Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Creative Learning

This past Friday I hosted (along with a friend) a one day homeschooling workshop at my church. Yes, it's a lot of work to put this sort of thing together, but this is my third year of doing it. Each year it has been vastly different (at least from my point of view) than the year before.

The first year I did this, it was a small group of moms - we had 15 ladies there. We met in a small church. Our "keynote speaker" was Diana Waring - via video. I did a talk on getting started & a friend did a talk on high school. We had a great discussion time. It was nice & relaxed. We had a used book sale & I even had a new book vendor there - which was a last minute addition. But it was fun & informative & relaxed.

Then I was asked if I was going to do another one. So I did. This time I contacted numerous vendors & got boxes and boxes of catalogs and handouts. I signed up a couple different vendors this time. I had a real live person for the keynote talks. I did a workshop on how to make learning more fun. My friend did another talk on homeschooling high school. I had a nursery that was out of control though & that made it hard for those of us with kids there or those trying to talk in the main room. I had double the attendance though. Again, it was a lot of work but a lot of fun.

Last year and this year I did the same talk different titles. Thankfully I had different folks attend each year. ;-) My talk this year was called "Creative Learning." I thought it would be nice to share it here since my sister is pretty sure I've been holding out on all my good thoughts. And if she thinks that, well, then maybe I am. Who knows?

What is Creative Learning?

Creative Learning is learning outside of textbooks. One of the things I stress in my talks is what learning can look like at home. It does not have to be sitting at a table or desk for six hours a day. It does not have to be textbook after textbook or worksheet after worksheet or busy work after busy work. Learning can be fun and I dare say that it should be!

I show up to the workshop with bags and bags full of toys, games, and books. All of them can be used for creative learning. One of the baskets I brought I refer to as "J's basket." It's full of things I have in there from last year for J to use during school time. He's actually been using his basket more and more this year than he did last year. If you'd like a peak in to his basket (like everyone at the workshop did!), you can click HERE to read the post I did about it at the beginning of the year. It still has pretty much everything show with the exception of some new games I've added.

A lot of what is in J's basket are activities from Preschool Activity Bags or similar ideas. I had participated in an activity bag swap a couple years ago so I had some really fun and neat ideas in his basket that I wouldn't normal have taken the time to put together. I did find some more ideas at a few other links. One is HERE and another is HERE. I do recommend using these bags simply because it allows you to set your toddler, preschooler or even older child down with some stimulating and fun activities to learn with.

Games! Now that is a great way to add some "fun" in to learning. There are oodles and oodles of fun games out there. I am going to attempt to share some of our favorites but I know I will leave out far too many of the good ones. Feel free to leave a comment on any that I didn't mention but only if it's a tried and true game at your house.
  • Sum Swamp It's a really fun (and quick!) math game. There are three dice used - two green number dice (and they use real numerals) & a +/- die. The player rolls all three dice, does the resulting math problem, and moves their piece around the board. It also teaches odd and even numbers.
  • Rat-A-Tat Cat This is a really neat card game. If you click on the link, it will take you to the game site where you can see a quick video on how the game is played. We actually play a version where the two end cards are face-up. It's a face paced game and even J can play it.
  • LCR dice game A fun way to learn left, right, and center (which is where the LCR comes from in the name). Now I will admit that I first learned of this game while away with my MIL for my SIL's baby shower (I think - we were away though). They were playing this at the hotel room but instead of using the chips, they used quarters. However, my kids love playing this with Skittles, or M&MS, or some other small candy. A word to the wise though, if you win, don't eat the candy! My kids handled it a lot during the game. LOL
Obviously these are just a few of the many, many games out there that can be used for fun and creative learning. Even games such as Candyland, Chutes & Ladders, Monopoly or Life teach something...counting, colors, making change, etc. I have a more extensive list on this Google Document which is the handout I use.

