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101 Ideas to Add Spice to Your Homeschooling (or Afterschooling!) Days

Looking for new ways to creatively incorporate meaningful learning into your homeschool lifestyle? How about 101 of them?!

Make Learning Fun!

I came up with the following collection of assorted ideas, aimed to appeal to a wide variety of ages and interests. These are ideas I’ve compiled from a variety of sources and inspiration over the years. Whether you are a brand new homeschooler or a seasoned old-timer, hopefully you will find some useful tidbits! This list offers a sampling of some brief suggestions to get you started. I plan to offer additional information and resources about almost all of these ideas in the coming weeks, plus more ideas to come. (Yes, 101 is not enough!) I won’t be going down the list in order, though, so if there’s an idea here about which you’d like to see more info, let me know and I’ll get to it right away. Feel free to forward this link to anyone you think might enjoy it!

And now, without further ado:

101 Spicy Homeschool Ideas

  1. Move book-work outside for part of a day: use the great outdoors as your classroom. (Decks, patios, lawns, or even forests are great.)
  2. Light a candle, sing a song, recite a special poem or verse, say a prayer, or incorporate some other routine to commemorate the beginning of study time. Focus on making a special environment for your learning experiences.
  3. Take a walk in your neighborhood, to get the wigglies out and the blood pumping.
  4. Look for exciting and inspirational “Living Books” to replace or supplement dull or uninteresting textbooks. You can do this for topics in many subject areas: Math, Science, History, Geography, Music, Art, etc.
  5. Find out about your local economy first-hand. Visit and tour local businesses, factories, farms, etc., to see how different people in your area find employment.
  6. Fill a couple of grocery bags with non-perishable goods from your pantry. Let your kids make price tags for the items, and take turns “shopping” and being cashiers. If they are old enough, they can add up totals, make change, and more. This activity can often last for several afternoons!
  7. Have “Recess” at a nearby park, even if it is just an hour or so.
  8. Use the internet to track the progress of packages coming to your house. Plot out the route on a map.
  9. Play background music during study time (or any time!) to reinforce a warm and studious mood: classical, easy listening, flute, whatever works for you!
  10. Get some books on CD, instead of reading all of them yourself. (Libraries often carry these.)
  11. Get out Legos, K’nex, clay, etc. for kids to manipulate while listening to read-alouds.
  12. Buy coloring books or download and print out coloring pages related to your books. Let kids color while you read to them.
  13. Or, give them plain paper and crayons and let them go to town with their own designs while you read aloud.
  14. Start with an orderly environment to set the mood. Set the timer for 5 minutes and have a Lightning Round Clean-Up Mission before study time.
  15. Incorporate movement into your day. Let kids clap, stomp, jump, or twirl while spelling words aloud.
  16. Keep a folder for ideas and lists (like this one!). Clip or print suggestions and refer to the list when your day takes a turn for the worse or you need to get out of a rut.
  17. Encourage your child to keep a nature notebook or journal. Fill it with photos, drawings, and observations. If you look up specimens (online or in a field guide), be sure to label them in your journal.
  18. Bookmark or subscribe to blogs or websites (like this one!) that update with creative ideas and new suggestions. Refer to these periodically for added inspiration. (and help with implementation!)
  19. Learn with friends. Arrange to share lessons with another family or two, either on a one-time or limited basis, or regularly.
  20. Perform a play for friends or family. Use an existing story, or create a performance to go along with historical or geographic topics.
  21. Participate in National Novel Writing Month, held each November. Younger students (under 13 or so) can participate in the Young Writers’ version of the program. 100,000 people are expected to participate this year!
  22. Make a time scroll. Use butcher or wrapping paper as a backdrop. Mark time intervals using a Sharpie and a ruler. Draw or paste pictures and write text about historical events. Make one big scroll and/or shorter ones for individual time periods.
  23. Cook a meal to coordinate with a culture or geographical location that you are studying. Make it as authentic as you dare!
  24. Hang a large world map on the wall. Mark the locations of: settings of fictional and non-fiction books, movies, etc., events in world history, current events, locations of far-off friends and relatives, and vacations and other travel.
