There is nothing better, as the days warm up and lengthen, than getting your homeschool on in the outdoors. It’s a great time for older littles and younger littles alike to get outside and witness all the newness out there. Plus, if you have boys, then you’re with me in knowing that their attention spans can only be corralled inside for an hour or two at most when it’s warm.
But outside? There is fun to be had and they’ll barely realize they’re learning something.
I have to start out by saying that the easiest way to take your homeschool outside is to gather your things and go outside. Spread a blanket, cop a squat, do your lessons. But you’re looking for specifics here, aren’t you? Well, I have 14 ideas, so here we go.
Take Your Homeschool Outside
Let’s get this one out of the way, because it’s kind of obvious. You can take a short walk or a long hike or anything in between. Tramp through the woods. Circle the block. Find a pond and explore the reeds. This doesn’t have to be aimed a particular lesson; that’s the great thing about nature study. Your little can just see an interesting bud, seedpod, insect, cloud, and the lesson is right there at your fingertips.
Outside Art Day
Hang a white sheet on your line. Fill spray bottles with tempera paint or let your littles fling paint Jackson Pollock-style. Art is a big deal here at Lit Mama. The lack of art classes in our local primary schools was one of the deciding factors when we chose to homeschool. I’m always looking for new ways to teach the boys to enjoy visual arts. This sheet-painting project was one of the funnest, and all you need are a clothesline, a white sheet, and some tempera paints!
We have several feeders spaced around our yard, which makes it easy to go outside with our favorite bird book and a pair of binoculars and spot both new and recognizable species. If you don’t have any feeders, there are directions for making one here and here. They’re easy to make, disposable, and you’ll be surprised at the number of birds you’ll pull in with them. In my subscriber freebies, there is a bird study notebooking page that you can use to help your littles understand more about the birds they see.
It can be a vegetable or a flower garden. Start things from seed or buy seedlings at your local nursery. Learning hands-on how things grow and the care they require is not only fun but imperative if you want your littles to grow up able to fend for themselves in the mad, mad, mad, mad world. My littles help in the greenhouse and our vegetable garden, but they also help with my beautiful rock garden. In fact, they learned a lot about spatial theory just helping me place the rocks. Plus, they get their hands dirty when they help things grow, and what boy doesn’t Love That?
You can find some garden planning pages and a garden diary in my free printables, too!
Have a paleontology/archeology day
What’s great about doing this is that you can connect it to several lessons: geology, history, dinosoaurs. We got our plastic dinosaur bones at Dollar Tree, picked up a $3 bag of play sand, and took several different types of rock from our rock collection. I buried the rocks and bones in the sand and the littles used small shovels and paint brushes to dig for them. It made for a great day during our dinosaur study (and let me include some rock and mineral lessons therein), but we could have picked up some Egyptian ‘artifacts’ and dug for a history lesson, or even found a way to connect it to Rome or Greece or even our own state study when we studied Indiana history. Also, dirty again. Fun!
Pick an insect, any insect. This year, thanks to my newly acquired and long-awaited copy of DK’s Butterflies and Moths, we will turn our attention to identifying the plethora of butterflies that flit about our meadows and gardens. I’m pretty excited about this one. We’ve done dragonflies, beetles, ants, and just about every other insect you can think of. Heck, you could even do a spider study. Especially if you love spiders as much as I do, but even if you have to cringe while you do it. Your littles still need to know about them. Also, it’s a good time to discuss your local poisonous spiders: what they look like and how to avoid them. But mainly it’s just cool to learn how they spin webs, kite, and reproduce. Because amazing.
If you’re studying geology, this would go well with your archeology study, but it would also stand on its own. As you can see from the picture, you don’t have to dig down too far to get to different layers of soil. You can pick up a soil test kit at Amazon for around $13.50, and your littles can learn not only what kind of soil is in their yard, but with a little research you can teach them how to add nutrients to adjust it for different plant growth. Yeah yeah. If you don’t want to get that involved, just looking at how the layers differ in color and consistency is a great way to learn about Earth’s crust.
