Hands-On Learning
by: Nancy Manos

HANDS-ON LEARNING

Part One of a Three-Part Series

by Nancy Manos

In chatting with some homeschool moms several years ago, the question came up, “How do you motivate your kids to do their schoolwork?” 

One woman shared frustration over constantly battling with her son. She would send him to his room everyday to do his schoolwork, and when she checked on him later she would find that he had hardly accomplished anything at all.  Some of the other ladies expressed having similar experiences in their homes.

I quickly realized that these really sweet, well-intentioned moms were missing the heart of home education. They were mistakenly equating education with completed workbooks.  What was missing was the opportunity for rich learning experiences and the relationship-building interaction homeschooling can provide.

Thinking about my own family’s homeschool journey and what has helped us to thrive, I recognized the stark contrast between a home where completing curriculum is the goal versus a home where learning is a hands-on, multi-sensory, interactive adventure.

Yes, our children still need to complete their math problems and reading assignments, but there is a way to create an atmosphere where the joy of discovery and the thrill of deeper understanding are common in our homes.

You’ve undoubtedly heard the William Butler Yeats quote, “Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.” The goal of our home education experience should not be to cram a particular set of information into our children’s brains.  Rather, when we waken interest and kindle enthusiasm, our children can develop a great love of learning that will last a lifetime. 

An amusingly descriptive quote by Arthur Prince goes like this, 

“Education which is simply intellectual taxidermy – the scooping out of the mind
and the stuffing in of facts – that kind of education is worthless.  The human mind is not
a deep-freeze for storage; the human mind is a forge for production.”

A love of learning coupled with an understanding that a child is created by God, and that He has a plan for his or her life, will provide a solid foundation of inspiration and purpose in each child.  There are no limits to what one can become or achieve in this kind of environment.

We can avoid the trap of being consumed with “doing school” and instead focus on developing the love of learning in our children by incorporating hands-on learning in our daily home education enterprise.

HANDS-ON LEARNING IS MULTI-SENSORY

We were created to experience the world around us through our senses.  Look for ways to incorporate the five senses ... touch, taste, smell, hearing, and sight ... whenever possible.  

INCORPORATE MULTIPLE LEARNING STYLES

It’s helpful to know your child’s learning style so that you can find curriculum and present information to them in the way that will be most easily received for them.  It’s also important to expose your child to all three styles of learning.  The more ways they encounter information, the more apt they are to learn it, and the more adept they will be at receiving instruction in various forms.

AUDITORY

Do things that involve the student listening and also speaking.

VISUAL

Do things that involve the student seeing 

as well as representing in visual form. 

(drawing, painting, writing)

KINESTHETIC

Do things that involve physical movement and touch.

TEACH CHILDREN TOGETHER WHENEVER POSSIBLE

If you have more than one child, look for opportunities to teach them together.  History, science, and literature are excellent subjects for teaching children of varying ages. 

If you’re all learning about Ancient Egypt, for example, you can simply create more challenging, in-depth assignments for older children, while having younger children do activities that are appropriate for their age and ability.  

Teaching children together saves preparation time and makes learning even more fun because it is something you are sharing as a family!

READ ALOUD TO YOUR CHILDREN REGULARLY

In all my years of homeschooling, this was one of the most revolutionary ideas for me!  I had wrongly assumed that once my children learned to read, my reading aloud days were over. Thankfully, this notion was challenged early on by a friend of mine!  

Even up into their teen years, I have read aloud to my girls.   We have shared quite an adventure together reading biographies and other great books this way. 

Select some quiet activities to have available for your children to do while you read to them. My girls often enjoyed working on a project while I read (painting, drawing, knitting, making collages, etc.).  

Reading aloud works well with children of varying ages. It helps expose younger children to new vocabulary and they have opportunity to enjoy literature that may be beyond their current reading levels. I regularly read books aloud that went with whatever we were studying for history. 

INCORPORATING HANDS-ON ACTIVITIES INFUSES A LOVE OF LEARNING

Learning with lots of hands-on activities is a bit like making pickles!  If you take a cucumber and dip it quickly into a bowl of vinegar, the cucumber might have a little vinegar on its skin, but it will remain unchanged. But when you soak a cucumber in a salty brine and spices, heating it and cooling it, and letting it sit for a period of time in that mixture, the cucumber becomes infused with those flavors, changing it into a new creation—the pickle.

Incorporating hands-on learning activities helps us infuse our children with the love of learning and a broader understanding of a topic as they are exposed to information in more and varied ways.  

