5 Creative Ways to Include Hands on Learning while Homeschooling

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We didn’t start homeschooling to continue boring lessons, did we? Having the ability to include hands on learning in our every day homeschooling lessons was definitely one of the reasons my husband and I decided to pull our kids from public school.

With homeschooling numbers on the rise, new homeschooling parents all over the United States are on the search for effective (and cost-effective!) homeschool curriculum, homeschooling tips, inspiration and more. Now that my family and I are a few years into our homeschooling experience, I’m happy to share my homeschool experiences and suggestions with others in hopes that they’ll end up enjoying homeschooling just as we have.

Take a quick look around my blog and you’ll notice that my kids truly thrive when they have access to hands on learning experiences. Gone are the days of spending hours sitting behind desks while enduring seemingly repetitive (read: boring) lessons from musty textbooks. You’ll find none of that here! You will, however, find plenty of ways to make learning meaningful, memorable, & fun!

Today, I’m happy to share why hands on learning is so important, creative ways to include hands on learning, resources, and even a giveaway!

What is Hands on Learning?

When we provide “hands on learning” experiences for our kids, we’re basically giving them the opportunity to be directly involved in the learning process. In some cases, all 5 senses may be involved in hands on learning! Hands on learning allows kids to fully immerse themselves in their educational experiences as opposed to the typical traditional methods of learning that rely on passive absorption of information.

Why Include Hands on Learning while Homeschooling?

We could go on for days about all the reasons to include hands on learning in your homeschool days so, in an effort to get “right to the point,” I’m going to share 3 reasons to include hands on learning in your homeschool curriculum:

1. Information Retention & Understanding

When I was a teacher, I remember there being so much emphasis on making sure students did well on standardized testing. Even looking back on my days as a student, I can honestly say that I remember “learning” and cramming for tests with the goal of passing…not retaining. I love that, thanks to homeschooling, my kids aren’t pressured to perform well for tests and, instead, can focus on learning & retaining information!

Since hands on learning involves the whole body, our kids are able to take advantage of tactile experiences during their learning activities. Not only do they read about new-to-them concepts and such, but they get to directly interact with concepts and materials.

Think about your favorite meal. (we’re a foodie family, so of course I’m going to chat about food) Do you remember the text description of your meal or do you remember the aroma? The texture? The temperature? The taste?

Mm’hmm. That’s what I thought!

2. Problem-Solving & Critical Thinking is Encouraged

Hands on activities often require the individual (read: the student) to think critically, analyze situations, and solve problems on the spot. Being able to physically manipulate the contents of a lesson encourages kids to trust their instincts and apply prior knowledge.

In our home, for example, I love to include life skills activities however I can. At ages 10 & 12, my kids are fairly independent in the kitchen. They can make a variety of basic meals, know how to multiply and divide measurements for recipes, know how to safely operate various appliances, and can follow basic recipes on their own. Well, they were recently given a recipe for an “easy tiramisu” (my youngest developed a love of tiramisu after trying it on one of our cruises) and, instead of dissolving 2.5 Tablespoons of instant coffee granules in boiling water, they misread measurement for 2.5 CUPS of instant coffee granules. They were left with a gloppy coffee mess that didn’t look quite right. Problem solving & critical thinking led from realizing “oh no…something is majorly wrong” to “ok…this is what happened and what we need to do to fix the problem.”

What a wonderful hands on learning moment, right?!

3. Collaboration and Communication Skills

Hands on learning is typically not a solitary activity, so it definitely encourages collaboration between individuals. Since we don’t yet have the ability to read minds (hear that, kiddos?), working on a collaborative project both requires and strengthens communication skills like teamwork, negotiation, and leadership. Not only are these skills important during homeschooling activities, but having solid communication skills will help to set the kids up for successful future careers and relationships.

Homeschooling a single child? Please don’t worry. There are so many opportunities for learning and collaborating in groups (like co-ops) that your child will likely have plenty of chances for strengthening their communication skills with peers. They’ll also have plenty of chances to negotiate with you, too. My kids try to negotiate with me all.the.time.

How to Include Hands On Learning while Homeschooling

Just as there are seemingly numerous reasons to include hands on learning while homeschooling, there are many ways to incorporate it! As promised, here are 5 super easy ways to include hands on learning into your daily homeschooling schedule:

1. Science Experiments

My kids live for science experiments! When we first started homeschooling, I remember sitting them down and asking them “what would you like to do in Mommy School?” (this was back when they were tiny and I could give our activities cute names without being given a side-eye) My oldest immediately responded with “science!” There had been such emphasis placed on mastering all things reading & math (for standardized testing), that science had not been a big part of their public school experience. I was happy to oblige with this request!

