Category Archives: Experience-Based Learning

Experience-Based Learning is now a “Thing”!!

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A(null) lot has happened since I posted about my Experience-Based Learning (“EBL”) idea…The biggest being that I had so much interest that I decided to create a Facebook group! So here it is:

Homeschooling with Experience-Based Learning Facebook Group

Check it out! We now have 190 members, as of the writing of this! And new members trickling in every day!

The most exciting part, though, has been how active this group is! I’ve started, and run, many online groups…it’s often a struggle to get conversations going and continuing regularly. Not on this group! These moms are excited about this new idea and are RUNNING with it!!

Not only that, but they are tweaking the idea to fit their needs! Which is fantastic!!! I love seeing this little idea of mine taken by others and run with!! It’s how homeschooling should be! Take what you like and leave and tweak the rest! Make it fit YOUR family!

This morning I woke up to more posts on EBL of moms excited to get started, moms who have kids that hated school and now are enjoying it, moms that are reconnecting with their kids and healing relationships! I get SO excited every time I read these I have to post my excitement to my personal FB and my friends and family are probably sick of hearing me talk about it.

Today I posted this:

The reason I am SOOO very excited about this whole system….for those that are not homeschooling, and don’t read the posts daily all over the Internet from struggling homeschoolers…is that SO many of us struggle so much with teaching our kids at home and keeping it interesting and our relationships with our kids intact. It is a very serious problem, I feel, that so many homeschoolers think the way to homeschool is to just do school at home. While this can actually work for some families, for the vast majority of us, it’s a huge mistake and it kills learning just as much as it does outside the home, and damages many parent/child relationships as it makes the learning environment a battlefield. Homeschooling should not be a fight. I strongly believe that.

By offering an alternative, (and one that really can work quite well if you put the work into it and come at it with the right mindset!) I’m hoping more families will come to find a way that will bring the joy back to learning and heal relationships with their children.

As I’ve said in my article on my blog, curriculum doesn’t work for every homeschooler…and I’ve found through all my groups that there are a LOT of us out there that are like this!

I’ve always been motivated in all I do to make a difference…it’s exciting to see it when it happens! And even more exciting to see people take my little ideas and make them their own. I love this!

I have more news on how I’m personally working out our new system, but I’ll save that for another post as that will get long…plus I’m still working it out.

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Experience-based learning

My new “Experience-based Learning” system

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POST NOTE: Since writing this article, and all the interest it has generated, I created a Facebook group for us to discuss and share ideas on this new idea. Come join us!: Homeschooling with Experience-Based Learning!
Also, click here to see all the posts on this website with the EBL category or here to see all the posts with the EBL tag. (Category for a post that is a topic entirely dedicated to EBL, tag for a post that is related to EBL but not the sole topic of the post.)
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Experience-based learning

We’ve made it through the first month of my new homeschool system, and things are still going well!! So I thought it was probably time for me to detail it more, since I’ve had so many people interested in learning more about it.

I go into a lot of the details of where this idea came from in the article linked above, so I won’t go too deeply into that in this post. But the biggest idea that you need to know from that article is that I created a system that is “Experience-based Learning” instead of “Subject-based Learning”.

It’s quite simple really:
IMG_2654.JPGInstead of basing my kids’ education on school subjects (social studies, math, science, language arts) … I base my kids’ learning on the EXPERIENCES I want them to have. To me, their experiences are far more important than the subjects they are studying.

For example, I want them to watch excellent education programming, read good books, create neat projects, etc etc…I want them to have these experiences FAR more than I want them to learn science, history, language arts, etc. Those subjects are WITHIN the experiences, because I still believe they are important, I just don’t base everything around them as they do in traditional education.

So I created a list of “stations” that cover all the high quality experiences I want my children to have:

  • Watch something (these are hand picked, quality learning videos and documentaries on any number of subjects)
  • Listen to something (carefully chosen books I read aloud, audiobooks, and educational podcasts)–I’ve added music from the time periods and parts of the world we are studying to this station now too!
  • Create something (lots of enriching and fun art, science and history projects)
  • Play something (educational and fun board and card games, and occasionally some online games as well)
  • Write something (small writing projects once a week, outside of the daily journaling I have them doing)
  • Read something (hand picked, high quality educational, mostly nonfiction, but some historical fiction as well, books on topics that currently interest them)
  • Math (We use Math Mammoth)*

*Math is the only curriculum we are currently using, and the only subject that is mostly separate. Although there are definitely times when math is involved in some of our activities, such as in the “Play” station, there’s a fair bit of math involved in the games we play.

