One of my favorite parts of homeschooling is having the opportunity to do school in nontraditional ways. We love to get outside and explore the world in order to make learning come alive. It’s such a blessing to be able to take field trips and use our home days for different types of learning. As we all know, there are so many different types of learning styles. For some kids, learning outside helps provide a tactile environment that really makes any lesson easier to process.
So what are some easy ways to get outside more as a homeschooling family? How can you integrate the great outdoors into your daily, weekly or monthly schedule? After ten years of homeschooling, I still have to remind myself how important it is, and to just do it. Admittedly, sometimes it’s easier to just stay at the table. But it’s better to mix it up and just get outside.
1: Get Outside with a Field Trip
We love taking field trips! I’ve shared many of our favorites. And living in Orlando, there are so many amazing places to live. I recently shared a post about the best activities for kids in Orlando, besides theme parks. There are so many great options for affordable field trips that also incorporate nature. Have you looked into State Parks in your area? They probably have guided tours that you can arrange, or nature walks with a ranger. Call a friend or two and call it a field trip!
In order to have a “group” or enough numbers for a field trip, did you know that the minimum is usually just 10-15? Depending on how many kids you have, and how many kids a friend or two has, you can easily meet those group numbers! Remember to check for group discounts in advance of anywhere you might want to go.
And for field trips that get into nature, try local zoos, gardens, historical parks, and even mini golf! It’s amazing how much toddlers running and babies crying can barely be heard when everyone is outdoors. When you get outside, it allows everyone a little more freedom.
2: Bring school to your local park.
In almost all areas of the country, you can find a local park or playground near your home. This is such a simple way to get outside as a homeschooling family. When everyone is feeling a little cranky or a little stir crazy, pack up all those books, and head to the park! For my kids, it seems to work so well to have a great reward for finishing their work efficiently. When there’s an amazing playground right in front of you, how quickly might you get those spelling words done? Instead of just sitting at our dining room table as usual, we have the chance to learn together at a different table, while we also get outside. It’s a win for everyone!
When you visit your local park or playground, everyone also has the opportunity to get some more exercise than they might on an indoor homeschooling day. As the parent, you might even find yourself playing tag, or pushing a child on the swings. Everyone getting some additional exercise is an added benefit when you get outside more.
3: Do some volunteering in nature.
At each of the places I’ve already mentioned, there’s almost always a way to be of service. Even if it’s not a formal thing and it’s more of a good deed, there are ways to volunteer in nature almost everywhere. If you are homeschooling and you truly need a break from school, what about heading to a local park with some plastic gloves and a trash bag, and picking up some trash? Sure, there are probably some employees that are tasked with that job once in a while. But many outdoor spaces are government entities, and thus belong to you and me as citizens. What a great lesson to teach our children to clean up something for the good of us all, even when we didn’t cause the mess?
There are lots more ways to volunteer outdoors as well. You could walk a neighbor’s dog, help an elderly neighbor with yard work, or get involved with a building project in your area. With a little digging, even the youngest hands can be put to useful work while you get outdoors.
4: Get outside for a nature study.
I’m not an expert on nature studies. I absolutely love being outside, but I haven’t really managed to regularly work nature studies into that time yet. I hope to write more on this in the future, when I’ve had a chance to put it into practice. However, I have done some of the most simple things by gathering leaves and drawing them in a notebook. Or you can study the clouds that you see passing by. But the real nature study method involves keeping a nature journal over time. In this method, children learn to be observers of what they see, and to make note of it in their own way.
Do you do a nature study in your family? If so, I’d love to hear more about it in the comments on over on Instagram! For more ideas on this, you should also visit my friend Tania’s post on their family’s nature study.
5. Go in your backyard.
This is my simplest and most obvious suggestion, but it’s also the one that we actually use most often. If you are blessed enough to live in a home or an apartment that has any outdoor space near your front or back door, you can go outside with little to no effort.
Even in the time when we lived in a one bedroom condo in Miami, and had a view overlooking a parking lot, I spent a great deal of time on our small balcony with my infant son. There was something magical about just bringing him outside. No matter how colicky he was at the time, being outside worked better than anything. When we went outside, he would be instantly calmer, and happier. And that’s still true today, 14 years later. Being outside seems to bring calm to us all, even on the busiest days.
We have a great backyard, and we also have a porch with comfortable chairs. We spent a lot of time out there, and we often bring books and workbooks with us. Particularly when my five children need to spread out, they can find their own little piece of grass to read their latest novel or history book. It’s a joy to be together at home, but that also doesn’t mean that we need to always be within five feet of each other. When you get outside, you have more space to breath and to just be.