The act of reading a chapter and answering questions, for most children, is like being dipped in the information quickly and then removed. Minimal saturation occurs.   If they read it, talk about it, re-tell it, paint about it, play a game about it, taste it, hear music associated with it, and get to show someone else how it works, that knowledge becomes part of their being—useable and alive.  

For the majority of human beings, the following statement holds true:

I hear and I forget.

I see and I remember. 

 I do and I understand.  

If I watch someone build a birdhouse, I’ve witnessed a demonstration.  If I get the chance to build one myself, I’ve gained understanding and skill.

We make our job as homeschooling parents easier when we teach in a way that sparks interest and enthusiasm in our children.  

You don’t need to invest a lot of time or money to make your homeschool experience a rich adventure. Look for little ways along the way to make learning a joy for your child. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes!

Nancy Manos has been serving on the board of directors of Arizona Families for Home Education (AFHE) with her husband, James, since 2004. Nancy and James have two daughters whom they homeschooled through high school. The Manos’ home education journey was a rich, rewarding, sometimes challenging experience, and Nancy is passionate about encouraging others in the homeschool adventure.

HANDS-ON LEARNING

Part Two of a Three-Part Series

by Nancy Manos

There are an unending number of activities you can incorporate into your home education adventure with very little preparation, time, or money!  Even if you’re not especially creative, don’t despair. This list will inspire you and get your creative juices flowing.  Use these suggestions as a springboard to find resources at the library or on the Internet that will give you more specific ideas and directions.  

MOTION-BASED ACTIVITIES

Motion-based activities are perfect for the kinesthetic learner or a child with lots of energy!  

Marching, Rolling, Jumping, Bouncing a Ball

Have your children say their math facts (skip counting, times tables, etc.), spell their spelling words, or answer questions while marching, rolling, jumping, or bouncing a ball.     

One of my girls’ favorite activities when they were learning phonics was “Tumbling with Mom.” We would pick a word ending like “at” and then take turns doing a forward roll on the carpet while adding a letter and making a word (cat, bat, sat, rat) until we couldn’t think of any more words with that ending. What they loved most was that I wasn’t on the sidelines watching them; I was doing it WITH them.   

Shooting Baskets

Have your child answer a question then toss an object into a basket. The object could be a ball, small stuffed animal, bean bag, or rolled up pair of socks; the basket an empty box, a laundry basket, a plastic bin, etc.    

Felt Shapes

Felt is an inexpensive material that can be used for myriad activities. Use a permanent marker to write numbers, letters, facts, etc. on pieces of felt. Call out a question and have the child jump onto the correct answer.  You can attach pieces of adhesive-backed Velcro® to a ping pong ball and have your child toss the ball onto the felt squares. The Velcro® will cause the ball to stick to the felt. This would be a great way to learn the books of the Bible in order, for example. 

REVIEW GAME AND WORD GAME IDEAS

Anytime you can review what you’re learning in a fun, creative way the more apt your child is to remember it.

Concentration

A game of Concentration is a great way to reinforce vocabulary. Write each vocabulary word and definition on separate pieces of cardstock or index cards – use one color paper for vocabulary words and another color for definitions. Place the cards face down on the floor or table – definitions in one area, vocabulary words in another – and take turns choosing one of each to try to make a match.  

Create a Word Puzzle

A favorite review exercise at our house was for the girls to take their vocabulary words and create a crossword puzzle or word search (plus answer key) on graph paper. We made photocopies of the puzzles for Dad and others to solve.  

Create a Board Game

Let your children use a piece of posterboard or cardboard and other art supplies to create a board game. They can compose question cards that go with a topic they are studying.   Designing the game board layout and rules of play helps them learn strategy and organization as well.

Pictionary, Scattergories, Trivial Pursuit

These are examples of board games you can play with words pertaining to what you’re studying.  If you have any of these games, go through the cards and find ones that go with your topic, or you can create your own cards. Then play the game according to the rules using those cards you’ve selected or made.

Sorting Games

Younger children can learn to sort and sequence (smallest to largest, shortest to tallest, lightest to darkest, smoothest to roughest, etc.) using household objects, food, clothing,  toys, and objects from nature.

Bingo

Create Bingo cards to go with a topic or theme. For example, your children could use stickers to create Animal Bingo cards, putting a different animal sticker in each box. You can create a grid on the computer or draw one by hand with as many boxes as you like. Nine to twelve boxes works well for younger children, and 16-25 boxes for older students. We often played Preposition Bingo with our girls when they were learning grammar. I would give them a blank Bingo grid and they would write prepositions they chose from a list that I would provide. I used the list to call off prepositions until someone got Bingo. To make your Bingo cards reusable, give your children little candies (a roll of Smarties works really well), cereal such as Cheerios, or plastic counters to mark the spots that have been called.   

