For parents who homeschool their children, the challenge is always finding relevant, relatable, fun material to keep them interested, learning, and growing. Wintertime can pose challenges to this goal, especially when kids feel cooped up all day. While some parents look for ways to combat the winter blues, homeschoolers and unschoolers should instead harness winter’s teachable moments and use them to help grow your child into a creative, critical-thinking adult with an infusion of passion for learning.
Problem-based learning is an important tool for any parent of a homeschooled kid. As a lot of homeschoolers — specifically unschoolers — focus on getting away from standardized educational practices, problem-based learning helps kids take the knowledge from their education and apply it in a real-world setting. This process of applied knowledge will benefit any child as they grow into an adult and enter the workforce.
So what kind of wintertime real-world problems can your child tackle? The key is authenticity, so look to your daily life for inspiration. Does your family homestead? The ways winter affects the homesteading lifestyle is a great lesson on nature and biology. Encourage your kids to actively question why they do what they do. For example, winter is cold, so you’re constantly telling them to bundle up in a bunch of puffy layers, right? But do they really know why? While you’re zipping their jackets up to their noses, talk to them about why we have to protect our skin — it’s pretty much like tree bark, but just a lot more sensitive to cold. Helping kids draw connections between mother nature and their own bodies is a surefire way to engage their minds in any season.
One with Nature
They don’t call it a winter wonderland for nothing! Take your kids out into nature. Teach them how the world changes, why the world changes, and show them, firsthand, what those changes look like. Knowledge is never so potent as when it’s held in the palm of your hand. From flora to fauna, nature’s lessons are good for your kids as well as fun. Follow tracks in the snow. Collect leaves. Discuss how people have handled winter weather in the past. Have a nature scavenger hunt. Discuss how the nighttime sky changes in wintertime. Try your hand at winter sports.
Get your kids into practical math by getting crafty with snow. Everything from a snowball fight to building a snowman explores intuitive mathematics. Your kids may not know they’re calculating a trajectory by way of force and gravity when they launch snowballs, so teach them. Building a snow fort or igloo? It’s geometry in action. Even something as simple as the balancing act that is building a snowman comes down to math. Bonus point: it helps fend off those “But when am I ever going to use algebra in real life?” questions.
For those who prefer the great indoors, winter is the perfect time to get cozy and dive headfirst into all things comfy. Indulge those urges. If your kid likes to read, set them up with a reading project and a good window view. Make wholesome, hearty comfort food and talk about how our bodies change in winter. Make some healthy baked goods and discuss how applied mathematics have never been so sweet. Does your child want to make movies? Watch some of his favorites and look up videos on how those movies were made. Settle in computer aficionados with a hot cocoa and a long coding project. Dig into some interesting virtual courses.
Whatever your child’s age or academic focus, the winter blues are a mindset that can be beaten by a little bit of planning and a lot of fun. With your child’s interests as your guide, you can make it through the gloomiest time of the year together while making the most of the many educational opportunities this time provides.
By Brooke Faulkner