At the same time, we are also focusing our studies at any given time on a certain time period in history…So, as much as possible, I try to tie our activities into whatever time period we are currently learning about.

Before we started this school year, I showed my kids the Usborne Encyclopedia of World History and asked them which time period they would like to start the new school year with. They decided on prehistoric times, so I try to find prehistoric videos, books, podcasts and projects as much as possible. (I’ve even found this stone age board game, and also this one…I just have to find the money.)

In this way, I guess we’re sort of doing a unit study on prehistory. 

Sticking with the time period (as much as possible) helps narrow down the options for the stations, and can be a lot of fun!

I also plan just random projects that are on topics that interest us as well. Mostly what catches my eye or my kids have expressed an interest in.

IMG_2485.JPG
The classic baking soda and vinegar volcano…plus pop rocks!

For prehistoric times we are doing “create” projects about volcanoes and plate tectonics and cave paintings. For “read” and “watch” I’m finding books and videos about prehistoric times, volcanoes, plate tectonics, evolution, creation stories from around the world, and prehistoric life. For “listen” I read to them from some of the library books we’ve found at the library and I’ve even found some podcasts about prehistoric topics!

 


Back to the stations…
I let the kids decide when they want to do what stations, and then at the stations they have further choices of what specific activities they can do.

CHOICE has made such a difference to my kids learning experience.

There are a total of 7 possible stations, and I have them rotating through 5 daily. I decided which of the stations I wanted them to do every day (Reading and Math) and which I only needed them doing once, twice, etc, a week. Then I made a chart…one for the weeks we have our homeschool charter enrichment classes (“ERCLC weeks”), and one for the weeks we don’t:

ERCLC-week-Stations nonERCLC-Stations

 (Months Later Note: I’ve since pitched using these charts…I stopped requiring specific stations on specific days…I now let them pick whatever stations they want to do daily now, they just need to pick 5 per day, with only 2 requirements. I have uploaded new charts to the free printables page. I laminated them and they use a dry erase to keep themselves on track. I check them weekly and remind them to try to hit all the stations at some point during the week.)

Now, what do the stations LOOK like??

Nothing too fancy or formal. It’s really just an area in my house that I use to store the supplies, so the kids know where to look for their options:

IMG_2672.JPGThe “Play” station is typically the station we start our school day with. For obvious reasons, it’s the most fun! Great way to get our day started, and we all usually play a game together, forcing me to get myself involved in playing with the kids…which is one of my main reasons for making this a station.

IMG_2676.JPG
The Lorax card game!

I think games are a fabulous way to learn, but also a fabulous way to bond and make memories. And since I seem to not be prone to wanting to play games….but yet I WANT to want to play games…I just made it a regular part of our day and it’s finally happening!

I try to have primarily educational games at this station, but there are many just regular card (Uno) and board (Clue) games that are fun and still have their own element of education to them without being overtly teaching games. I provide a variety of options so the kids get to go with what they are drawn to on any given day.

IMG_2689
We LOVE mancala!

This also gives those games that have been sitting in the games closet for years a chance to see the light of day and actually get some use!

We are lucky because we have access to more games in our homeschool charter library…but I’m also thinking of putting out a call for sharing of games, to see what games are on other people’s shelves that they’d be ok with sharing, and we can share with them.

One round of a game fulfills the daily requirement for this station. That can be quick or last upwards of an hour or more! Depends on the game and our mood…we’ll keep going if that’s what they want to do!

 

IMG_2670.JPGThe “Create” station is often the second station that we do each day…if one or both of my kids didn’t start their own creative project already.

IMG_2698.JPG
Fingerpainting is not just for little kids!

Post it notes make it easy to swap out the activity options each week. With 2 units/5 drawers in each of varying sizes, I can have a wide variety of options for the kids to choose from and not have to constantly be refilling the drawers.

I try to fit everything needed for each activity within one drawer. Occasionally I have to put big things (like a mixing bowl or a tray) next to the unit. I also print up an instruction sheet or write instructions on an index card, and put that on top so when they open the drawer the instructions are the first thing they see. If there’s something needed next to the unit, I will write on the sheet where to find it.

