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What Counts as Educational?

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What Counts as Educational?

As a homeschooler, I struggle with what counts as school. I know that may sound like an easy thing to figure out, but the lines are often blurred. There’s some education that happens outside of our formal curriculum and is important enough to count towards the 180 day legal requirement for days in school.

Last week we had two park days with friends, one full day of academic lessons (books and worksheets and more formalized learning experiences), one half day of academic lessons then errands, and one day of watching a Harry Potter movie and then visiting my mom (whereby my mother asked my older daughter what she learned in school today and she replied, “How to cast a Patronus charm.”). So what days did I count as being “in school?” I counted all of them (well, except the last day). And this is why…

The game called "Life" can be the best teacher for a particular moment.
The game called “Life” can be the best teacher for a particular moment.

Educational or Not?

Kids are learning at all times, not necessarily because they’re sitting down with books and worksheets and what not. Park days are the same for any kid, but if you break it down as lessons in forming and maintaining social connections, negotiations, physical exertion, and exercising spacial acuity, you can see how it’s educational as well as fun. I like to think of it as something akin to Field Day, but more kid-driven.

I’m pretty sure most away-school kids are not constantly working on academics when they’re in school. Sometimes learning goes slow and sometimes it’s intense. It’s the same at home. Some days we take it easier – curriculum wise – than others, but there’s still a whole lot of learning going on. I gauge the energy of my kids and adjust accordingly. It’s no fun trying to nudge a kid to diagram sentences or learn about the elements when they’re not receptive. Thus, we sometimes take a “half-day” of academics and do something else (like the park, or the library, or errands).


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Sometimes learning goes slow and sometimes it’s intense…but there’s still a whole lot of learning going on. It’s the same at home.

My girls, like most kids their age, are both very curious and full of questions, and we value that by really explaining things. Fortunately, my husband and I have a breadth of trivial knowledge and can answer most questions the girls ask. And, if not, we consult with Professor Google who offers up the answer. Which leads to more questions, which leads to more learning. We can do this on the spot and in the amount of detail our kids want because it’s a one-to-one teacher/student ratio. We always follow any “I don’t know” with “let’s find out…”

Sneaky Supplementary Stuff

On our easier days I also count any hours spent on what I like to call “supplementary” teaching aids. For instance, we were learning about early English history, so I found a book about Robin Hood at the library. I would read a chapter and we would talk about what was happening, I would define words they didn’t know, then we’d talk more about the chapter after we finished. Then they did some copy work from the text. It wasn’t rigorous academics (but then again, my kids are 6 and 9), but I know they got in some vocabulary, comprehension, narration and summary, and writing practice while they probably thought they were just listening to a story. Sneaky!

2 board games

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Then there’s all the online resources to supplement what we’re learning in our curriculum. We read about Ghengis Khan from The Story of the World, then we watched an entertaining Crash Course History about the Mongols that filled in the gaps left by SOTW (and they think they’re just watching something fun). We do this a lot to get different perspectives on a subject. And we then talk about the differences between the stories. A little bit bookish, a little bit not.

In the End…

It’s the difference between “Did we crack the books today?” or “Did we learn something today?” Learning – in whatever form – counts.

Looking for more topics about homeschooling, specifically in Huntsville & Madison County?
See all the posts in this series HERE.

View Comments (2)
  • Karen, although my three girls are grown, I still enjoy reading your homeschool articles. This one was particularly interesting to me, because that is how I homeschooled my girls! One of the book series we read was the “Little House” series. When the girls in the book made a crazy quilt, we made one too. When they ate buckwheat pancakes, we bought some buckwheat and tried that too. We even tried our hand at twisting hay and burning it, they way they did in the “Long Winter.” Thanks for sharing your insight.

  • Thanks, Carol! That sounds like a lot of fun! We try to do as many hands-on things as we can (but honestly, it seems like we don’t have enough time to do everything we want to).

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