Sunday, September 12, 2010

(F)unschooling: Boxing up some learning fun!

I'm a firm believer that kids learn through play, and that this doesn't end after preschool. Maybe some day I will unschool. I think about unschooling a lot. I really like the philosophy, but I just haven't been able to fully embrace the concept. I find my kids (and myself) do better with a bit more structure. As a former classroom teacher I have a hard time letting go of a formal curriculum. We are using K12 this year which is a bit too structured and traditional-school-like for my taste, but I'm tweaking it to make it work. (EDIT: We left CAVA/K12 after 6 weeks)

I do however try to "funschool" as much as possible. While I often find myself in a rut, and only giving kids assignments that they "have to" do, I try hard to keep some fun in the mix. What is the point of homeschooling if you are just doing "school at home"? One of my main reasons for taking my kids out of school was because they were not having fun. It was really turning in to "learn this for the test". My kids love to learn and I'd like to keep it that way!

Switching over to using Workboxes really helped me to find time to "assign fun". It is easy to throw something fun into a box. I think when you have a box where you play with blocks, and another that tells you to go ride your bike, it can make that spelling box a little bit more bearable!

My kids are really creative and spend lots of time doing legos and playing outside. They don't really "need" me to "assign fun". However, it is great to include some of these things as part of the "school" day.

Here are some ways I put fun into our boxes and into our school day.

First, I'm most likely to put the fun stuff in if it is right there, ready to go. I have my little set of drawers where I keep a lot of supplies. I have drawers for math and language, science and games. Here is a peek into the drawers:

In this drawer you can see some letter cards and letter rubber stamps. Games like Scrabble Slam is fast paced, fun, and a great phonics practice or review. Lots of great homophones often come up in the game and it is a great time to ltalk about those. Bananagrams is both fun and educational. There are lots of ways you can play, and you can even make up your own games with the little letter tiles. (Bananagrams tiles also work great to practice spelling words).

Math: I have things like Math Dice, and cards to practice math facts by playing games. Very few kids just love to do page after page of math worksheets of multiplication facts. I know my kids don't! Instead we play games with cards and dice to practice those facts that they need to memorize.

Puzzles and Games: The kids really like puzzle type games. I think it is good to just get the brain to change gears and think in a different way.
These are easy to find, often pretty cheap, small enough to put into a Workbox and can often be played alone. A puzzle game that can be played with mom that we really enjoy is Blokus Duo. There is a frog hopper game with a deck of cards that gives different levels of challenges.

Activity cards, telling the kids certain physical activities to do are also great and help to break up the day. There are some you can download here, or you can make up your own.

Up on the shelf are some bigger items that I keep within reach.
They are in clear shoeboxes just like the Workboxes, so I stuck some velcro dots on the end and I can just put them right onto the child's shelf with a tag. I figure the more I can do ahead to make it easy for myself, the better! I have a collection of blocks and math manipulatives such as Cuisenaire Rods and Pattern Blocks.
The kids new favorite was handed down to us from a friend of mine: Wedgits. They love building with these blocks, and when I saw a pack of activity cards for them on clearance at a local toy store I got those to use in the Workboxes.

Here they are, both working hard with the Wedgits (even though only one of them had it as their Workbox). Everyone can join in on the fun!

Go through your closets and hit the yard sales and thrift stores. Before you know it you will have lots of supplies!


  1. we played Pandemic today. (germs and geography)
    Last was GLOOM and that had some fun vocabulary.

    we "quasi-unschool"

  2. Thank you! I really needed these ideas. My son has completed K and will begin 1st in January. We are on a break now because I am on bed rest after some preterm labor with our daughter (due around Halloween). I have been on a mission to keep him busy, but having fun and I especially love the looks of the Wedgits and Bananagrams!


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