Melted bead art while listening to a science podcast
Melted bead art while listening to a science podcast

I don’t require them to do all activities within this station. If I’m unsuccessful at getting them to do a particular activity, after about 2 weeks or so I just break it down and save it to try another time. Not everything is successful and there are some projects one kid does and the other has no interest in. Since there’s unlimited opportunities for cool activities out there, I try not to stress over the unpopular projects.

However, if there’s one project that I really wanted to see done, I just do it myself! Usually they end up joining me…but really, if it’s something *I* want to do, why shouldn’t *I* do it? LOL!

The funny thing is that often the kids just come up with their own creative projects…and I’m ok with that too! The point is that they are using the creative parts of their brain daily…if it’s something they pulled together themselves, that works!

But this station allows me to start to finally do some of the way cool Pinterest projects that I’ve found over the years and always meant to do. In fact, I use my Pinterest boards to organize my plans for this station!Screenshot_1

 

 IMG_2664.JPGThe “Watch” station can either be our main tv, or any of our computers. Often times they want to watch together on the big tv, and that’s fine. Sometimes one wants to watch alone on my laptop, and that works too.

Watching an educational program on prehistoric NYC
Watching an educational program on prehistoric NYC

I have bookmarked a bunch of relevant videos for them on my Symbaloo account…here’s the Prehistory Webmix I created. As we move into new topics, I will create new webmixes, to enable me to make it easy for them to find videos on the time period and topics we are currently learning about.

I use Symbaloo because I have videos on various sites (like Amazon and Netflix), so it’s easiest to just put all the bookmarks to everything in one place…But I also use YouTube playlists to group together the shorter YouTube videos, then link that playlist on the Symbaloo webmix, keeping everything all together in one place still.

Typically I tell them that one Symbaloo link is the equivalent of one day’s watching. The exceptions are when I link to a series of an educational program, with multiple episodes. For those, I tell them just to watch one episode. So their viewing would be 30-60 minutes usually. Occasionally there is a longer movie.

 

IMG_2667.JPGThe “Listen” station is a little trickier, because my kids aren’t fond of audiobooks or podcasts, so far. And often the things I have for them as options are on my iPhone. So when we are listening to something on my phone together, I just plug in the little portable speaker that is shown in the basket in the pic above.

I also give them the option to listen with earbuds, but usually neither of them are interested in that. More often than not, they prefer me to just read to them. This works great because they love listening to me and I love reading to them!

In the case of my reading to them, I head over to the “Read” station and pick a book from there! (Or ask them to pick one.) Lately I’ve been reading from the books of short stories, since they almost never read those to themselves.

Eventually I’d like to try to get them to read to each other for this station…at least occasionally. That may take some convincing, though.

 

IMG_2668.JPGThe “Read” station is one of those face-out book shelves you see at preschools (got mine from the preschool I used to work at), with some extra baskets. Face out works GREAT to draw attention to books!!

Reading a book on evolution
Reading a book on evolution

This one is a favorite of mine because I’m a serious bookworm, and trying to encourage bookworminess in my children. 🙂  Usually it’s packed with library books which are a combination of books I chose and books they chose.

Most prevalent are nonfiction picture books, since I am absolutely obsessed with high quality nonfiction picture books right now! We really enjoy reading these because they usually have great artwork and are short and easily read in 1 or 2 sittings.

Reading Magic School Bus book "Inside the Earth"
Reading Magic School Bus book “Inside the Earth”

But I also try to find historical fiction and anthologies of shorter stories on related topics where possible. There’s also often some of those great encyclopedia type books like Usborne and DK are so known for.

In addition to library books, this station allows me to also dig through our own shelves to find relevant reads whenever I can. Dust off those long forgotten titles that I bought at book sales long ago and never got around to reading!

I require my kids to read for at least 20min or one book to fulfill this station. (They usually read much longer than this, as the books draw them in!)

 

 

 

IMG_2665.JPGThe “Write” station is a hanging pocket thing that I’ve had for years and only just finally found a use for! Got it at a teacher supply store.  I find ideas on Pinterest and from writing prompt books and print up/copy pages and insert into the pockets.

They only have a formal writing assignment on Fridays, and the choices are many, as you can see. Each copied page probably has about 4-5 ideas on it. They only need pick one.

