These days, it seems like hands-on homeschool is a buzzword of sorts. What’s all the fuss about?
Let’s define hands-on first.
It’s best to define hands-on first because I think its overall meaning might surprise you. You see, hands-on learning can actually mean several things.
Most obvious, hands-on means “touching” things during lessons. For instance, rather than reading about simple machines, you actually use simple machines to learn about their characteristics. Or, when learning about the rock cycle, you make your own rocks by taking them through a rock cycle simulation.
Similar to the definition above, hands-on can also mean learning by doing. When you learn about Colonial history and actually do several of the tasks that would have been done during that era, that’s hands-on. As is cooking or baking.
Hands-on can also mean connecting somewhat abstract ideas to experiences that build concrete understanding. In other words, real-life experiences become building blocks in the brain so that harder concepts make sense. For example, using snap cubes to help a child “see” the formulas for calculating perimeter, area, and volume. Or, using beans to teach how scientists determine a taxonomy.
When a child is actively engaged in problems solving or critical thinking, we can call this hands-on learning, too. They are “on” rather than simply taking in information. STEM/STEAM-type activities can fall into this category, as can project-based learning.
In all of these, you can see hands-on learning is an active form of learning that requires children to “do” something in order to learn about it.
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Why would someone want to have a hands-on homeschool?
Depending on the type of activity (based on the definitions above) there are many valid reasons for adding hands-on learning to your school day:
- To build real-life understanding
- To meet the needs of children who learn visually or kinesthetically
- To help a child understand an abstract concepts
- Because it can require higher-order thinking skills that are often missing in the textbook curriculum
- To maintain interest in learning
Isn’t a hands-on homeschool messy?
It might or might not be messy, depending on the activity. Nature study is hands-on but rarely messy. Science experiments are hands-on and can be messy sometimes. Art projects are hands-on and tend to be messier.
The goal isn’t to worry about the mess – instead, teach the clean-up part of the process. When messes are necessary, they’re also worth it.
Doesn’t it take a lot more time?
Again, it might or might not take more time to teach in a hands-on way. I would lean toward saying ‘yes’ most of the time, but again – it’s worth it.
If a child isn’t getting a concept or they’re bored to the point of not taking in the information anyway, the extra time spent in hands-on learning will be invaluable in the end.
Over the years, we’ve naturally integrated hands-on learning into our schedule. Not every day, mind you. Some days are just perfect for workbooks and literature.
But there are, oh, so many ways to add a little here and a little there – and every little bit can go a long way.
Easy Ways We’ve Been a Hands-On Homeschool
Nature study is hands-on science at its best! In fact, I like to call it our outdoor science lab. I happen to have several fantastic products about nature study! The No Sweat Nature Study LIVE membership offers twice-monthly live lessons where we dive deep into a certain nature topic. The NaturExplorers series covers a variety of nature topics like butterflies, birds, ponds, and trees. The No Sweat Nature Study curriculum series, on the other hand, focuses more on nature processes like life cycles, habitats, or symbiosis. Both the 40 Nature Walks and Creative Nature Walks curricula are intended for easy, grab-n-go use.
All of these products encourage lots of engaging, hands-on nature study. Oh, and don’t forget about the No Sweat Nature Study Podcast!
Science Friday & Science Kits
To make sure we take the time for the hands-on side of science for topics that don’t fit well with nature study, we’ve enjoyed the occasional science Friday and have used lots and lots of science kits over the years.
Because we purposely spend a day or two each week outside of the math textbook, we’re able to get in lots of hands-on math. These living math lessons have been SO good for conceptual understanding and practice of higher-order thinking skills!
Unit studies and hands-on learning go hand-in-hand. We’ve had so much fun with these studies over the years!
Project-based learning is easy to do alongside unit studies, but it’s a method that can be used in any subject area at almost any time.
Speaking of games, we have been using games and other hands-on activities to exercise our brains through brain training. Worth it!!
There are so many wonderful field trip opportunities out there that can engage and inform our children (and us) in unique ways. I consider field trips as important as bookwork in the big picture of homeschooling!
We’ve been very blessed over the years to have the help of some outside teachers for wonderful hands-on experiences. Our Jr. Master Gardener course was one of the best! We’ve also taken part in hands-on co-op classes like woodworking, pottery, Shakespeare performances, and more. Oh, and I can’t forget our Keepers of the Home group where a few moms got together and took turns teaching our girls skills like cake decorating, flower arranging, crochet, scrapbooking, and more. Mercy, these are good memories!
Art & Artist Study
Art is an important, naturally hands-on addition to a well-rounded homeschool. We’ve braved the mess many times over and lived to tell about it.
Character Building Lessons
It might be hard to believe, but we’ve even found ways to turn character-building lessons into worthwhile hands-on activities!
Even something as simple as keeping a timeline can add valuable hands-on learning experiences to your homeschool.
Charlotte Mason Narration
This one might be the hardest to believe…but there are even ways to turn the seemingly non-hands-on lessons into hands-on ones when certain kiddos would benefit from something more active or more visual stimulation is needed. This Charlotte Mason narration lesson is a good example.
Hands-On High School
That’s a Wrap
I hope you can see that adding hands-on learning here and there into your school day is really pretty easy. And worth it – especially for kiddos with learning styles that require something more than a textbook.
Please remember that adding hands-on learning to your schedule doesn’t have to mean a complete revamp of your day-to-day homeschooling life! As you’ve heard me say many times over – DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOUR FAMILY.
Share your thoughts about a hands-on homeschool! How has it helped your homeschool – or a particular child? Do you consider it overwhelming or worth it – or both? Where have you found the most benefit? Any tips for us?
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