  25. Encourage a family culture of gratitude. Make time on a regular basis for family members to acknowledge some of the things for which they are thankful.
  26. Make a poster/collage with images and artwork that relate to a topic you are studying. History, Geography, Math, Science, Music – the possibilities are limitless.
  27. Write a letter or draw a picture for grandparents, to show them what you’ve been learning.
  28. Let your child keep a blog (private if necessary). It can be used to chronicle a special interest, or as a more general journal of everyday or educational activities.
  29. Find an online game or activity about a topic you are studying.
  30. Help your child get a penpal, either via email or snail mail.
  31. Let your child memorize facts while bouncing a ball, running, jumping, or riding a bike.
  32. Memorize rhymes and songs while pushing your child on a swing. The rhythm is perfect for that sort of thing.
  33. Decide on a Family Service Project. Involve all family members in helping the larger community in some way.
  34. Take digital photos of your projects and activities. Share with family and friends via an online service.
  35. Print selected photos of projects and activities to make scrapbooks, notebooks, or lapbooks about your learning adventures.
  36. Take a nature walk, to make firsthand observations of ecology, biology, and other science topics. (Don’t forget your sketchbook and/or camera!) Edit: See my follow-up article, 19 Can-Do Nature Walk Variations for more details about this option!
  37. Make a video (using family camcorder) about a topic you are studying. Record your kids performing a play, giving a “newscast”, or making a demonstration. Share it with friends and family.
  38. Make a “word wall” with new or tough to spell words affixed alphabetically. Add a few words each week. Practice spelling the words while clapping, jumping, etc. Use the wall as a reference during writing assignments.
  39. Keep some of your curricula for mid-year. When things get a bit dull, pull out a fun sticker workbook, interesting manipulative, or new math game. Or just set aside some of your educational budget for “mid-season additions”.
  40. Encourage your child to make “collections”. These are great for counting, sorting, classifying, etc. Think leaves, rocks, stamps, coins, toys, marbles, and yes, even trading cards.
  41. Buy a compass, and show your child how to use it. (Great for when you are studying maps or geometry.)
  42. Try letterboxing or geocaching as fun, inexpensive ways to practice geography and thinking skills.
  43. Check with your local park service to see what classes and workshops for kids are being offered. Often these are free or very low cost, and sometimes they are targeted directly at homeschoolers.
  44. Get a membership to one or more local museums, and visit often. (These are great gift suggestions for grandparents.) Learn more about the topics you are studying this year!
  45. If you are reading or learning about a play, opera, ballet, or other performance, try to go see it in person (student or homeschool discounts are common) or rent a video.
  46. Read a good book, and then watch the movie version. Discuss (or write about) the similarities and differences and which version you like better. You can even make a chart, if you like.
  47. If your children like to “beat the clock”, try timing them while they do math drills and such. Keep a graph or chart if they want to track their progress.
  48. Participate in editing a Wikipedia article for a topic about which your child is passionate.
  49. Let your older child teach your younger child something.
  50. Make a video or cassette recording of your child reading a book or reciting a poem. Send it to far away relatives or friends.
  51. Let your child do their math problems outside with sidewalk chalk.
  52. Help your child research the history of one of his or her favorite toys. (Barbie, teddy bears, Legos, etc.) Write or design a report, or make a presentation if you like.
  53. Help your child learn how to research the biography of a favorite sports figure, author, scientist, actor, etc.
  54. Make it easy to incorporate arts and crafts: Keep creative supplies handy: crayons, markers, scissors, tape, glue sticks, construction paper, paints, paintbrushes, clay, paper punches.
  55. Collect little empty pudding/jello/fruit cups to use for painting, sorting, and other projects. This will make set-up and clean-up easier, and thus that much more likely that you’ll actually do the projects.
  56. Pick up inexpensive rubber stamps at craft stores and dollar stores. Let your child decorate worksheets, reports, or artwork with them. Little ones also love to get a stamp on the back of their hand.