 

 

IMG_2666.JPGThe Math station is just their clipboard with their Math Mammoth worktext packet for the week. I keep these in wooden magazine boxes on our art table. The kids know to go and grab their clipboards when they are ready to get math done. I also keep their notebooks that serve as their journals in here, (for journaling about the assignments and activities they did for the day…getting them more used to writing regularly,) as well as their clipboards with their checklists and various other notebooks and folders.

Math is just one page (front and back) per day.

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So that’s the gist of how our new system works! So far the kids and I are really enjoying it! It doesn’t take a lot of work on my part to get things set up every day, just occasional rebooting of activity areas…I do prep work every other weekend or so. I prepare a chunk of stuff at once, so that I don’t have to do a lot of prep work weekly. It works quite well!

I’ll detail my prep work and planning process in more detail in the next post, this one got super long!

For now, here’s some more pics of our new system in action!!

In addition to what we do at home, we also have enrichment classes we take weekly and field trips and play dates too, of course!

There’s a whole lotta fun learnin’ happenin’ over here with the Smith’s!  🙂

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Just 2 days in and going well!

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My new homeschool plan has worked well for the first 2 days…so far so good! I am hoping it will continue to go well. In just 2 days they are both already getting better at writing what they’re doing in their journals without a fuss. Pretty dang cool, I think! We’ll see if it continues. 🙂

Here’s some pics of what we’ve been up to these first 2 days:

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Curriculum doesn't work for every homeschooler, HomeschoolRealm.com

Curriculum doesn’t work for every homeschooler

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Curriculum doesn't work for every homeschooler, HomeschoolRealm.comAre you like me and you’ve tried a multitude of different homeschool curricula only to have them fail to work for you?

If you are having a difficult time finding something that works for homeschooling your children, you may relate to this….

I have a new plan for the new year. Yes, another one.

We’ve still not had a super successful plan and I’m determined to change that. I’m not giving up! I WILL find a way that works for all of us, if it kills me!

Near the end of last year I finally had to face that curriculum doesn’t appear to work for us. Even excellent curriculum like Pandia Press and Elemental Science create.

I still highly recommend these curricula, for those that do well with curriculum…but my kids just didn’t get into them and I’m done trying and failing at packaged curriculum. (Except math. Math Mammoth, for some reason, seems to work for us.)

I can’t really say exactly why curriculum hasn’t worked for us, but I suspect it’s because my kids, like me, like to be able to follow their own interests each day. And that changes almost daily.

So maybe, picking a curriculum that lays out every day’s or week’s lessons for an entire school year just feels too much like a cage to my kids and I.

And as we fall behind on where we “should” be on the curriculum throughout the year,  as we always do, I feel more and more like a failure.

I’m done feeling like that. There’s nothing WRONG with me. I just do things DIFFERENTLY than the people those curricula are designed for.

I do WISH that I could follow a curriculum. I think every homeschool curriculum that exists is designed for the types of people that can follow a schedule and stick with a plan. It would make homeschooling much easier, I think. But that’s not me.

jilagan_rabbit
stick-abilityI’ve talked about this before…I’m more of a “hare”. I deal better with short bursts of enthusiasm, following my passions and interests in shorter sprints, than with a tortoise’s steady, methodical, marathon pace that curriculum requires. (Read Julie Gilbert’s fantastic, life-changing book Stickability to learn more about tortoises vs hares.)

 

 

Cowgirls-Guide-to-Riding-Wild-DonkeysFrom another fantastic read:  I’m also a wild donkey rider.

I tend to have wild donkeys (passionate interests) that take me for short, wild rides throughout the year. I never seem to get the slow and steady, more dependable and methodical donkey.

 

Now, I figure it IS possible that there’s a curriculum out there that would work for my kids and I, but I’m not wanting to waste any more time trying to fit a square peg in a round hole. I will still see if I can pull ideas from the curriculum that I have, but I am hoping that going it freestyle  might be the way to go for us.

I know there’s plenty of ideas for activities and books and videos out there to do this. I’ve found tons!

I am pinning like crazy and getting really excited by what I’m finding!  Filling up my Pinterest boards with all the cool activities I’d like to share with my kiddos.

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I am using my Pinterest boards as my “red list”, my someday, my brainstorms…Learned this from Julie at Homeschooling-Ideas. LOVE HER! She has a red list/amber list/green list system that is changing my life!! You can read all about it in her free ebook, Planned Spontaneity.