Another fun way to play games are with File Folder games. What? You don't know what file folder games are? Well, they are just like they sound...a game contained within a folder. Again, I have a bunch of these on hand as I found a group a few years ago that shared tons of free ones and I also participated in a swap. My new favorites though are from Integritas Academy. I even did a review of them.

In case you don't want to spend money to spend money to try them out, you can find loads of free ones on the Internet. A quick Google search with "free file folder games" in the title showed me these and these. Oh & if you join the e-mail list for Integritas Academy (scroll half-way down to see the sign-up box), you get to pick a free folder game!

Now we'll start looking slightly outside that box again. Lapbooks. I know, if you've been homeschooling more than a year and spend any time at all on-line, you've probably seen that term. A quick definition for this can be found over at Wikipedia. Another neat resource about how lapbooks work is found on Squidoo (an far too often underused resource for me). And if you'd like to see some photos of some my boys have made, you can click HERE.

I would be very remiss in discussing lapbooks if I did not mention Homeschool Share. This is an amazing source of free lapbooks. Every year they hold a HSS Blast contest where more new content is added. It truly is an amazing (and sometimes overwhelming) source of free learning. I would also like to point out their Unit Study section as well. It's also FREE! I feel that a family could easily use Homeschool Share to do all of their education - for free! Have I mentioned that it's free?

Lastly, I brought books. Lots and lots of books. But these aren't your run-of-the-mill textbooks or even reading books. These are fun learning books. I'm stressing the fun part. Here are a few of the titles, I own & use:
  • Math Fables by Greg Tang - Greg Tang is a wonderful math writer. Some of the other titles of his books are Math-terpieces which combine art history and math or The Grapes of Math.
  • Marvelous Multiplication: Games and Activities That Make Math Easy and Fun by Lynette Long and when I did the search on Amazon for the links I found out she has other books about division, decimals, and more.
  • Discovering Great Artists by MaryAnn F. Kohl & Kim Solga - This book is full of hands-on activities to teach children about various artists. Pssstt... I got this book through Paperback Swap!
  • Old Testament Days: An Activity Guide by Nancy I. Sanders - I'm admitting right now that I have not even opened this one yet, but it's full of hands on activities to bring home the full learning of what living in the Old Testament times would have been like. Again - I got this book through PBS!
  • Inch by Inch by Leo Lionni - This is a cute book that talks about measuring using an inch worm. The illustrations are wonderful as well.
  • Weights and Measures by Jerry Pallotta - Well, my book doesn't use Hershey chocolate, but it does allow me to mention that math with candy is a huge hit around here! You can count them, sort them by color, graph the results, do fractions, it's pretty endless and fun!
  • Family Math by Jean Kerr Stenmark, Virginia Thompson, and Ruth Cossey - This is truly a wonderful book to make math learning fun. It is full of game ideas to teach many different concepts. In fact, the egg carton/bean idea in J's basket came from this book. I highly recommend it!
For more thinking outside the box ideas for teaching math, I highly recommend Living Math. It's an excellent source to use "living books" to teach math rather than textbooks.

Learning does not have to be stiff and formal. Learning can be taking a walk through the woods and observing those things around you. It can be cuddling on the couch with your children as you read a good book to them outloud (we're currently working our way through the Little House on the Praire books - yes, even with boys). Learning can be spending the afternoon at the local art musuem observing and seeing paintings and discussing them - even with your youngest children. Learning should be fun and we as mothers (or fathers) should find those ways that make it so for our family. Teaching our children to enjoy learning is one of the best products of homeschooling and one of the best life skills we can teach them.


  1. What a great topic! And frugal too.

  2. I bet your talk was very much appreciated!


  3. I would have loved to be at your talk. :) It's very easy to get caught up in school at home mentality, so it's nice to see so many great ideas to keep things fun and fresh for the kiddos.

  4. Very nice round up of excellent resources and ideas.

    My kids do not want to do lapbooks much anymore but I'm glad you mentioned homeschool Share and their unit study area. I have used quite a few of their lapbooks but didn't ever try the unit study section. I will now!


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