  57. Pick up some little inexpensive magnifiers, and carry them with you on nature walks. Use them to get close up views of leaves, grasses, bark, rocks, insects, seeds, nuts, pine cones, etc.
  58. Make up scavenger hunts, either for indoors or out. Use pictures for younger children, or write up a list for children who can read or are learning. They can check off each item as they find it.
  59. Practice handwriting or copywork by making a thank you, get well, or birthday card for a friend or relative.
  60. Use post-it notes to label lots of items in your house. Chairs, tables, sofas, doors, windows, cabinets, books, fireplaces, brushes, art supplies and more are all candidates. Practice reading the words.
  61. If you are studying a foreign language, use the same technique with the foreign words for each item. Works great for all ages, even adults!
  62. Using three ring binders, help your child create notebooks for your child’s studies that include: written work, drawings, maps, worksheets, brochures, tickets, receipts, articles, clippings, photos of projects, and any other information that you collect in the process of learning.
  63. Participate in the Flat Stanly project.
  64. Incorporate some lapbooks into your learning activities. These file folders full of activities serve as both a great way to learn and a unique way to document your learning activities.
  65. Take virtual field trips with Google Earth. If you are studying the American West, visit the Grand Canyon. Learning about European History? Check out the Eiffel Tower.
  66. Buy or make a calendar, and use it to track data like moon phases, high and low temperatures, precipitation, and length of day and night.
  67. Keep a journal or calendar to record seasonal occurrences such as the arrival of birds in Spring, appearance and then blooming of certain plants, the changes in trees throughout the year, first and last frosts, etc. Compare from year to year.
  68. Experiment with making your own small books and stories. Use a variety of formats and materials, and share with friends or family.
  69. Try your hand at making Artist Trading Cards. These can be free-form, abstract, or based on a particular theme. They can easily be incorporated into your educational activities, and are great for all ages.
  70. Encourage your children to operate a business, and allow them to assume as much financial and administrative responsibility as is age appropriate. Whether a one time exercise, or an ongoing proposition, this can be a good way to generate funds for a savings goal or to benefit a charity.
  71. Take part in the Great Backyard Bird Count, held each February.
  72. Use an online crossword generator to build your own puzzles with themes that match whatever you are studying. Great for beginning readers, as well as almost any Science, History, Geography, Art, Music, Math, or other topic.
  73. Download free audiobooks from LibriVox.
  74. Turn any gameboard into an educational game. Use your Chutes N Ladders, Candy Land, or other board, and a stack of: words to read, questions to answer, foreign language words to translate, math facts to figure, vocabulary words to define, and so on. Use a spinner or die, and if you get the top card correct, you get to go that number of spaces forward. Compete with other players, or race the clock to see how fast you can get to the finish.
  75. Play 20 questions with educational themes. For example Historical 20 Questions could be played by thinking of a person, place, or event from the past. Take turns asking questions to figure out who or what it is. You can focus the game on a specific topic if you want to review a particular time period, region of the world, or even a particular book that has been studied. Let the children select the items, too! Also try with Science, Art, Literature, and more.
  76. Encourage your child to construct a Squidoo page about a topic in which they are passionately interested. This makes a great family project, as well.
  77. Make a unique record of books you have read (either alone or as read-alouds). Take a photo of your child with each book as you finish. Let the child dictate or write a summary, review, or report of the book, and/or draw an illustration, and then add it to a notebook, scrapbook, file folder, or binder.
  78. Practice skip counting while jumping rope.
  79. Idea for parents with older children: Read a book together (free) via DailyLit. They will email each of you a 5 or 10 minute excerpt of the selected book each day. Discuss the book and your reactions with one another other as you go. Edit: For more info, check out my detailed post about DailyLit here.
  80. For the younger set: Subscribe to DailyLit’s Poems Every Child Should Know. Take a minute or two each day (or however often you desire) to read the next poem. Select a few favorites to memorize.
