Whether you live in a big community or a small one, there are numerous educational activities available that would help both you and your child. As a homeschooling parent, you should not let yourself be discouraged if you don't live near the Smithsonian museums in Washington, DC, or close to the San Diego Zoo in California. Your kids can still have the same cultural experiences as big city kids. Likewise, growing up in an urban environment shouldn't preclude children from experiencing the joys of learning about rural communities. Both lifestyles have interesting and educational opportunities.
For homeschooling parents, the trick is finding activities that children can learn and grow from no matter where you live. We've put together a few ideas on where to get started based on your current academic curriculum and geographic location.
Lesson: Learning About Science and Animals
Big City: Visit a zoo.
Taking your child to visit a local zoo is one of the best ways to help him actively engage in the study of biology and wildlife. For home schooled students specifically, taking part in a group experience at the zoo is a great way to encourage interactions with other children in a fun and exciting environment. Before going, check with your local zoo or wildlife reserve to see if there are any upcoming days when school groups will be visiting, and ask if your child can join a guided tour with another class. Further, many zoos offer camps where kids spend an entire day with zoo handlers doing activities and learning about various animals with other children. This would be a great way to get your boy activities involved with the community.
Small Town: Lending a hand at a local farm.
Of course, zoos aren't the only place where children can see animals up close. Taking your home schooled child to visit a working farm or ranch is an excellent way to see barnyard animals up close, while also learning about the hard work it takes to run a ranch on a day-to-day basis. To find a local farm in your community that would be willing to host a tour for your little guys, check with your local 4H extension office for recommendations.
Lesson: Developing an Appreciation for Art
Big City: Tour a museum.
For boys who live in urban areas, visiting a renowned art museum can be a highly educational experience. No matter what style or era you are currently covering in your home school curriculum, there is likely a major museum that has relevant pieces that your child would love to see for himself. As a way to save money, especially if you are joining together with other home schooling parents for a group trip, inquire at the museum about student discounts or free days when the museum opens its doors for youngsters to tour. Some museums – like Seattle's Museum of Flight or the Seattle Center – offer educational activities for kids. Talk to your local museums to see if your child can participate in any of these.
Small Town: Discover a local art studio.
Taking a tour of an artist's personal studio or work space can be both fun and educational for students of all ages. No matter what the size of your local community, many artists are willing to open up their personal studios for students to check out. If the artist is extremely generous, then he or she may even offer to give your student a personal lesson. For the best chances of success with a field trip like this, integrate the study of that artist's particular medium into your child's curriculum a number of days or weeks before the actual trip and help him prepare some questions to ask the artist during the studio tour itself.
Lesson: Studying Ocean Life and Marine Biology
Big City: See an aquarium.
Children of all ages love aquariums, and the opportunities to learn about marine life and biology are abundant. Rather than just letting your child run wild, give the experience a more educational focus by introducing a unit about ocean life and seas into your curriculum before going on this field trip. Like zoos and museums, many aquariums offer free or discounted rates on specific days of the week, and may offer larger discounts to groups of home schooled students who tour the aquarium together.
Small Town: Go tidepooling.
Just because your town doesn't have a local aquarium doesn't preclude your child from learning about marine life. Instead, take him to a nearby bay, river, lake, or pond—or whatever body of water is closest—and do some exploring. Seashells, sand, and rocks are just three examples of things that your son can collect and take back to the classroom to "test". Depending on your student's age, it may be appropriate to have him use visual clues to "classify" which type of seashell or rock he collected, based on the lessons laid out in his science books.
Lesson: Studying Business
Big City: Attend a career fair.
Most big cities offer fantastic career fairs. Although it may seem early for your child to start thinking about a future job, attending one of these fairs, speaking to local professionals, and touring various booths, can open your son's eyes to the many possibilities available to him. Before going, it might be a good idea to go over some of the jobs he may encounter. Afterward, before sure to engage him in conversation about what sparked his interest.
Small Town: Talk to local career professionals.
With the close knit communities of many small towns, it should not be hard to request job shadowing with some of the businessmen and women in the area. Job shadowing will allow you son to see how the working world works. Before the big day, make sure to discuss proper behavior and etiquette, as well as give him a bit of a background on the company and position.
Lesson: Learning About Geography.
Big City: Spend the day at the park.
It may sound simple, but you can learn a lot from local parks. Many cities have large parks with great hikes. Here you can observe the formation of the area, the native plants and animals, and why it is important for big cities to have parks within the city limits. Also, many parks offer group activities for small children. Look into this through your local park ranger's office.
Small Town: Go on a hike.
A great way to experience geography first hand is to go on a long hike. While hiking, you can take the opportunity to explain to your child why the land is formed in that particular way. Since most hikes end at a high lookout point, you should have an excellent opportunity to explain the land mass presented before you. Further, this is a fantastic way to learn about local plants and animals. Have your son collect plant samples on the way. A fun activity for later might be to go back to your house and analyze his findings.
Lesson: Learning about Other Cultures
Big City: Go to a restaurant that does not serve American food.
Many children never have the privilege of experiencing food from other cultures. Living in a big city, you can find lots of restaurants that will provide excellent learning experiences for your child. Introduce your son to Sushi for the first time! Let him try an authentic Vietnamese sandwich. Go out for Dim Sum. Attend an Indian buffet. All of these lunches and dinners will provide excellent openings for conversations about other cultures.
Small Town: Cook with your son.
Your town may not have the cultural cuisine of other countries, but that doesn't mean you can't cook some yourself! One day, plan a meal from another part of the world with your son. You can go out and shop for the ingredients together and make the entire feast from scratch. Not only with this help your son understand another culture, but it will spur conversation on the countries' local foods, native ingredients, and history.
Lesson: Experience the Theater
Big City: Go see a musical, ballet, play, or concert.
Most big cities have fantastic performance arts. Take advantage. Take your son to go see one of a variety of theatrical performances. Not only will this expose your child to new art forms, it may inspire him to learn a musical instrument or perform on his own. Before attending the show, it's often a good idea to go over the play or musical with small children. This way they will understand the story and be able to really embrace the performance.
Small Town: Put on a show yourself!
If there isn't a local theater in your town, take matters into your own hands. Help your son write and perform a Thanksgiving play. Act out a scene from Julius Caesar with him. This may also be a fantastic way to incorporate other children into your son's world. Speak with the neighbors about possibly getting involved. Not only will this help your child learn to speak well in public, it will also be a fun and enriching experience.
As you've seen, parents of homeschooled children don't have to let the size of their local community dictate the education their sons receive. Whether your hometown is urban or rural, there are abundant activities available to help solidify the lessons your son is learning at home, just so long as you are creative and resourceful enough to find them!
Article written by guest author, Stephanie Meyer, freelance writer at Guide to Online Schools.