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! Ways to teach the basics while gardening and practicing permaculture!

 
master steward
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Location: Pacific Northwest
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A lot of people are suddenly homeschooling who aren't accustomed to it. Some have curriculum from schools to do, and others have no real guidance...and some might be looking at that curriculum and wonder how to actually get their kids to do these worksheets and learn these concepts without battles.

I thought it might be nice to have a thread full of tips and tricks and things to do! And, this thread can also be a place for asking things like "how do I teach long division--my kid HATES it!"

There are so many ways to teach kids, and there's no real "right way." Do what works for you and your kids and your circumstances.

My son is kindergarten age, so I'm going to start off with early elementary things. Please chime in with your ideas and techniques!

Here's my son measuring out potatoes for his garden. It was his idea to do the pattern!


Techniques:

Take the homework outside. If the weather is nice and you've got worksheets to do, bring a table and chairs or clipboard outside, and work on it out there! There's no distractions from TV or computers, and everyone is generally more happy out there! Bring some snacks and water out, and just work at it at your families pace. There's no rush!

Do the worksheets before bed: Kids like staying up late. If they work on their annoying homework, they get to stay up while working on it. This works great for my kindergarten son. If I try to bring up his homework (which isn't much) during the day, it becomes a huge battle. But, if he gets to stay up late while working on it, he suddenly wants to do the whole month's worth at once!

Incorporate the lessons into what you're doing. Say the kids is learning addition-- talk about how many seed varieties you have if you have 3 carrot varieties and 4 radish varieties. Or how many feet of garden you'll need if you want to plant 10 potatoes and they're spaced 8 inches apart. Just do the math with them, using the concepts in what you're doing. This is far better than any "word problems" they'll encounter in a workbook. They'll see you using the knowledge of addition or multiplication to get your job done! You can do this with most any subject.


Math Random things I've done to incorporate match

  • Measuring distance across stream for a bridge
  • Adding by 25s to find out how long a hose is--our tape measure was only 25 feet long!
  • Counting animals to ensure no predators ate them
  • dividing the length of a garden bed to find out how many of a plant you can put in a row
  • Counting and measuring anything, really! Talk out load about your building projects and ask for their help in measuring things, showing the numbers on the tape measure
  • Reading dates on calendar of when you planted things and estimating when the seeds will sprout. Any kind of calendar work is great!
  • Draw things with sidewalk chalk and count them. Make a hopscotch game!
  • Show the different numbers on drill bits and screws etc to show fractions


  • Literacy

  • Reading seed packets! Look at beginning sounds, make up songs and rhymes about them, make alliterations (words starting with the same sound) of the word, like "Catherine the Careful Carrot climbed a carousel." Have fun!"
  • Make up songs and rhymes and alliterations as you work. The more kids hear these things, the more familiar they will be with them.
  • Read labels on things with your kids. This box says screws, this one nails, this one seeds.
  • Make labels for your garden plants!
  • Read the back of seed labels with your kids.
  • Make a garden journal, or a weather journal. You can have them dictate while you write if they struggle with penmanship, or have them write if it's a skill you want to focus on or that they are confident with.


  • Science

  • Weather! High pressure and low pressure systems. What causes rain and thunder and stormy weather. Look at the clouds and teach them which ones indicate which type of weather! Talk about how blue the sky is, and how the darker the blue, the less moisture is in the air. Look at the humidity to see how it correlates with the color of the sky. Read a barometer and see how it changes when a storm is coming.
  • Soil science! Add baking soda to some of your soil and see what happens. Do the same with vinegar! Try it with potting soil now--how are they different. Feel how different clay and sand feel and see what type of soil you have by using soil test where you get the soil damp and try to make shapes with it.
  • Plant Science! Start some seeds in a plastic or glass cup so they can see the roots grow. Have them help plant!
  • Animal science-- talk about the differences between chickens and insects. Teach kids about mammals and birds and insects by showing them different ones and talking about their differences.
  • Physics! Try moving rocks with various levers and fulcrums. See if you can find easier and harder ways to do a job. Have them rolls stuff, play with toys, see what sinks and floats. Crash rocks together with goggles on, ride their bikes. Talk about wedges in shovels and chisels and knives help us do work.
  • Energy--talk about the different amounts of BTU in types of fire wood--which burns hotter, which less hot. Talk about calories in food, and how potatoes have more and vitamins have less. Make a solar cooker with aluminum foil (we made this one two years ago). Explain why metal is so hot in the sun, while wood is not. Watch videos for things you don't understand!


  • Here's a video my son made of the rocket stove we made



    Art

  • Draw with chalk!
  • Make pictures out of sticks and rocks
  • Work with clay soil if you have it
  • Have them make a design on wood and you wood burn it
  • Decorate gardens with pretty rocks
  • Talk about complementary colors. Sort flowers by color. Pair them by cool colors or warm colors, or match complementary colors together.
  • Show perspective. Have them get down low and look at a garden bed and take a picture. Then get above it and take a picture. Sketch them out with chalk or on paper. They're the same garden bed, but at different angles!
  • Show shadowing. Help them notice that the same thing looks a different color or darkness when it's in the shade or in the sun. Help them draw it out.
  • Sketch flowers and animals and trees!


