Exploration and Curriculum — Some Suggestions for Homeschoolers

kid painting

Hi Everyone- With more and more people exploring the idea of home schooling I thought I’d re-share one of our fan favorites from this past July by the talented Ms. Marshall- Please enjoy! — Laura, Managing Editor, Dr. Mommy Online 

Originally published July 10, 2013

Teachers complain about the loss of academic skills during the summer, and studies seem to bear this out. A long-standing discussion about year-long school doesn’t exactly appeal to teachers or students though!

The Value of Free Exploration

I can remember summers as long adventures — mostly spent outside exploring or inventing games with friends — but also voraciously reading book after book. I also spent some time under (and in) a tree with notebook and pen in hand,  not because it was an assignment, but because I loved to write. I also loved my two weeks at Y camp! The long summer days didn’t seem long enough.

Summer days were organized not by bells or orders from parents, but by the few structures in our lives. There were set times to eat, come inside for the night to bathe, watch t.v. or read, and sleep.

What are some of the valuable skills gained during these summers? First there is the direct learning. For example, I searched for and found a snake under a rock. Unfortunately for him, I made him my pet. But that’s beside the point! I had to go to the library to learn what kind of snake he was and how to take care of it. Then I learned the practical skills involved in its care. In the process, I read about other snakes, how, where and how long they lived, and how they were different.  I read about their life cycles. 

I played baseball in the street with other kids and learned the rules of the game, gained baseball skills, negotiating skills, interpersonal skills and leadership skills. I joined in hide-and seek and learned that if you hide too well, everyone goes home without finding you.

I learned to organize my time, to make decisions about how to spend it. I created my own structures.

Yet somehow, by September, I began to look forward to getting back to school. 

How About Mini-Explorations All Year?

In homeschool, we can fit in mini-explorations throughout the year, or just make it part of every day. Today Donna Vail suggests making self learning a strategy for homeschool survival! It’s true! When your children are occupied and happy, you have time to do other things, or just think! As homeschooling parents, we have many advantages over the classroom teacher. We know our students very well. We have them with us or close by almost 24/7 so we can take every opportunity to reinforce what they are learning.

If you close down the more formal homeschool during the summer to take a break, that’s wonderful! I doubt your children will lose any valuable skills if they are allowed to explore their interests and have access to books and supervised internet time.  But here’s a suggestions. Take the time each day to watch them and see where they’re going with their thoughts and questions. (Make sure to catch anything that they understand incorrectly for planned lessons.) Each day, listen carefully and write down their questions, ideas, activities, etc. Search for a theme in their play and what roles each takes (leader, follower, peacemaker, confronter). You will get ideas for books or topics in history, science or literature that might interest them. Plan some field trips during the summer that fit in with their emerging or long-standing interests. (Tip: If you do even just a little preparation, you could count the field trip and associated activities as instructional time during the year. That would give you one or more free days you could legitimately take off if your school district does any oversight.)  These short daily observation/listening sessions can also help you create ideas for activities during the coming school year.  Turning real life into homeschool lessons can be an adventure in itself!

If you have any questions on how to make natural explorations fit into a curriculum or teaching standard, please tell me! Or if you have a great illustration of how this worked in your family, I’d love to hear it.



About Christiane Marshall (35 Posts)

Christiane homeschooled from elementary to high school. She holds a Masters of Education in Curriculum & Instruction, and a Master's of Education in Special Education. She has taught in classrooms and tutored for more than 15 years -- and has an addiction to learning about new developments in brain research. For more information be sure to visit her site.

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  1. 1

    It’s about grabbing every opportunity and turning it into a learning experience. Parents must be disciplined to ensure that this happens.

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