Why Hands-On Homeschooling is Amazing!
Your Ultimate Hands-On Homeschooling Guide
Make Learning Exciting, Engaging and Memorable!
We have always been a fan of hands-on, engaging activities! Homeschooling gives us an excuse to dive deep, have fun, and to make learning meaningful and memorable!
Here are six good reasons to add hands-on activities into your homeschool week:
- The kids get excited and are truly engaged.
- They ask a lot of good questions.
- The activities and projects are memorable so they often remember more about the material after doing experiments or hands-on activities. Because of this I can often help them remember things later by referring to our hands-on activity.
- You never know if this will be *the* thing to inspire the kids to go farther into a subject/topic/activity!
- They’re fun… for grown-ups too!
- They break up the normal routine!
There are so many different types of hands-on activities you can do to supplement just about any subject you are studying! Hands-on activities can be done with most any subject and with some creativity and planning… with almost any topic! I provided some photos of
- Hands-On Engineering Activities
- Hands-On Science Activities
- Hands-On Activities Outdoors in Nature
- Hands-On Activities for History
- Hands-On Fun with Games
- Hands-On Activities in the Wider World!
I wanted to share some fun pictures… just to get your juices flowing on the kinds of hands-on activities YOU can bring into your homeschool!
Think BIG! Think outside the box! Make memories with your kids! And find the joy in learning!! Don’t be overwhelmed by all these pictures and ideas… just find one or two that look fun and dive in!
As you will see from the pictures below… these are years and years of pictures all selected highlights… what you are not seeing are some of the less impressive homeschool creations from our past!! Remember, I don’t (often) picture such creative endeavors such as… this “monster” that ED once made! Yes, it’s a milk carton taped to a cereal box; you’re not mistaken! But to her it was a monster of epic proportions! 🙂
Or here is this… umm… puffer fish… that LD made. (Both these were featured in this light-hearted post I once wrote, “Ugly” Crafts Never See Blog Fame!) Umm… if I had very many posts and featured mostly pictures like these, I probably wouldn’t have much of a readership any more!! But there was true learning for these activities too! Homeschooling won’t always be picture-perfect!
Anyway, all of that was to say, be inspired by the possibilities and most definitely don’t look at hands-on activities as yet another thing to “get to” during your homeschool day. Do only the projects that excite YOU as well!
Now, let me highlight some of the projects, activities and hands-on fun we’ve had over the years!
1. Hands-On Engineering Activities
We once made our own 9-foot long dinosaur (out of trash… using old fencing, sticks, and newspaper (from our move) and lots of flour/water “glue”… Look how small the kids were!!
Trash-o-saurus lived in our basement for years and years afterwards! The kids learned a lot about dinosaur body structure in that unit!
We’ve also added in all kinds of STEM activities through the years.
The kids made their own flashlights:
We did tons of hands-on activities in our electricity and circuits unit.
Have you had your kids do the Egg Drop Challenge yet?!! The kids were given a number of materials and had to design their own safe method of letting their egg drop! 🙂
2. Hands-On Science Activities
Since I’m on the topic of eggs, let me move on to some other egg-citing activities! We’ve done a ton of egg-related egg-speriments. Grab this free packet here… Ultimate Egg-Speriment PacketThe kids have made various dioramas over the years… here’s one the made about the rainforest and another one of the ocean!
And here are more ocean related activities… obviously these were done when the kids were older when we did an Ocean Unit years later. We have circled around to cover units again and again, just going into more depth over the years. The Ocean Packet is by far my most popular unit over on TpT because it covers a wide variety of topics – marine habitats, mapping the ocean floor, ocean features, ocean currents and tides, fish shape and form, bioluminescence, and much more! (But remember, our packets are cheaper here on the blog because of the extra charges I have over at TpT. Here on the blog, the Ocean Packet sells really well in the Biology Bundle of 3.)
Magnets are super-cool! We did an entire unit on Magnets and the Magnetosphere!
When we studied Simple Machines, we did all kinds of hands-on activities. This was an incredibly fun unit (the kids were in PreK and early elementary at the time)!!
and making soap carvings!
Just search for Simple Machines (in the search bar to the left or down below) to find some of our other hands-on activities from our Simple Machines Unit.
One of the first science units we did was the Earth Science Unit. I think my youngest was in preschool and my oldest was in early elementary at the time. Since then we’ve done this unit twice more over the years… each year adding in more experiments and diving deeper into the material! We did this last year with a “Science Club” that met here at our house with about ten kids from ages 9 to 14.
Here are some of the experiments we did on Earth Science… There are just so, so many fun, engaging hands-on activities you can do in this unit. Here are just a few of the things we did!! 🙂 I think this is why this is consistently *the* most popular packet we sell! I’ve gotten a lot of emails from other families about how much they loved all the hands-on activities. Talk about the kids being engaged and excited! This is really a fun hands-on unit! 🙂
We’ve done some really fun activities related to weather, air, and natural disasters too!
Demonstrating what happens when air is cooled or heated:
Talking about hurricanes (be sure to grab our Natural Disasters Unit. It’s currently free!