We’ve conducted a number of science experiments on our own, but we’ve especially loved doing experiments with our Sonlight Science Kit because they come with nearly everything necessary to do the experiments. Just add a few household ingredients, like water or oil, and they’re good to go!

click here...to find your new homeschooling community in our FREE Facebook Group! That Homeschool Family Hangout. homeschooling our kids, one adventure at at time

Sonlight has a number of hands on science curriculum options available for learners between the ages of 5 and 18. If you have siblings that are close in age, you’ll especially love that the science kits are often for a suggested age range, allowing multiple kids to learn together while saving you money on homeschool curriculum supplies!

2. Math Manipulatives

Sure, the kids could learn their math facts by completing worksheet after worksheet, but where’s the fun in that? Including math manipulatives in math lessons allows kids to physically solve math problems and can be used to learn a variety of concepts in geometry, addition & subtraction, and more!

Sonlight makes learning with a hands on math curriculum a breeze by including math manipulatives in a number of their sets! To make sure you select the appropriate curriculum & level for your child, Sonlight even has free homeschool placement tests you can do with your kids before ordering your curriculum sets.

young boy holding a worksheet about the state bird of New Jersey with an drawing of the New Jersey State Bird
Didn’t he do a great job drawing the NJ state bird? This page was part of Sonlight’s 50 States Unit Study

3. Art Projects

Quite possibly one of my favorite ways to include hands-on learning in our homeschool days, art projects offer a number of options for kids to be creative and completely immerse themselves in an activity. Art projects can be a stand-alone activity or could even be offered as an opportunity to extend various lessons. For example, the kids could paint their favorite animal after a science lesson on animal habitats or construct a log cabin out of popsicle sticks after learning about the life of Abraham Lincoln. Not only will they strengthen their artistic ability, but the content they’ve learned will be more memorable!

4. History and Geography Lessons

Don’t just read a history book, bring history to life by doing role-playing activities, reenactments, creating dioramas, and more!

When I was in 8th grade, learning about the Civil War was included in my history class. My teacher would read aloud from the textbook, and have my peers read aloud from the textbook, but I honestly do not remember any of the content I was supposed to learn from that textbook. What do I remember? Besides writing and passing notes to my friends in class, I remember conducting a research project on my own and turning those findings into a diorama of a Civil War campsite. Complete with tiny little tents, Playmobil “soldiers” and faux grass, I actually won a trophy for my Civil War diorama.

The hands on experiences last a lifetime!

As a homeschool mom, I’ve done a number of hands on history and geography lessons with my kids including Sonlight’s U.S. Elections Lapbook and Sonlight’s 50 State Unit Studies. My kids and I all learned a lot from those activities and were encouraged to learn more about elections and the 50 states!

5. Field Trips and Educational Travel

One of the reasons we decided to homeschool was so we could have more time to travel with the kids. Why “just” read about a place when you could actually visit?! Taking advantage of field trip and educational travel opportunities encourage real-world exploration and learning that simply cannot be replicated in the 4 walls of a classroom.

Science museums, botanical gardens, restaurants, art museums, and historical sites are just a few (of many) places my kids and I have visited to either extend our homeschool lessons or “simply” learn something new.

A Sonlight Giveaway

Remember that U.S. Elections Lapbook I mentioned a bit ago? Well, Sonlight is being super awesome by hosting a giveaway! With the United States Presidential Election coming up this year, there’s really no better time for the kids to learn about the U.S. Elections through their hands on lapbook!

Go ahead and enter the giveaway now. Sonlight will select a winner on April 1, 2024 (and that’s not an April Fools joke!), so I’ve got my fingers crossed that one of my readers is the winner!

Hands on Learning for the Win!

There are so many ways to include hands on learning in homeschool activities, so I hope my suggestions will serve as some fun & easy starting points for you!

As always, if you have any questions about hands on learning or including Sonlight curriculum in your homeschool days, go ahead and email me! I’m happy to help you in your homeschooling journey.

PS: Sonlight has been known to attend homeschool conventions, so check to see if they’ll be attending a convention near you! That could be a great opportunity to get your own hands on experience with Sonlight curriculum!

Until next time, stay safe and enjoy quality time with family,

- Elizabeth (and the kids. and the husband. even the dog.)

Elizabeth Dukart is a proud Georgia-based born and raised Jersey Girl, wife, and mom of 2 human boys & 1 canine boy.

Created in 2021, Elizabeth owns and publishes That Homeschool Family: a free resource for homeschooling parents and beyond! A seasoned blogger, Elizabeth previously published a popular location-specific family resource blog, but decided to “Pivot!” her blogging focus after she started homeschooling her two boys in 2020. In addition to this blog, you can follow Elizabeth’s homeschooling and family adventures on Facebook, TikTok, Instagram, YouTube, and Pinterest. She can also be found in her Facebook Group: That Homeschool Family Hangout.

When she’s not busy taking over the world or homeschooling, Elizabeth can be found listening to music (especially The Beatles & Harry Styles!), being silly with her boys, watching movies with family, shopping, or traveling!

Have a question or want to work with Elizabeth? Send her an email!

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