Songs

There are a number of good resources available for using songs to reinforce concepts and facts - or you can make up your own. Examples include multiplication, skip counting, addition, subtraction, etc. There is also a really good product called Lyrical Life Science that puts science information to familiar (and some not-so-familiar) tunes.

Words-within-a-Word

Words-within-a-Word is a great language exercise. Choose a long word or a short phrase that goes with what you’re studying (such as “The Human Body” or “The Declaration of Independence” or “Metamorphosis”). Set a timer for 2-5 minutes and have each person make a list of as many words as they can find using the letters in that word or phrase. Each letter may only be used once (i.e. if there are three E’s, then only three E’s may be used in any one new word).

Memorization Game

This is a very easy way to help children memorize a Bible verse, quote, or other saying. Write each word on an individual index card. Tape the cards to a wall, door, or other flat surface. Read the entire verse together out loud a few times.   Then, one at a time, start removing the cards. (The cards do not necessarily have to be removed in order – a student can remove a card from anywhere in the saying.) Say the entire verse out loud after each card is removed until all of the cards are gone. If you have several children, have them take turns removing cards. At the end, have them say the verse together without any visual cues, and then see if they can put the cards back up in the correct order.

Jeopardy

A favorite review game for the end of a study is to make a Jeopardy game.  Create categories and 4 or 5 questions for each category, giving each question a point value (100, 200, 300) with the lower point value questions being easier and the higher point questions a bit harder. Tape the cards to a wall with the point value side facing out (questions hidden) and have your children take turns asking for and answering questions (“I’d like Invertebrates for 400, please.”).  Jeopardy is a great review game for the end of a co-op, too. For a study on the human body, for example, categories might be The Integumentary System, The Skeletal System, and The Circulatory System. Or for U.S. Geography, the categories might be Landmarks, Notable People, and Capital Cities.   

Nancy Manos has been serving on the board of directors of Arizona Families for Home Education (AFHE) with her husband, James, since 2004. Nancy and James have two daughters whom they homeschooled through high school. The Manos’ home education journey was a rich, rewarding, sometimes challenging experience, and Nancy is passionate about encouraging others in the homeschool adventure.

HANDS-ON LEARNING

Part One of a Three-Part Series

by Nancy Manos

In chatting with some homeschool moms several years ago, the question came up, “How do you motivate your kids to do their schoolwork?” 

One woman shared frustration over constantly battling with her son. She would send him to his room everyday to do his schoolwork, and when she checked on him later she would find that he had hardly accomplished anything at all.  Some of the other ladies expressed having similar experiences in their homes.

I quickly realized that these really sweet, well-intentioned moms were missing the heart of home education. They were mistakenly equating education with completed workbooks.  What was missing was the opportunity for rich learning experiences and the relationship-building interaction homeschooling can provide.

Thinking about my own family’s homeschool journey and what has helped us to thrive, I recognized the stark contrast between a home where completing curriculum is the goal versus a home where learning is a hands-on, multi-sensory, interactive adventure.

Yes, our children still need to complete their math problems and reading assignments, but there is a way to create an atmosphere where the joy of discovery and the thrill of deeper understanding are common in our homes.

You’ve undoubtedly heard the William Butler Yeats quote, “Education is not the filling of a bucket, but the lighting of a fire.” The goal of our home education experience should not be to cram a particular set of information into our children’s brains.  Rather, when we waken interest and kindle enthusiasm, our children can develop a great love of learning that will last a lifetime. 

An amusingly descriptive quote by Arthur Prince goes like this, 

“Education which is simply intellectual taxidermy – the scooping out of the mind
and the stuffing in of facts – that kind of education is worthless.  The human mind is not
a deep-freeze for storage; the human mind is a forge for production.”

A love of learning coupled with an understanding that a child is created by God, and that He has a plan for his or her life, will provide a solid foundation of inspiration and purpose in each child.  There are no limits to what one can become or achieve in this kind of environment.

We can avoid the trap of being consumed with “doing school” and instead focus on developing the love of learning in our children by incorporating hands-on learning in our daily home education enterprise.

HANDS-ON LEARNING IS MULTI-SENSORY

We were created to experience the world around us through our senses.  Look for ways to incorporate the five senses ... touch, taste, smell, hearing, and sight ... whenever possible.  

INCORPORATE MULTIPLE LEARNING STYLES

It’s helpful to know your child’s learning style so that you can find curriculum and present information to them in the way that will be most easily received for them.  It’s also important to expose your child to all three styles of learning.  The more ways they encounter information, the more apt they are to learn it, and the more adept they will be at receiving instruction in various forms.