If you’re like us, you have a book for everything. We have a tree identification book specific to our state, so we like to take it on walks with us in different seasons. That way we can i.d. trees by their bark, their buds, their leaves, their seeds, and their fall colors. In summer, it’s fun to make a leaf scrapbook, but if you’re wanting to get outside Right Now, bark, buds, and flowers will give you all the clues you need to recognize your local trees.
Build a Birdhouse
If you have a handy man like mine, send your littles outside with him to build a birdhouse. Martin and the Littles make at least one birdhouse every year. This one, which they made from a hollowed-out cedar log, is my favorite. It is also the favorite of the bluebirds, so Bonus. If you or your man don’t have the skill, there are kits you can get on the cheap at Dollar Tree so your littles can at least get the experience and you don’t have to touch a saw. Win.
Track & Field Day
Remember those from when you were a kid? You did the long jump, the high jump, ran races, and the like? Your littles will have a blast getting their Physical Education in this way. See who can throw a football into a bucket, hit a baseball the farthest, hit a target with a Frisbee. It’s easy to set up a long jump or a high jump, and how hard is a race? There are several other ideas in my post Easy Peasy Homeschool P.E.
Learn how to start a fire
Sounds dangerous. But it’s a skill they would learn in Scouts and it’s kind of important. They might want to camp when they grow up. They might have a wood-heated house (because they’re trying not to use fossil fuels) or at least a fireplace. They’re going to need to know this. Just make sure you don’t do it on a fire-caution day. That’s why spring is the perfect time for it, as long as it’s not too windy. Learning to start a fire will provide opportunity to see how fire works, how wood burns, and what s’mores taste like. So what are you waiting for?
If you’re studying amphibians, this is a great way to get some life cycle study in. We have done this several times, and it’s always fun. We just scour our ponds and puddles for tadpoles and eggs, fill a jar with the water the little tikes are used to, and watch them grow. It’s pretty important to keep them in the water you found them in. If you lay your jar on its side, you can scoop the spawn and the water into the jar all at once. You can put a leaf into the jar to provide shade, but you should keep them out of direct sunlight anyway. We have even wrapped the jar in dark paper to help keep out strong light. Do Not Put a Lid on your jar. They have to have oxygen, duh. Once the eggs hatch (or if you collected tadpoles to begin with), feed them lettuce and cucumber. Rainy Day Mum suggests boiling the lettuce then freezing it pond water in ice trays. Then all you have to do is drop an ice cube into the water. How easy is that? We’ve never done it that way, but we’re totally trying it this year. Of course, if you have a fish pond or other outside water source, you don’t even have to collect them. Just check on them every day and record your findings. So. Much. Fun. Also, check out my free Learn About Frogs and Toads unit in Subscriber Freebies.
Who says you have to have school during the day? Astronomy is an important part of any child’s education and learning the constellations is always fun. Go sign up for the newsletter at EarthSky and you will be cool like me and get all the latest updates on the stellar happenings. I know, I’m not even affiliated with them, I just Freaking Love EarthSky. Anyway, take a blanket outside on a warm night and lay down with your kids and watch the stars. Take a star chart and learn some constellations. Find out when the next meteor shower is expected and Get Out There because that is cool.
Read a book
You knew it was coming. What kind of Lit Mama would I be if it wasn’t on my list? For this, pick something that epitomizes warm weather-_A Year Down Yonder, Gone-Away Lake, Tom Sawyer, The Wind in the Willows, Charlotte’s Web. Watership Down. Okay, I’ll stop. You get it. But as the world warms for us, we start longing for those long, lazy summer days, and your littles will appreciate reading a story that transports them there. And, man, just enjoy the book. Don’t make too much of this one. Forget theme and all that junk and just. enjoy. the story.
The best thing about using these ideas to take your homeschool outside is that all of them will help your littles reconnect with the world they live in. In this tech-filled age, sometimes kids just don’t have much of a chance for that. Remind them where they come from. It’s not a screen.
Heck, we might not come inside for the rest of the school year.
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