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Step Into Spring: 6 Ways to Work the Outdoors Into Your Homeschool Day

by David Engle | Mar 15, 2021 | 5 min read

The arrival of spring is always a welcome one–perhaps never more so than this year. During most “normal” winters, the cold, gray weather (in many parts of the country, anyway) keeps us cooped up indoors, staring out the window while longing for leaves on trees, warm breezes, the chorus of singing birds, and the much-needed infusion of vibrant colors to the landscape. Or maybe that’s just me.

This spring, in particular, might go down as the most anticipated in any of our lifetimes, as we’ve all been reeling and semi-quarantining for what seems like an eternity now. Not only does this spring bring all of the associated sights and sounds I alluded to, but it ushers in hope and anticipation of a greater sense of freedom that seems to be just around the corner. We’ve arrived at nearly the exact one-year “anniversary” of COVID-19 turning our lives upside down and redefining what normal is for every single person on the planet.

But as we quickly approach the first official day of spring, millions of people are being vaccinated every day and the light at the end of the tunnel seems to be growing in size and brightness. We’re not out of the woods, and we can’t forget to exercise common sense and patience, but we’re close to the return to our previous definition of normal and the freedoms we enjoyed and perhaps took for granted. And the warmer spring weather will help us cleanse our minds and souls of a rough winter by taking in the fresh air and letting the sun warm our skin.

And that goes for homeschooling as well! While there are just a few months remaining in the school year, you might as well take advantage of the new season and work the outdoors into your day-to-day homeschool lessons. Here are six ways to do so!

  1. Science class? The world is your lab! Whether you’re teaching your kids geology, biology, botany, or chemistry, take science class outside! There’s science all around you…literally. If you live near the woods, have your student bring along a notebook and a pencil, and take a nature walk. Take the time to really soak in the surroundings–the plant life, the animals, the terrain. Shoot some pics with your phone, then have your child try to identify what’s in the photo. Or set up a type of scavenger hunt before you go, and attempt to locate what’s on the list.

    You don’t need to walk through the woods, however, to learn about and enjoy nature. If you’re near a beach, take a day trip and learn more about the sand, the ocean (there are a million topics to discuss there!), and marine life. If you live in a city, head to the nearest zoo and watch the animals in their habitats. Zoos and aquariums are fantastic sources of knowledge that you can witness first-hand–and zookeepers and employees love to answer questions about the animals! No matter where you live, there’s science to be studied–deserts, rock formations, rivers and lakes. Get out there with your student and immerse yourself in the beauty and all the knowledge it has to offer!
  1. Work It Out…Outdoors! You may already do this, but as soon as those temps are comfortable enough, get outside for phys ed class! Any type of activity is good, but there’s nothing quite like being active in the fresh air. And it doesn’t matter where your student participates. If you have a pool, get your child in there for a few laps. Basketball hoop in the driveway? Have a little one-on-one or a free throw contest. Trampoline in the backyard? Thirty minutes of bouncing is a great workout. Or simply have your child take a walk or bike ride around the neighborhood. Jump-rope, hopscotch, skateboarding…kids love the outdoor activity, and it gets you some time in the fresh air as well!
  1. Road trip! Get in the car, put the windows down, and take a drive! Not just any drive though–find a spot within driving range that’s known for its history and make it an educational field trip for history class. Every major city (and even the smaller ones) has its own piece of history and more than likely a landmark or attraction commemorating the history. Pick a few out and take a ride. Once you’re there, check out the local museums and historical landmarks, and maybe even take a few tours–tour guides are experts, and they love sharing their expertise with curious kids and adults. Have your student snap some pics, take some notes, and then put it all together into a presentation to show the family. Not only is this a fun way to learn, but the finished product also becomes a nice keepsake to remember the excursion by.

    If you want to stay close to home and you’re not sure if there’s anything noteworthy nearby, check out the Clio app–all you need to do is input your location, and it instantly lists historical sites and even walking tours in your immediate area or destination. Odds are there are quite a few historical sites right in your backyard (figuratively, of course…though maybe even literally!) that you and your family were completely unaware of. No matter where you go, an outdoor history lesson is a fun change of pace.
  1. Get growing! While a green thumb sure can’t hurt when it comes to planting and growing your own garden, it certainly isn’t required. But in order for your garden to actually grow, some knowledge is necessary–so start your garden experiment with some lessons on the science behind plants and what they need to thrive. Once your student has a better understanding of plants and their needs, get to work!

    Whether you choose to beautify your landscape with some colorful flowers or add some flavor to your cooking with freshly grown vegetables, your child can see tangible results and take pride in his or her newfound knowledge and skills.
  1. Get grilling! Speaking of flavor…depending on your child’s age, it might be a good time to start teaching some real-world skills, such as cooking. Of course you can whip up some of your favorite recipes (don’t forget to use your fresh veggies!) in the kitchen, but if the weather is right (and you have a grill), take it outdoors.

    Culinary skills often get lost in the shuffle when it comes to school. Traditional schools tend to offer cooking classes or home economics as an elective course, but if you stop and think about it…when did survival become optional? Okay, that might be a tad melodramatic, but at some point kids grow up and move on. One can’t live off of (or afford) take-out every day, so cooking becomes a vital life skill, and the sooner it’s taught, the easier the transition to independent adulthood will be.

    Even young children can get in on cooking–is there a more fun way to learn about fractions and measurements? Younger kids can hand mix ingredients while older students learn how to operate appliances. During spring and summer, show your students how to make burgers (a great opportunity to learn about food safety!), throw them on the grill, and enjoy the fruits of their labor and learning. Everyone wins!
  1. Art class al fresco. Whether you live in a busy city, a vibrant suburb, or a quiet rural area, there is always beauty to be found. Why not incorporate the sights, sounds, and scenery into your art class? Art comes in many forms–drawing, painting, photography, pottery, even creative writing and poetry. Have your student take his or her preferred medium (paper, canvas, camera) outside, be inspired by what’s around, and then translate that through art.

    Doing so will not only let your child work on art skills, but it also provides a nice break to the day. Art tends to instill a sense of calm as well, so not only is this exercise physically refreshing, it’s mentally cleansing as well. Plus, you just might come out of these art classes with some beautiful new pieces for your walls…or, at very least, the fridge!

It’s been a long, claustrophobic kind of year, so put down the books, close the laptop, and take advantage of the gorgeous weather with some outdoor homeschooling classes and activities. It’ll benefit everyone in the household and exercise your student’s creative (and actual) muscles. How do you break up the homeschool day when the weather gets warmer? Share in the comments below!

David Engle
Hello, and thanks for reading! I’m David Engle--dad, husband, sports fan, and writer/editor. As a father for the last 18 years (father of two for the last 14), I consider myself to be pretty well-versed in all things related to education, childhood, and parenting, and I'm thankful for the opportunity to share some insights and knowledge with fellow parents. I have been a professional writer and editor for a quarter of a century (it pains me to admit that) and have been writing in the educational space for a number of those years. I reside in southern New Jersey with my wife, two kids, two dogs, and three cats. Never a dull moment.
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