How to Fit in Creative Hands-on Ideas

Commenting on my recent post “Make Memories with Hands-on Activities” a reader asked ~

How do you do it all and where do you get all your creative ideas from?”

As many other readers may wonder and ask similar questions, I thought I would answer in a full post.

Firstly, I DON’T “do it all”!  I think this post may describe my failings and fears of not getting it all done!  But here are a few simple strategies to plan and add hands-on activities and to create fun learning opportunities in our homeschooling experiences.

1.  Plan it 

Start with your year plan or the book index.  Look over all the main topics and themes in the schedule that may provide interesting activities and highlight them.  Add a few days to a week, or even longer for your activities, depending on the activity.  Usually I source (or create) a lapbook and a few quick hands-on activities for each theme.  We don’t always do them all, but I like to have some options planned.

Essentially I extend our 1-year schedule to 18 months or even 2 years.  I have NEVER regretted taking our time with extra hands-on activities, but have always regretted rushing on when there was still a sparkle of interest and enjoyment.  None on my children have ever fallen behind academically.  Carry on with the 3’Rs (Maths, Spelling, Phonics/Reading, Handwriting) according to their normal grade schedules and simply extend your core.  At first, you may feel anxious, but don’t worry.  You will find your rhythm and flow.

2. Pinterest  Pinterest Homeschool

Where did I find my ideas?  In my early years, I simply Googled the topics and themes for projects, plans, ideas and activities.  These days, Pinterest is a fantastic resource!  Type in your search topic and pin away! (Here are my Homeschool, Art, Famous Artists, Bible, Nature, Maths, English, Printables and Science boards.)

Practical Tip:  

While I search, I use Microsoft OneNote (here’s an online tutorial) to collect all my ideas so that I can work with them offline. Other folk swear by Evernote.  (Read the comparison between them here and here. ) OneNoteWhatever works for you is fine! 

I love OneNote because I can easily create tabbed notebooks and sub-tabbed pages.  OneNote automatically adds link and web addresses whenever you copy text or images.  I especially like the screen clip insertions as it gives me quick visuals of my searches.  OneNote  allows you to attach files, pages and portions from the Internet to the notepage, so everything is in one place and saved automatically. Later, I play around with my Internet finds and create my projects and pages.

3. Print & Prepare

After collecting my hands-on activity ideas, I create my pages and then print everything out and prepare the work.  After many years of homeschooling I have found all these time-saving tips for doing lapbooks that really work. We save time and avoid much frustration if we cut, fold and pack all the minibooks and store them in Ziplock bags, or better still, paste all the minibooks into the file folders ready for our lapbook sessions.  I file my lapbook planner with the index page and notes, all ready to whip out when we need them.

4. Promote it

Usually our hands-on activities are the best part of our theme.  My kids love to know what hands-on activities they will do with each new theme or topic. Introducing a theme with a hands-on activity is so stimulating!  But if we need to first do read alouds, narrations and notes, then the hands-on activity is a wonderful reward to complete the work.  If interest flags, or kids are tired, sick or unmotivated, hands-on activities revives our days.

5. Provide options  Science experiments2

Children have unique interests and learning styles.  I find that younger children need more physical activities, while older kids may prefer creative activities. One of my children is very shy, while the other loves to act out scenes and present puppet shows and speeches.  One is very visual, while the other loves listening.  One is very left-brained and logical, the other very fluid and right-brained.  Find activities that serve the individuals as well as the group.  Co-op with other families for added hands-on excitement!

When teaching several children together, (and I highly recommend moms combine their close-aged children on the same core) it is good to have options and allow the kids choose what activity they would prefer to do.  My kids notebook in individual ways, uniquely combining notebook pages with their minibooks, and I try to create pages and projects that are open-ended and flexible.

Many of our activities have started with an idea which the kids developed and fulfilled in ways that I did not necessarily anticipate.  The more I homeschool, the more I realize that my kids love to take an idea and run with it!  I am often simply a facilitator!  More and more, I am learning to let go and allow my kids to lead & take charge of their learning experience.

Whether your hands-on activities are “extras” or essentials in your homeschooling, please plan time for them, take your time and enjoy these homeschool moments!

Blessings,

 

World War II Notebook Pages, Maps, Timelines & Online Resources

An Observer Corps Spotter on a rooftop in London.

World War II

As with our WWI studies, I wanted to present a brief overview to World War II events, rather than to do a detailed study.  I felt that if any topic raised someone’s particular interest, we would delve into it a little deeper.

Most my children’s existing knowledge of World War II has come through movies.  As a family, we had watched a few WWII classic movies, such as the BBC’s  The Battle of Britain and The Great Escape and the modern release of Pearl Harbor.

I find that holocaust movies can be deeply disturbing.  We selectively guide our children’s viewing of these films.  We watched The Diary of Anne Frank  and The Boy with Striped Pyjamas.

For our History studies, I wanted to create a type of “skeleton” or framework on which they can attach all their existing and new knowledge.

Timeline activities and map work seemed the best method to use.

I spent several hours researching for online resources and there is a stack out there!

I use OneNote for all my web research and notebook preparation.  I simply copy and paste anything I find on the internet on One New Side Note.

What is wonderful about this Microsoft tool (part of the Office package) is that ~

1. it saves everything for you automatically

2.it automatically places the url hyperlink under the clip when you copy and paste a picture, quote, table or whatever.  I use these hyperlinks to go back to the original website or use these references to complete my lapbook organizer or bibliography with one click!

3. you can easily organize your notebooks, filing and creating sections, tabs and new notebooks as you go, or afterwards

Recommended Websites on World War Two:

For the best overviews:

History Animated

A brilliant website with animated maps, timelines and original audio recording, radio broadcasts and famous speeches.  Highly recommended!  Go here to view WWII in Europe and Africa with an outstanding animation of the Battle of Britian.  They also cover the entire WWII Pacific wars and include animated maps with audio of the Japanese Onslaught, America Fights Back and battles on various islands in the Pacific.

History on the Net

They have an excellent site with photos, timelines and free printable notes.  They also include some online word searches and quizzes.

CyberLearning-World.com

Work online on the excellent interactive map of WWII with more notes on the side.  (Excellent visual presentation)

History Of War Online

Here are stacks of links to maps, photos, documents, stories and even recordings of the war.

(I love audio recordings – great for auditory learners and learning with busy hands!)

BBC – History: World War II

With expandable index and excellent notes.

Timelines:

Maps:

World Leaders & Famous Speeches:

Audio recordings of soldiers, civilians and survivors:

Main battles and events:

Pearl Harbor: An excellent animated map of the attack at Pearl Harbor with audio and full click details on the images on the map. Pop back to my New Pearl Harbor Lapbook post

Free WWII Notebook Pages:

(Click the title for your free download)

These come in 3 different layouts.  We combine our minibooks and notebook pages.

I created a concertina-folded timeline to paste into our Book of Centuries.  This way the war “unfolds” 🙂 for the child  and gives them a bird’s-eye view.  This 9 page download comes with detailed timeline notes that the child can use to write their own time line events.

Children colour in the different countries according to whether they are Axis, Allies, Neutral and Occupied Territories on a world map.  Coloured map of Europe during the war is also included.

Enjoy!

Blessings,