  81. Practice writing letters and numbers in sand. You can do this with your finger or a stick, and you can use the sand in your backyard, at the park, or on the beach.
  82. Write letters and numbers, draw pictures, or do math problems on a sidewalk, patio, or driveway, using nothing more than a bucket of water and a large paintbrush.
  83. Keep a bulletin board or a journal for collecting and/or displaying great quotes.
  84. Make a treasure hunt. Use any or all of the following: maps, clues, riddles, puzzles, codes, questions that must be answered to get the next clue, etc.
  85. Encourage your child to post Amazon reviews of some of the books they read. Provide assistance as age appropriate. Be sure to print out a copy for your notebooks.
  86. If you have room for a garden, set aside a small plot for your child to plan out, plant, care for, and harvest.
  87. Let your children record and track your gas mileage when you are on a long car trip.
  88. Use “I Spy” to practice colors or to practice beginning letters, depending on the version you play. For a Super Challenge, give older kids the ending letter as the clue!
  89. Make a vacation or travel scrapbook. This can be as basic or elaborate as you like. Include items such as: photos, maps, brochures, budget/expense information, information on museums, historical sites, etc. Also include drawings, narrations, journal entries, or writing assignments related to your travels.
  90. Join an online discussion group that encourages or focuses on creative homeschooling strategies.
  91. Periodically, select an interesting artist and look at samples of their work. Many of the world’s great works are available for viewing online at no cost. You may also be able to print out favorite selections for display, or to add to your notebooks.
  92. Pick a classical composer and listen to selections of his/her music online. Many libraries also have classical CD’s available for free checkout. If appropriate, you can also read a simple biography while you are becoming familiar with the music.
  93. Try letting your children create artwork while listening to a great piece of music. Let them pay attention to how the music makes them feel, and then express that on paper, in whatever way they like.
  94. Reenact a story, myth, fable, historical lesson, etc, with a puppet show. Make simple puppets with cutouts taped to craft sticks, or any other form you like. (Consider videotaping)
  95. On a large piece of paper, draw a simple family tree. Leave space for your child to draw illustrations of each family member.
  96. Older children can interview relatives to get information for a more elaborate version of the family tree. Include places and dates of birth, death, marriage etc, or whatever information is available, and go back as many generations as possible.
  97. Encourage your child to interview their grandparents, and document one or more stories from their past through writing, drawing, or video.
  98. Participate in a postcard swap. Be sure to track your postcards on a map!
  99. Incorporate knitting into your lesson plans. Great for practicing math, coordination, perseverance, and creativity. (And not just for girls, these days!)
  100. Arrange to visit a sampling of local places of worship and other community organizations. Great for learning more about your local area! This is a nice support group activity, as you can use contacts from the various members of your group to arrange meeting places.
  101. Seek out someone working in a profession of interest to your child, and arrange a chance for your child to discuss their career. If possible and age appropriate, see if your child can visit them at work, or even “shadow” for a period of time to see more about what the career involves.

Wow! Did you make it all the way through? Do you have any beloved ideas that I didn’t cover? I’d love to hear about them in the comments. Sharing ideas is one of my favorite homeschool activities!

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10 Comments, Comment or Ping

  1. Hi, April,

    This is my first time to visit your blog. I liked this post so much that I blogged a bit about it and linked back.

    How impressive that you’re 3rd generation home schooling!

  2. april

    Thanks for the link Sherry! I’m glad the list was helpful. I always tell people that being a 3rd gen homeschooling parent is only really helpful to the extent that I know deep down in my bones that homeschooling can work. Every child is so different, and my children are so different from how I was, that I’m finding I still have to figure most of it out as I go!

  3. Thank you so much for putting all this together. It was very informative.

  4. Great ideas. They help to change up the same old stuff. I have tried a couple and am going down the list. Keeps my children interested in learning.
    Thank You

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