically lists informational facts in summary form. You might be surprised to find that living books are available for most school subjects — even math, geography, and science!”

Reading through Usborne's phonic reader stories.

I am sure that there are endless ways to have fun and learn at the same time – you just need a little creativity, a love for fun and an eye for opportunities. What fun opportunities do you and your kids enjoy?

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Story time = special times

One of the joys of parenting is reading to your children! As a child I was an avid reader, and it’s something I hope my kids will enjoy for the rest of their lives too. From a homeschooling perspective reading is a great activity, being useful for learning all kinds of skills. Reading to your child helps them appreciate literature and begin to learn to read themselves, as well as introduces new ideas, develops creativity and improves attention span. As your child begins to read alone the benefits continue, incorporating spelling, grammar, plot and thought development, rhythm, rhyme, confidence, speech, vocabulary, and much more!

Prince reading a library book to Princess.

I haven’t always read with my kids as much as I wish I had, but we are making up for it now! The library is a very short walk down the road for us, which is such a blessing. We regularly go and read there, as well as bring a bag full of books back home. Prince is becoming quite a capable reader, and will often sit and look at the books alone. Princess, who admires her big brother no end, loves to sit with him and listen to him read. This is one of my favourite thing to watch!

Last week we started our first chapter book together – Charlotte’s Web. Princess finds it harder to sit for long, but Prince easily enjoys listening to me read two chapters each day. I love the quality of the language and the depth of the plot – it’s just right for their hungry intellect to soak up and learn from. It’s also a special time for us to be doing something together – almost like going on an adventure! The time we spend snuggled on the couch reading will be precious memories for me, and, I hope, for them.

As well as reading many children’s books written in rhyme, I like to include some classic poetry in our reading. We really enjoy A. A. Milne’s poems: When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six. These have always had a special place in my heart, and have captured Prince’s interest from early on too. Some of our favourites from these are ‘Forgiven’, ‘Lines and Squares’, and ‘Sneezles’.

Prince’s illustrated ‘Lines and Squares’ print out.

A great place to go if you are looking for ideas for books to read to your children is Ambleside’s book lists. There is a whole curriculum on this website, but I like to use it as a place to find ideas. They usually recommend good quality products, so I don’t have to waste time reading through things myself first.

If you’re looking for a good resource to help your child learn to read I recommend the Jolly Phonics products. There are workbooks, reading books, teacher guides, activity guides, DVDs, games and more. You don’t have to follow it a specific way (although you can), but rather you can pick the bits you like best and mix them with your own ideas, and your child’s own needs, strengths and weaknesses.

Do you read to your children? They say it’s never too early to start, and they are right – I wish I had started earlier. But it’s also never too late! Find a lovely book, cuddle up with your kids and start reading 🙂

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