Building a family culture in which learning – in any and every form! – is valued is the very best way to raise lifelong learners. And it’s not just a homeschooling thing! Even if your kids go to school, there are still MANY ways you can (and should) support their learning at home. Here are 10 effective ways to supplement kids’ education.
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Because I’m passionate about raising lifelong learners and I often share what I’m doing with my kids to that end, I’ve had a number of people assume I homeschool (and even tell me I should). To be honest, it is definitely something my husband and I have discussed and considered. While at one point in time (hello, pandemic shutdown!), I was fearful of the idea, it has actually become more appealing to me in the last couple of years. We are certainly open to it and will obey if God directs us there. At this point in time, however, we believe we are where wants us to be.
That does not mean, however, that I leave the totality of my kids’ education up to the school. (Just as I don’t leave all their spiritual discipleship up to the church.) I don’t want to do that, and I don’t believe any of us should do that. Formal education is fantastic, and our kids learn a lot from their teachers, but school isn’t/shouldn’t be their only source of learning. There are so many opportunities to supplement their education at home. Yes, even when they’re not homeschooled!
The False Dichotomy of Schooling Decisions
I’ve been noticing a narrative around schooling decisions that I want to push back against. It’s that if you want to teach your kids at home, if you want to know what they’re learning, if you want them to learn specific things, if you want to explore and cultivate their interests, if you want them to learn from everyday life, if you want to raise lifelong learners… if you want all of that, then full-time homeschooling is THE only option. If you don’t homeschool, then you can’t do any of those things.
A false dichotomy (our culture is so full of those these days, and they are never helpful and almost always harmful) has developed in which you can EITHER send your kids to school and be a passive consumer (some might say victim) of what/how much they teach them OR you can full-time homeschool. There is no in between or middle ground.
But I adamantly assert it doesn’t have to be so.
Let me be clear – I have nothing against homeschooling as an educational option. There are many wonderful benefits, and I’ve seen families do it beautifully! As I said in the introduction, we are completely open to it as a possible future option for our own family.
But I am saying it isn’t THE ONLY option for parent-involved, well-rounded, flexible, applied education, as I see so many homeschooling parents (out of an understandable and admirable passion) insist. There is an abundance of ways to educate your kids at home even if/when they go to school, and I’m going to share several in this post.
10 Ways to Supplement Your Kids’ Education At Home
Building a family culture in which learning – in any and every form! – is valued is the very best way to raise lifelong learners. Even if your kids go to school, there are still MANY ways you can (and should) support their learning at home! Here are 10 effective ways to supplement kids’ education.
1. READ, READ, READ
I probably sound like a broken record by now, but truly, one of the best ways to support your kids’ education at home is to read to them and with them as much as possible. Not only does reading help develop a slew of skills, including language and communication skills, social skills, and analytical skills, a bedrock of literacy will help build strong lifelong learners.
Along with reading, encourage your kids to write as much as possible! There are tons of FUN ways to do that, and I offer an entire list of them in my Super Summer Learning Kit (which you can certainly use year-round!).
2. TALK to them
A lot of what my kids have learned, they’ve learned from our family conversations, which have been a huge part of our family culture. From the time they were babies, my husband and I have been intentional about talking to our kids – answering their (MANY!) questions, explaining what we’re doing, discussing their schooling, talking about spiritual matters, etc. While we always try to be age-appropriate, we never “dumb things down” for them.
Related Post: 50 Family Conversation Starters
3. Turn errands into educational opportunities
Even when your kids are at school for a significant chunk of the week, there are still dozens, if not hundreds, of opportunities for learning in everyday family life. One great way to capitalize on them is to look for educational opportunities in your errands.
I’m not suggesting you turn EVERY little thing into a lecture. (Do that, and your kids will start refusing to go with you!) But simple trips to the grocery store, bank, post office, etc. are rife with opportunities for real-world applications of math, reading, social studies, and more.
4. Work together
Another way to provide hands-on teaching and training is to do household chores and projects together. Invite them to join you as you plan, prep, and prepare dinner; grow a garden; repair vehicles; conduct routine (or not so routine!) home maintenance; remodel a room; and do yard work. It might not seem like much in the way of education, but trust me – they’re learning more than you realize!
