Your mother-in-law is pressuring you to prove homeschooling works. Or you see kids in the homeschool co-op who are doing high school level work at 10 years old and feel like your kids are not measuring up. Yet in your heart of hearts, you know: kids need to play and explore. Somehow, all this advanced book learning seems shallow and robot-like. You want to nurture every aspect of your child’s potential but sometimes you feel pressured to prove you’re doing a good job homeschooling by making sure the kids are scoring above grade level on standardized tests.
Trust your instincts, mom.
Research backs you up. Children with high imaginative abilities (imagination IQ) do far better than their peers in intellectual abilities in the long term. Creative play helps develop critical neuron connections in the brain. The more connections, the more capacity for intelligence as the brain has more resources needed for making associations, storing, and evaluating information. A young child who is pushed into formal learning, (which uses those connections!) before a sufficient number of neural pathways have been created, will stagnant in his academic abilities far more quickly than a child who spend his early years (ages birth to 7) involved in hours of imaginative exploration and play.
With the ideas listed below, you can incorporate educational play time right into your daily schedule. Here are some ideas for every age group.
Toddler to Kindergarten
Fine Motor Skills for Toddlers
Jennifer at This Little Home of Mine has come up with this fabulous way of combining fine motor skills with learning letter recognition. She included the link to print your own letter sheets for free AND there are several activities you can do with each letter! You will love the easy-to-follow instructions.
This is a not-to-be-missed resource! I am so excited to have found Montessori Nature.com with this extensive collection of wonderful outdoor science, learning, exploration and craft activities. There is enough here to keep your little ones busy for the entire year!
DIY Creative Play Centers
This one stop does it all! Fantastic Fun and Learning has compiled a collection of 10 super easy, super fun play centers for your toddlers and preschoolers with everything from a pretend restaurant to a train station ticket booth.
My Brio-train addicted boy would have loved that! If you haven’t introduced your child to wooden train sets, you are missing out on hours of self-directed play (and a few bruised toes from stepping on the pieces!)
7 to 12 year olds
I am super excited about these fabulous, creative, DIY play areas you can create exclusively around your kid’s specific interests. How can you not just adore the idea of your kids spending hours each day in creative fun, pretending to be in a space ship, or defending their very own fort from imaginary invaders?
Check them out at WooHome.com.
Homeschool Science Fun
How is this not cool? I would create a science unit just so we could play with this! With a little shaving cream and neon paint, these simple instructions from BlogLovin will have your kids proclaiming “homeschooling is fun!”
For Your Drama Queens (and Kings)
There are so many ways to incorporate this amazingly simple shadow puppet theater into your homeschool! Valerie from Inner Child Fun uses clear, step by step instructions for creating your own shadow puppets with items you probably already have around the house. Your kids might be inspired to write their own play or act out a scene from a classic literature book. Who knows, they might even end up reading and acting out Shakespeare!
Extra-curricular activities are probably more vital for teens than for the littles. This is where your child can set themselves apart from their peers and let their uniqueness shine. Homeschoolers tend to excel on standardized tests, SAT’s and college entrance essays, but it’s the depth of their curiosity and outside interests which will make them stand out in the crowd of college applicants.
The Ultimate List of High School Activities
This list, from one of my favorite homeschool high school authorities, The HomeScholar, Lee Binz is pretty much the one thing you need to help your teen find their passion. At that link you’ll find the definitive article on helping your teen develop a well-rounded transcript that will wow any college admissions counselor. If you are homeschooling a teen, you need to be on Lee’s mailing list.
I can’t help it, my practical, let’s get real, momma side has to come out. Yup this is a curriculum resource, but it’s free and it’s incredibly useful, so how can you lose? Help your teen get some real life experience by trying out different career options. I can’t think of anything worse than a kid who spends 4 years of their life and tens of thousands of dollars in college tuition to learn about something they “might” be interested in. Help them discover and actually try out, a whole host of new opportunities with this resource. They may find they are gifted at something they never even considered!
Let’s Homeschool High School is offering a free, four week study on career opportunities. It’s a great place to start. You do have to give them your email address in order to get the study, but hey, I did it and it didn’t hurt a bit. It’s the same group who run the very popular Time4Learning site so you know they’re good folk.
Entrepreneurship for Teens
Near and dear to my own heart is self-employment for teens. In today’s world whether you work for someone else or for yourself, many of the same mindsets and attitudes apply. Business changes so fast knowledge becomes obsolete in a matter of years, not decades, so career success requires flexible, out of the box thinking and a willingness to change. Those are hallmarks of entrepreneurial thinking.
Carol Topp is the undisputed expert here. Her books and online resources will get your child started this week, earning money and learning valuable real-life money and career skills.
Every child has a unique capacity for genius. Letting them play, explore, experiment and discover for themselves (also known as playing!) is the best way to uncover their God-given genius. Here are some more ideas for discovering the different ways each child is smart.