  • History
  • Talk about the different ways people have grown plants over time
  • talk about when different things they use were first invented. When was the lightbulb? When was the lawn mower? How about the shovel or electicity? Make a timeline! Add in important events to your timeline, like when family members were born, or when events they learned about in school happened.
  • Watch the BBC farm series on rainy days! These are great for showing how farming and life has changed over time. You may or may not want the WWII one, as it's very heavy
  • Learn about different building techniques over time and place. How different building techniques are suited to different areas. BBC Secrets of the Castle is FANTASTIC for seeing the technologies used then to get amazing things done without electricity.
  • Talk about where different plants originated from. What would people have eaten in Medieval Times in Britain? In North America? In India? You could even make themed garden beds!


  • This is the debris shelter we started making after watching lots of youtube videos


    There's so many, many things that can be learned outside! And, if you don't know how to explain something (or don't know something), watch a youtube video together about it! You can learn and explain things as you learn them.

    What are your favorite ways to teach things while gardening and practicing permaculture?
     
    Nicole Alderman
    master steward
    Posts: 16516
    Location: Pacific Northwest
    7617
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    hugelkultur kids cat duck forest garden foraging fiber arts sheep wood heat homestead
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    Today was a great day. We had a bunch of native plants from our conservation plant sale. The kids had fun driving their toys in a dump truck up the hill and down our paths while I got the plants in the ground. I consider this a great recess--for both them and me!

    Traveling up the big Sambang Hill all by themselves!


    I figured we should get a bit more academic. I cooked up some duck and chicken eggs, and was sounding out and spelling things while they ate (my son's been learning long vowel sounds--you know, when the vowel says it name. So A says "A" in stead of "ah"), so we spelled out bite vs bit. And then the kids wanted to munch on herbs, so we sounded out "sage" and "kale"--and the kids had a blast adding herbs from our herb spiral to their eggs: sage, sweet cicely, thyme, rosemary, dandelion, kale, etc.

    Scrambled duck/chicken eggs seasoned with herbs from our Herb Spiral of Randomness


    We then took a kale tour, visiting all our garden beds that grow kale, and munching away, with me spelling the plants we saw there and ate.

    Then I went to take down my laundry, and they came along to help. So I'd say one of their names as "takes the g-r-e-e-n towel" and they'd take it. My daughter is only 3, but she can pick out beginning sounds, so this was a fun game for them. I also hold up a purple napkin and purple towel and say, "gets to take the purple n-a-p-k-i-n" and they'd snag it. My son has a bit of a mental breakdown if I force him to sound things out. It's overwhelming for him. But this was easy and fun way to work on phonics. He had me spelling most everything outloud (which isn't an easy skill for me if it gets beyond 6 letters!)

    Yesterday was math with lots of measuring and building (working on a fort, digging a hole for a post and measuring how deep it was, measuring the length we need for a bridge). Today was phonics and plant ID.

    Digging a hole for our sign post!


    We'll see what tomorrow brings!
     
    Nicole Alderman
    master steward
    Posts: 16516
    Location: Pacific Northwest
    7617
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    hugelkultur kids cat duck forest garden foraging fiber arts sheep wood heat homestead
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    My son's been kind of stuck at the same spot with phonics for almost 2 years. He's been able to sound out words since he was four....but he doesn't feel confident enough with his skills to try to read, and so can't get beyond the stage he's been at.

    I found some leveled phonics books that just use small, short-vowel sounds (like: hat, cat, sit, set, pig, pug, and, etc)...but they were really lame. The pictures are lacking, and the stories don't make sense (for example, "Gran and Pap. Gran naps. Pap naps. Gran and a pan. Pap and a pan. Gran and Pap nap.").

    So, I thought, "I could make these books, and make them feature my kids!" Of course, not having much time, I didn't draw masterpieces, but the kids still like them!

    (I removed names to protect the innocent :D)





    And then, today, I got out the chalk while we were outside and started drawing pictures of the words in their books. This got them interested, so I kept going. I'd write the word first and then they'd try to figure out what it was before I was done drawing.

     
    Nicole Alderman
    master steward
    Posts: 16516
    Location: Pacific Northwest
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    hugelkultur kids cat duck forest garden foraging fiber arts sheep wood heat homestead
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    I was making pancakes today (sorry I didn't get pictures!) and realized it was a great chance for me to show the kids fractions. I brought them over and showed them the line of the big measuring cup/bowl, and how it said "4 cups" (I love that "cup" is an easy three-letter word that follows phonetic rules--it made it easy for my son to read it! My son also got to see that the other side said "1 quart" and how 4 cups=1 quart, and 4 of those measuring cups would be a gallon! Because a quart means a quarter of a gallon!).

    Both kids enjoyed watching how line on the measuring cup to see how many cups we'd used. My son got pretty good at estimating how many pancakes I would be able to make, when each 1/2 cup made 2 pancakes, and there was 1/2 cup left.