We have done various human body systems throughout the years. We tend to review all of the human body systems and then dive deep into one body system each year. We started with the Skeletal System and another year did the Digestive System, Circulatory System and so forth.
Here is DD showing us the parts of the cell in the play dough model she made! She talks rather quickly, but you get the idea! 😉 DD was 9 when we first did this unit (and thus, in this little video!)!
Here were some activities from our Skeletal System Unit. This project shows how the joins in the vertebrae work… first with just bones
and then with “soft disc” or gummy disc in between each vertebrae!
Hands-On Activity: How Long is the Digestive Tract?
We did all started with chemistry in the early elementary years:
What is a solid and liquid? How do you know?
Free Chemistry Experiment Packet (early elementary)
And then moved on to more complicated topics when my older two were in 7th and 9th grades LD and DD learned so much in our Chemistry Unit last spring, that they were able to understand some pretty tough stuff about biochemistry/organic molecules this year! 🙂
Chemistry Packet – Quick Preview We once did a Fairy Tale Unit… We did all kinds of fun hands-on activities! We went shopping for some new clothes for the Emperor before writing him some secret messages you couldn’t see!
This post here has a ton of hands-on geography activities – Hands-On Geography Activities for Ages 4-10 and Beyond!
3. Hands-On Activities Outdoors in Nature!
Even just spending time outdoors has been important to us… Below is a picture of the girls on a nature scavenger hunt… (Grab our Free Nature Scavenger Hunt printable here)
Just spending time in the woods has been an education for us!! We once found an arrowhead in our woods. We contacted the county archaeologist and he agreed to come come to survey the area where we found it.
He told us it was Piscataway Stemmed Point, probably made sometime between 1500 B.C. and 800 A.D. The archaeologist was so full of information about the tool-making process, about Native Americans of the region, about the landscape and changes in the past 500 years. We also learned so much about what his job entails as a county archaeologist. It was a really great learning experience.
We then took him into the woods to show him the site where it was found. He found several flakes that show that stone tools were indeed made in the woods near where we found the knife.
I used to do a LOT of posts about learning from life! We have tons of frogs, toads, snakes, turtles and other wildlife (deer, foxes, mice, raccoons, etc.) that live in the woods where our house is nestled. I can’t tell you how much we’ve learned by explore the world around us! Below is a baby turtle followed by pictures of snakes, mice, frogs and more!
This is much better than just doing worksheets, right?! We did a Life Cycle Unit, but seeing things in nature just makes everything more meaningful, right?!!
Free Printable Resource: Before I go on to show you more pictures of Hands-On Activities in History, let me remind you that you’ll want to grab our free printable on Hands-On Activity Ideas and Homeschool Teaching Strategies over at this post:
4. Hands-On Activities for History
Hands-On Activities are not limited to science. There are lots and lots of projects you can do in history as well.
Of course there are all kinds of fun art-type projects…
Learning about the The 4 Alls (Middle Ages… The peasant who worked for all; The knights who fought for all; The priests who prayed for all; The king who ruled all)
and when we studied Ancient Egypt, the kids kids made their own death masks… and their own pyramid (which really opened and stuff inside!)We also made our own “flooded” Nile which took some time and patience, but the kids really saw how the “fertilized soil” flooded and spread out across the sand… and then the “crops” grew in that soil! And here was a paper Parthenon project we did once…
This was a diorama ED made recently to show a city during the Industrial Age (She cut out actual images from the photographer, Jacob Riis’s work at the turn of the century (~1900):
The kids “put on” a play when we studied the American Revolution (I wrote this play… and it covered all the major events leading to the American Revolution from the Boston Tea Party to the Boston Massacre and more!) American Revolution Play
My middle daughter loved this so much, she begged to try out for the local musical. She got in to the play, Narnia, and loved it! 🙂And have done simulations about feudalism…
We also did a simulation about the Black Plague (Will YOU survive the plague?!!). Spoiler… most of the time the kids didn’t survive!! 🙁
5. Hands-On Fun with Games and other Activities
And I haven’t yet mentioned all the games we’ve played…
Many of you know we played a lot of math games as the kids learned all of their math facts!
We played tons of bump games. The girls once loved Pete the Cat. (The printable below is free at this post.)Various Skip Counting Mazes
6, 12, 18, 24
30, 36 wait there’s more
Then comes 42, 48, 54 hooray
With 60 we’re done skipping today!
These are two (of 15+ pdfs, 300+ page) in the Multiplication Bundle!. I made various packets that cover the 2s through 10s because ED just loved having “her own” math worksheets!
We played tons of Fast Track and other math board games to practice basic math facts along the way! This particular game can be used with any math fact practice! 🙂
A quick fly-swatter game (I would call out the notes, the girls would swat the musical fly!) See our Free Beginners Music Curriculum post for more activities and music games!
We did lots and lots of games for spelling practice over the years! I loved that the kids would beg me to play “just one more round!”