AUDITORY

Do things that involve the student listening and also speaking.

VISUAL

Do things that involve the student seeing 

as well as representing in visual form. 

(drawing, painting, writing)

KINESTHETIC

Do things that involve physical movement and touch.

TEACH CHILDREN TOGETHER WHENEVER POSSIBLE

If you have more than one child, look for opportunities to teach them together.  History, science, and literature are excellent subjects for teaching children of varying ages. 

If you’re all learning about Ancient Egypt, for example, you can simply create more challenging, in-depth assignments for older children, while having younger children do activities that are appropriate for their age and ability.  

Teaching children together saves preparation time and makes learning even more fun because it is something you are sharing as a family!

READ ALOUD TO YOUR CHILDREN REGULARLY

In all my years of homeschooling, this was one of the most revolutionary ideas for me!  I had wrongly assumed that once my children learned to read, my reading aloud days were over. Thankfully, this notion was challenged early on by a friend of mine!  

Even up into their teen years, I have read aloud to my girls.   We have shared quite an adventure together reading biographies and other great books this way. 

Select some quiet activities to have available for your children to do while you read to them. My girls often enjoyed working on a project while I read (painting, drawing, knitting, making collages, etc.).  

Reading aloud works well with children of varying ages. It helps expose younger children to new vocabulary and they have opportunity to enjoy literature that may be beyond their current reading levels. I regularly read books aloud that went with whatever we were studying for history. 

INCORPORATING HANDS-ON ACTIVITIES INFUSES A LOVE OF LEARNING

Learning with lots of hands-on activities is a bit like making pickles!  If you take a cucumber and dip it quickly into a bowl of vinegar, the cucumber might have a little vinegar on its skin, but it will remain unchanged. But when you soak a cucumber in a salty brine and spices, heating it and cooling it, and letting it sit for a period of time in that mixture, the cucumber becomes infused with those flavors, changing it into a new creation—the pickle.

Incorporating hands-on learning activities helps us infuse our children with the love of learning and a broader understanding of a topic as they are exposed to information in more and varied ways.  

The act of reading a chapter and answering questions, for most children, is like being dipped in the information quickly and then removed. Minimal saturation occurs.   If they read it, talk about it, re-tell it, paint about it, play a game about it, taste it, hear music associated with it, and get to show someone else how it works, that knowledge becomes part of their being—useable and alive.  

For the majority of human beings, the following statement holds true:

I hear and I forget.

I see and I remember. 

 I do and I understand.  

If I watch someone build a birdhouse, I’ve witnessed a demonstration.  If I get the chance to build one myself, I’ve gained understanding and skill.

We make our job as homeschooling parents easier when we teach in a way that sparks interest and enthusiasm in our children.  

You don’t need to invest a lot of time or money to make your homeschool experience a rich adventure. Look for little ways along the way to make learning a joy for your child. You’ll be amazed at the difference it makes!

Nancy Manos has been serving on the board of directors of Arizona Families for Home Education (AFHE) with her husband, James, since 2004. Nancy and James have two daughters whom they homeschooled through high school. The Manos’ home education journey was a rich, rewarding, sometimes challenging experience, and Nancy is passionate about encouraging others in the homeschool adventure.

HANDS-ON LEARNING

Part Two of a Three-Part Series

by Nancy Manos

There are an unending number of activities you can incorporate into your home education adventure with very little preparation, time, or money!  Even if you’re not especially creative, don’t despair. This list will inspire you and get your creative juices flowing.  Use these suggestions as a springboard to find resources at the library or on the Internet that will give you more specific ideas and directions.  

MOTION-BASED ACTIVITIES

Motion-based activities are perfect for the kinesthetic learner or a child with lots of energy!  

Marching, Rolling, Jumping, Bouncing a Ball

Have your children say their math facts (skip counting, times tables, etc.), spell their spelling words, or answer questions while marching, rolling, jumping, or bouncing a ball.     

One of my girls’ favorite activities when they were learning phonics was “Tumbling with Mom.” We would pick a word ending like “at” and then take turns doing a forward roll on the carpet while adding a letter and making a word (cat, bat, sat, rat) until we couldn’t think of any more words with that ending. What they loved most was that I wasn’t on the sidelines watching them; I was doing it WITH them.   

Shooting Baskets

Have your child answer a question then toss an object into a basket. The object could be a ball, small stuffed animal, bean bag, or rolled up pair of socks; the basket an empty box, a laundry basket, a plastic bin, etc.    