I have been thinking for awhile on how I want to pull all my ideas together for my kids. Of course I want them hit the main subjects:

          • Math
          • Social Studies
          • Language Arts
          • Science
          • The Arts

…But it just didn’t feel right to study each subject separately.  In real life, subjects aren’t segregated. Everything is intermingled in real life. I tend to be more concerned with real world learning…since I’m preparing my kids to live in the real world, I’d rather be teaching them in a way that makes more sense in the real world.

I have believed for awhile that all subjects (though less with math) fold nicely into history topics. I’ve talked about this before…science folds nicely into history by studying the science and scientists of the time period we’re exploring…as does art and music. And once I thought about it, I realized that language arts really is a part of every subject, if I have them reading and writing about what they are studying. So, with that in mind I knew I wanted to build something where it’s all integrated and revolves around the main history topic we are studying at the time.

So then I asked myself: “What exactly do you want them DOING regularly?”

And I realized that
the actual academic subjects were secondary in my mind to the experiences I wanted them to have.

My old child development training, ever present in the back of my mind: It’s the PROCESS, not the product.

So I made a list….In regard to their learning, I want them to regularly:

  • Read something
  • Write something
  • Watch something
  • Listen to something
  • Play something
  • Create something

After thinking on it for awhile, I realized that this would enable them to experience everything with all their senses and hit all learning styles. Of course, it’s possible that learning styles are a myth, as this article discusses.

But that article also says that we should “pluralize” our teaching, by teaching different ways to ALL kids. So I figure my idea works well with this in mind! 🙂  Apparently all children should have all these experiences: tactile, auditory, visual, etc…because ALL kids, regardless of their primary learning style (if they do exist), benefit from the diversity of experiences.  Good thing because I never could fully pin down my kids’ learning styles.

So here’s my big epiphany:

I realized that this list–  Read something (books, articles…), Write something (journaling, blogging, essay writing, poetry, creative writing….), Watch something (documentaries, educational programs, short educational YouTube videos…), Listen to something (music from the time period we’re studying, podcasts on an educational topic, audiobooks and stories, reading out loud…), Play something (educational board games, dice games, card games, online games…), Create something (art projects, science experiments, stop motion animation, photography…)  could be my framework, instead of structuring everything around the subjects of history, science, language arts, etc etc.

I can still keep the traditional subjects in mind when designing activities, and I should, but that stuff really only matters to me, the adult. The kids could care less what academic subjects they are experiencing, they only care about what they have to DO.

I have come to realize that what I’m looking at creating is a more child-centered approach.

Side note: I don’t feel like what I’m talking about is unschooling. I feel like unschooling is a somewhat different thing, involving trusting that your kids will get what they need, education-wise, without your interference. I don’t agree with this philosophy entirely, and still stay quite involved in my kids learning, as I don’t feel they have the ability to know enough to get a balanced education without some experienced help from an adult. They don’t know what they don’t know. 

I guess you could call this–
Experience based learning vs. Subject based learning
.
Meaning, I am basing their education around their actual experiences, instead of basing it on hitting specific subjects. The subjects are secondary.

So, with all this in mind….this is going to be an interesting year! I have a lot of great ideas and plans for this coming school year, using these stations as my framework. I will write another post specifically on how this is going to work, when I finish sorting it all out.

Homeschool Stations, www.HomeschoolRealm.comBut the gist of it is this:

The kids will work their way through stations throughout the week, with some stations required every day and some only on specific days. I will provide options at each station, so they will still be following their own interests, and have choices. The actual material covered for each station will come from the historical theme we are studying that month. And these themes are being chosen by the kiddos.

I asked my kids recently what time period they’d like to start with in the new school year, showing them the options in our Usborne Encyclopedia of World History, and they both immediately said “Prehistoric”. So we are starting with the broad theme of Prehistoric Times. And each week we’ll go through the prehistoric section of our Usborne Encycopedia and pick what specific details we’ll be learning about.

With this in mind, I’ll fill each station with activities and materials that fit within the specific subject we are on. At least as much as possible. Similar to a unit study, but with the activities being the prime framework instead of the school subject.

I’m excited to get started!! More details and pics to come!!

 
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POST NOTE: Check out my complete article on “experience-based learning” that I wrote later, once I had more time to hash it out and try it out.

Also come join our very active Facebook group: Homeschooling with Experience-Based Learning!

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