Here’s a spelling game for Long A Sounds
We still use games today to help review and learn new materials… This is from the World Facts Packet, which we often do at the beginning of the semester to review some basic world facts like the largest country, the countries (and cities) with the largest population, the longest rivers, highest mountains… as well as basic geographic features, landform words, deserts of the world and topographic map activities and obvious famous world landmarks too! Quick Preview for the World Facts Packet
Or pin maps we’ve used… this one is on deserts
Interactive Notebook Pieces & Lapbooks
We’ve done tons of interactive notebook/lapbook type projects… pamphlets and more. Definitely spend time looking around the blog because we have tons and tons of examples of these types of projects/activities.
Below, ED is drawing our house for the Where I Live Activity. 🙂We’ve done interactive notbook pages for all kinds of subjects. This is one from our Earth Science Packet.And this is one from the Simple Machines Packet
and a flap book from our Digestive System Packet. 🙂
We have also used QR Code Readers from time to time, to add in something a bit different. These are cards from our Civics and Government Packet, which covers basic civics facts and goes over the 3 branches of government; the function of the legislative, judicial & executive branches; the difference between the federal, state and local government; the Presidential Cabinet; and more.
These are from our American Revolution Packet:
6. Hands-On Activities out in the Wider World!
And that’s not to mention all the fabulous trips we’ve done to historic sights, museums and more! You’ll see from the pictures that these are from many, many years of travel… some trips combined with trips to see family or business trips… or just special trips we made across country. To keep expenses down (and because we love it!) we have made reservations to camp (yes, old-fashioned tent camping!!) in our National Parks. You need to make those reservations 6 months in advance, though.
Lots of homeschooling families have chosen to travel around the country or around the world! There is so much to learn just by visiting the places near and far!
The huge advantage of homeschooling is that you can fit in local and farther afield trips in while the majority of kids are in public school… leaving you with better weather and fewer crowds!
The Liberty Bell
Global Village at Heiffer International, MD (and other locations): an education center (we went to the one in Maryland) which helps kids learn about some of the countries where Heiffer International tries to help the local communities. Here was the service project the kids did to raise money to help buy a goat.
LaBrea Tarpits in California
Davy Crocket’s home (TN)
Antietam, Civil War Battle
When we were planning our trip out West, I purchased a book of some of America’s best geological sites. I read about the Crater of Diamonds state park and the kids were beside themselves at the thought of being able to search for *real* diamonds!!
This state park is the world’s eighth largest diamond-bearing volcanic crater. We camped in the state park and tried our hand at diamond mining!
Mt. Vernon, George Washington’s Home
Monticello, Thomas Jefferson’s Home
Highland, James Monroe’s Home
And since I’m running out of time for today, I’m going to share our 5-minute video that highlights many of the cool features we saw at Yellowstone National Park!! We were there right at the beginning of June. The weather was perfect… and the geysers, mudpots, hot springs and wildlife were *amazing*!!
Germany, Austria, Hungary, Romania (A trip to see friends of mine from my Peace Corps days.)So, that’s about it! Whew! I’ve really had a lot of fun walking down memory lane putting all these pictures together. You are amazing and truly are the very best teacher/instructor/facilitator for your kids!!! Enjoy this fabulous homeschool journey!
And now that you’ve seen many pictures of our hands-on activities be sure you visit this post on Hands-On Teaching Strategies to grab your free download.Grab this free resource with dozens of teaching strategies and hands-on activity ideas!I hope all these pictures and ideas left you excited for YOUR homeschool journey! You are amazing! You have chosen a unique, wonderful path for your kids!!! I am SO excited to hear about your adventures and all the activities you add to your homeschool day! 🙂
P.S. I was asked pretty often, what grades the kids were in when they did these various units? Although this is a little hard to answer because we are a homeschooling family that has always done science and history together as a family, I came up with a series of free curriculum guides for families called Creating Your Homeschool Curriculum, Free Resource Guides
These are FREE 35+ page resource guides that I put together to help answer some basic questions:
- What subjects should I teach my 4th or 5th grader?(or kindergartner or 7th grader!)
- Where do I start?
- How do I know what to teach my kids?
Free Curriculum Resource Guide for Grades 4-5 I’ll be editing and adding to this one soon because my youngest is 10yrs old. 🙂
- Kindergarten-Grade 1 is for (roughly) ages 5-7
- Grade 2-3 is for ages 7-9
- Grade 4-5 is for ages 9-11
- Grades 6-8 is for ages 11-14
These are some of the units and topics our family covered in these years. It might provide a starting point for those of you just starting your homeschool journey and may give you an idea or two if you’ve been at this homeschool thing for a while! I hope they are helpful!!
See you again soon here or over at our Homeschool Den Facebook Page! You might also want to check out some of our resources pages above (such as our Science, Language Arts, or History Units Resource Pages) which have links to dozens of posts. You might want to join our free Homeschool Den Chat Facebook group. Don’t forget to check out Our Store as well.
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P.P.S. Thanks for sticking around to the end. ♥ We also have a FREE 100+ page Homeschool Planner if you’re interested! Hope it’s helpful! 🙂 Happy Homeschooling!! ~Liesl