Felt Shapes

Felt is an inexpensive material that can be used for myriad activities. Use a permanent marker to write numbers, letters, facts, etc. on pieces of felt. Call out a question and have the child jump onto the correct answer.  You can attach pieces of adhesive-backed Velcro® to a ping pong ball and have your child toss the ball onto the felt squares. The Velcro® will cause the ball to stick to the felt. This would be a great way to learn the books of the Bible in order, for example. 

REVIEW GAME AND WORD GAME IDEAS

Anytime you can review what you’re learning in a fun, creative way the more apt your child is to remember it.

Concentration

A game of Concentration is a great way to reinforce vocabulary. Write each vocabulary word and definition on separate pieces of cardstock or index cards – use one color paper for vocabulary words and another color for definitions. Place the cards face down on the floor or table – definitions in one area, vocabulary words in another – and take turns choosing one of each to try to make a match.  

Create a Word Puzzle

A favorite review exercise at our house was for the girls to take their vocabulary words and create a crossword puzzle or word search (plus answer key) on graph paper. We made photocopies of the puzzles for Dad and others to solve.  

Create a Board Game

Let your children use a piece of posterboard or cardboard and other art supplies to create a board game. They can compose question cards that go with a topic they are studying.   Designing the game board layout and rules of play helps them learn strategy and organization as well.

Pictionary, Scattergories, Trivial Pursuit

These are examples of board games you can play with words pertaining to what you’re studying.  If you have any of these games, go through the cards and find ones that go with your topic, or you can create your own cards. Then play the game according to the rules using those cards you’ve selected or made.

Sorting Games

Younger children can learn to sort and sequence (smallest to largest, shortest to tallest, lightest to darkest, smoothest to roughest, etc.) using household objects, food, clothing,  toys, and objects from nature.

Bingo

Create Bingo cards to go with a topic or theme. For example, your children could use stickers to create Animal Bingo cards, putting a different animal sticker in each box. You can create a grid on the computer or draw one by hand with as many boxes as you like. Nine to twelve boxes works well for younger children, and 16-25 boxes for older students. We often played Preposition Bingo with our girls when they were learning grammar. I would give them a blank Bingo grid and they would write prepositions they chose from a list that I would provide. I used the list to call off prepositions until someone got Bingo. To make your Bingo cards reusable, give your children little candies (a roll of Smarties works really well), cereal such as Cheerios, or plastic counters to mark the spots that have been called.   

Songs

There are a number of good resources available for using songs to reinforce concepts and facts - or you can make up your own. Examples include multiplication, skip counting, addition, subtraction, etc. There is also a really good product called Lyrical Life Science that puts science information to familiar (and some not-so-familiar) tunes.

Words-within-a-Word

Words-within-a-Word is a great language exercise. Choose a long word or a short phrase that goes with what you’re studying (such as “The Human Body” or “The Declaration of Independence” or “Metamorphosis”). Set a timer for 2-5 minutes and have each person make a list of as many words as they can find using the letters in that word or phrase. Each letter may only be used once (i.e. if there are three E’s, then only three E’s may be used in any one new word).

Memorization Game

This is a very easy way to help children memorize a Bible verse, quote, or other saying. Write each word on an individual index card. Tape the cards to a wall, door, or other flat surface. Read the entire verse together out loud a few times.   Then, one at a time, start removing the cards. (The cards do not necessarily have to be removed in order – a student can remove a card from anywhere in the saying.) Say the entire verse out loud after each card is removed until all of the cards are gone. If you have several children, have them take turns removing cards. At the end, have them say the verse together without any visual cues, and then see if they can put the cards back up in the correct order.

Jeopardy

A favorite review game for the end of a study is to make a Jeopardy game.  Create categories and 4 or 5 questions for each category, giving each question a point value (100, 200, 300) with the lower point value questions being easier and the higher point questions a bit harder. Tape the cards to a wall with the point value side facing out (questions hidden) and have your children take turns asking for and answering questions (“I’d like Invertebrates for 400, please.”).  Jeopardy is a great review game for the end of a co-op, too. For a study on the human body, for example, categories might be The Integumentary System, The Skeletal System, and The Circulatory System. Or for U.S. Geography, the categories might be Landmarks, Notable People, and Capital Cities.   

Nancy Manos has been serving on the board of directors of Arizona Families for Home Education (AFHE) with her husband, James, since 2004. Nancy and James have two daughters whom they homeschooled through high school. The Manos’ home education journey was a rich, rewarding, sometimes challenging experience, and Nancy is passionate about encouraging others in the homeschool adventure.

 


This is a 3-part series of articles, each about 1,200 words in length, that may be used individually or published as a series. Please contact Nancy when reprinting in your publication, manos@afhe.org