5. Cultivate life skills
On that note, be intentional about teaching, practicing, and developing life skills at home. I see a lot of “why didn’t/don’t they teach this in school??” kind of posts, but that’s what home is for! Supplement what your kids are learning in school by working on skills at home. A while back, I made a master list of all the life skills I want to teach my kids before they leave home, and I’m methodically working my way through the list, purposefully planning as I go.
6. Encourage (screen-free!) play
When your kids are young (and even, to some extent, as they get older), one of the best ways they learn is through play! For more on the benefits of play and what parents should know about it, read this blog post. Then, check out this post of ways to play more as a family.
It probably goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyway) that play should be as screen-free as possible. Don’t get bamboozled by the
lies marketing ploys of so-called “educational technology.” There is zero empirical evidence of their benefit and a whole host of evidence of their harm. The younger your kids are, the less their play should involve digital devices.
Here are some ideas of screen-free educational activities to supplement your kids’ learning at home through play.
7. Use the school curriculum as a SPRINGBOARD
As parents, you should be familiar with what your kids are learning in the classroom. And yes, you can find that out. Most teachers would be happy to tell you – they’re THRILLED when parents participate in their kids’ education! But don’t stop there!
Rather than expecting the school to teach your kids everything they need/want to know (an impossible task!), think of what they’re learning in school as a taste testing experience. It’s just enough to build/broaden their palate, help them figure out what they like, and whet their appetites for more. It’s up to you, then, to turn it into a full meal.
As you ask your kids about their day, pay attention to what trips their triggers, and then run with it! Here are some ways to further explore and cultivate their interests:
- Go to the library and find books on the subject
- Buy books from Thriftbooks
- Watch documentaries
- Research the topic online
- Take a “family field trip” (more on that next)
- Attend a seminar or class
- Connect them with knowledgeable adults
8. Take weekend/summer “field trips”
There are SO MANY opportunities for supplemental educational opportunities. There are, of course, places like museums, zoos, historical sites, and nature centers. But you can think outside the box, as well! One of our favorite family “field trips” this past summer was visiting a local Amish community to learn/see how cheese is made. Once you start intentionally looking for educational excursions, you’ll find an abundance of them!
9. Nurture intergenerational relationships
One of the drawbacks to traditional school is that kids spend a lot of their day around their peers. While that isn’t all bad – peers can be good influences, when chosen wisely! – it does leave a gap in their educational (and spiritual) development. However, you can fill that gap by intentionally (are you seeing a theme, here?) nurturing intergenerational relationships.
We are finding that the best way for us to do that is by inviting adults and families into our home. I started doing that about a year ago, and the fruit from it has been rich. You can also cultivate these relationships through church functions, sports events, and regular family get-togethers.
10. Learn about educational methods
Teachers aren’t the only ones who can/should learn about teaching methods – as parents, we can benefit greatly from them, too! I recently started diving into learning about educational methods and philosophies, and I’m loving it! Not only has it helped me as I volunteer in kids ministry and at my kids’ school, but it has also helped me teach my kids at home.
Here are a few of the books I’ve read and loved:
- Raising Lifelong Learners, by Lucy Calkins & Lydia Bellino
- The Art of Teaching Children, by Phillip Done
- How to Raise a Reader, by Pamela Paul & Maria Russo
- The Reading Zone, by Nancie Atwell
- Deconstructing Penguins, by Lawrence & Nancy Goldstone
Bonus: More Ways to Supplement Your Kids’ Education at Home
Want more practical activities to do with your kids to supplement their education at home? Here’s a quick list of ideas:
- Play music – of all styles!
- Attend concerts
- Look through books of art
- Watch old movies
- Make up stories
- Take virtual field trips
- Attend plays and musicals
- Join a local club or group
- Look at maps
- Take a class or course
- Volunteer/serve in your community
- Attend a city council or school board meeting
- Research current events
- Learn about different careers
- Play puzzles and games
- Research your community and its history
- Attend talks and seminars
SHARE WITH US: What would you add to this list of ways to supplement kids’ education at home? What are some of your family’s favorite educational activities? Tell us in the comments!
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