Learning through doing is the most meaningful way your child will learn.
I am going to offer several suggestions and ideas that worked for me and my family. For each idea, I will provide examples of how it worked for us or how I have seen others incorporate writing into their homeschooling activities.
For our culminating field trip one year, we went to Glacier National Park in Montana. We belonged to a small homeschool program in northeastern Washington, and the director of our group was a vivacious, outgoing and active young man, Mr. Joakim. We had many adventures with him as our leader.
As with any large endeavor like this, we needed money. All of the kids who were going on the trip brainstormed ways of making money. There was much planning and organizing that they had to do. Parents were there to help and possibly offer suggestions, but the kids did an excellent job of pulling the trip together! Here is a list of some of the ways we earned money:
- car washes
- rummage sales
- homemade goodies sales
- quilt sales
- local company donations. We actually got a $500 check from our local newspaper!
- local grocery store donations of food
- yard work
Our homeschool group included around 20 families but only half or so went on the week-long trip. Mr. Joakim had created copies of a CD for each vehicle. On the CD was a history of the park for us to listen to on the trip. He had even gone so far as to record on the CD which mile marker we should be at when listening to specific parts. I would stop the CD and start it again at the specified mile marker. Then Mr. Joakim would point out some geographical feature we should be passing and why it was significant.
He also added funny songs that I had never heard before, so the trip was never boring. Click on this link for a word song that Mr. Joakim had added to the CD. It’s not actually a song, but it’s very catchy and created many opportunities for laughter. One of my kids would say, “Bulbous Bouffant,” or any of the other outlandish words, and the chuckles would begin.
For the rest of the trip, my kids began their journals by thinking about the most wonderful word they could come up with. We would say words that were crazy or interesting sounding and if anyone of us heard a word that we liked, we would write it in our journal and add a paragraph or two about it.
Always remember that the point of a journal is to give your kids, and yourself, a safe place to write. Made up words can be fun. It’s all about experimenting, developing a skill and learning to enjoy writing.
After we arrived and set up camp, we all gathered around the main campsite. Mr. Joakim asked questions about what we had listened to. Each person who correctly answered was rewarded with a small trinket like an eraser, a pencil or a pen. It was all just a fun way to settle in and relax.
In the main camp, we had one large awning that covered our cooking area. Each family chose a spot for their tent close to the main camp area, where we all came together during meals.
A few years before we arrived in Glacier National Park, there had been tremendous landslides that had wiped out sections of the road and crashed down the mountainsides, crushing and uprooting everything in their paths. As we drove around the park, we could see the devastation left. The kids were able to walk across the remnants of the landslides and check out how the geography had been changed.
We gathered rocks to write about. Check out this link for some of my Writing About Rocks ideas. We also came up with fictional pieces of writing about getting caught in a landslide. How life went on for the animals. What forces, real or imagined, created the landslides. How they changed the geography. There are so many possibilities to write about!
One of our day trips was up the Going To The Sun highway. We drove to the top, where there was a boardwalk that wound through a field and around the hillside. We had our lunch on the grass, overlooking a glacier lake nestled in a valley, fed by the run-off from two magnificent glaciers.
We passed mountain goats feeding near the path, saw Dahl sheep high above us, and ptarmigans blended into the meadow colors as they searched the fields for a meal.
During our time at Glacier National Park, we did a lot of journaling. Each day, the kids would add to a list of things that they wanted to research when we got back home.
There were also brochures that I gathered, not only the information but for the pictures. Then I could add them to our picture file and the kids would have pictures about a place they were not only familiar with, but where they had enjoyed themselves. All the more reason to write!
There were many learning opportunities during this field trip. With writing as the focus, here is a short list of some of the things we did.
- listing ways to raise money
- writing to businesses for sponsorship
- planning the trip
- history CD during the trip (one of your older kids could do the research and create something like this for the listening pleasure of the family)
- fun word songs/skits/games to be used later for journaling ideas
- fictional pieces of writing about getting caught in a landslide (how life continued, forces that created the landslides/geographical features)
- nonfiction writing about the landslides
- list of interests to be researched later, created by your kids
- daily impressions, both physical and emotional
There were several ski mountains near our home in northeastern Washington. My kids liked 49 Degrees North, a ski mountain near Chewelah.
Twice a week during ski season, we headed to the mountain with our homeschool group.
Everyone had the option of either bringing a lunch from home, or buying food at the lodge. My only rule was that my kids had to raise any money they chose to spend on food because I could always bring lunch. They usually chose to buy food. Our diet was generally healthy, so this was one of their few opportunities to eat junk.
Money raising opportunities during the winter included shoveling roofs, pathways and sometimes driveways. They would also help split and stack firewood, clean houses, babysit and generally find work where they could.
Persuasive letters written by the kids were posted on the local business bulletin boards offering their services, and they were usually kept as busy as they wanted to be.
Before the resort opened for the season, the owners held a special day for homeschool kids. Rangers were brought in to discuss avalanches, local wildlife and the general geography of the area. There were a few rescued owls and a hawk brought in. The kids moved from one station or activity to the next. There were stations on brain games/puzzles, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing, team management and many other activities.
The most exciting for my kids was building a survival shelter in the snow. The kids who wanted to participate were paired up to build their own shelter. Each pair was given a fire starter kit that consisted of rolled strips of cardboard dipped in melted wax and dried, and a match. Because most things boys do turn into competitions, the race was on to get their fire started first. My youngest son, Jed, won!
It was a pretty fun day, and the kids came away with many things to write about. Jed began looking into survival skills and my older daughter, Trina, was motivated to learn more about the avalanches. She put together a presentation for us. Check out this page to get some ideas about posterboard presentations.
In the days before our first snowboarding outing of the year, my kids researched the history of the ski resort. All of the kids put together one complete research project. They decided who would do which part, and it turned out to be a pretty cool final product.
When we arrived at 49 Degrees North for our first day of snowboarding, the kids were able to locate the part of the lodge that was the original structure as well as some of the original trails and skid roads where logs had been drug down to build the lodge. Of course, this was after they had been skiing for a bit and needed a lunch break.
As with any activity, if it was fun or they were interested in it at all, it made the writing so much easier. The more your kids write, the more confident they will become with their writing and the more willing they will be to write. It’s a wonderful circle, and it works!
I will add a list here to include some of our writing activities, and you can see from the one above that they are fairly similar.
- the list of ideas to earn money
- persuasive letters offering their services
- thoughts/reactions to their day of activities with the rangers
- individual research projects on parts of the activities they found most intriguing
- group research project on the history of the ski resort
- journal ideas for weeks!
We had many adventures as a homeschool family that would not have been possible if the kids had been strapped to a regular school day. During the time Mr. Joakim was our program director, we rode bikes down the Hiawatha Trail, dug for fossils at John Day painted mountains and had many hiking/camping trips.
I hope I have been able to show you a few ways that you can incorporate writing into your daily activities and adventures. And if you have any suggestions or comments, I would love to hear them!
Keep it fun!