    Cooking is a great way to learn factions, as well as subtraction!
     
    Nicole Alderman
    master steward
    Posts: 16516
    Location: Pacific Northwest
    7617
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    hugelkultur kids cat duck forest garden foraging fiber arts sheep wood heat homestead
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    Today I decided I needed to be a bit more intentional to make sure we're meeting state benchmarks and all that. I had my husband watch the kids for 45 minutes while I did some planning--basically, I tried to figure out what we're supposed to be covering this month, and ways I could teach them in a fun, intuitive way.

    One of my ideas was to use sticks and rocks and chalk. I started writing out equations, like "3+5" and then put 3 rocks about the 3, and 5 rocks above the 5. My son came over and was curious to see what I was doing. At first, he was cranky because he realized it was math, but I just said, "Oh, I'm just playing. Let's see" *and I started counting slowely while pointing at the rocks* "so I have 1,2,3 .... 4, 5.." and my son exclaims "8! I got it before you even finished!"



    I did an equation with sicks, and then he decided he wanted a pattern, so we did a rock equation next (he told me the one to write, 5+5=10) and then he helped me find sticks and break them up to make 10+10=20.

    I then started doing 0+5, and that morphed into adding 2,3,4,5 and 6 to 5. My son was then ready for something else, so I let him play!



    My daughter then started playing with logs, walking up and down them. So, I seize the moment and we started counting them and writing down the equations. I didn't focus too much on the writing, as it's not what she needs to work on. But, exposure to the concept of equations can't hurt, either! She had a lot of fun adding and removing logs from her stairs and counting them!



    One of the best ways I've found, for myself, to teach/lesson plan is to first be prepared with what you want to teach. This gives you a grounding. I wanted to work on 1-digit addition, so I started with that. But, my son wanted to have me write the equations he was interested in. Why not?! So I did, and then let it morph into what he was interested in. Kids learn a lot faster and deeper when they can play a part in it. Teaching is a relationship. You give information, and they respond with learning and questions, and you adjust your teaching to their interest/patience level/and abilities. If you keep trying to teach something they're not ready for (emotionally, mentally, physically), then it will be ineffective and usually be really frustrating.

    I think it's really important to hold you idea for the lesson loosely. Know your subject well, know what you want to teach... but be willing to adjust, because it's in that adjusting that the learning really occurs!
     
    gardener
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    Call me old fashioned, but I really believe that getting kids to memorise the basic math facts makes it far easier for them to learn complicated math processes when they get to higher grades. The problems are many - it's boring!  it's easy for some kids and really hard for others so too many kids give up! some of those kids who struggle with memorization, are *really* smart in other areas! etc...

    #2 son was one of the strugglers - the elementary school system wasn't helping at all. In Grade 5, he couldn't tell me how many 8's were in 80. We got a good tutor. Here are some important ways he helped:
    1. Did basic math facts on a boogy board - it sort of rolls and balances and I wouldn't dare to even try standing on the thing!
    2. Did them on a trampoline - first bounce repeat the question "1 + 2"   second bounce "=3"
    3. Did a whole bunch of other memory exercises like playing tic tac toe in the air in an imaginary grid!
    4. Did a whole bunch of mental gymnastics games

    We homeschooled from part way through Gr 5 to Gr 9 then integrated part-time in Grade 10. In Grade 12 he took math at the Bricks and Mortar School and got 92%. That happened because although I focussed heavily in Gr 5-7 on what would be described as "the basics" I specifically did *not* do it the way the school system was - I looked at how my kid did or didn't learn something and started from a position of strength.

    I encourage all parents suddenly thrown into homeschooling to think outside the box, as Nicole has demonstrated above. I think that our more active kids may really benefit from learning certain skills by doing them 'bigger' involving more of their body. #1 son learned to print squatting on the floor tracing letters I'd made on that old green and white printer paper, so each letter was about 2 inches tall, and the letters made real words arranged in real sentences, not the same letter 10 times in a row. Sidewalk chalk would be even bigger! Big enough that the body needs to keep moving along the pavement!

    Hmmm... do you get the impression that I think our kids would learn better if they *didn't* sit still?  Think of human history. This sitting still business is a pretty modern thing!
     
    Posts: 30
    Location: San Cristóbal, Chiapas, Mexico
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    Hello hello! For those of you who speak Spanish, here's a link to two School Gardens manuals from Chiapas, Mexico. These were compiled and published by Helda Morales and Bruce Ferguson and their team at the "scaling agroecology" research group at ECOSUR, a research centre. It's based on five years of work with local teachers and each lesson is tested and written up by a teacher. Enjoy!
    http://redhuertos.org/Labvida/resenas-diplomado/materiales/
     
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    This blog has a fun post on how to use up empty TP rolls to make planters for starting seeds. It is super child-friendly. A great way to start your garden and teach some basic scissors skills, too. Oh, and starting seeds has to be in some biology curriculum somewhere, right?
    https://milewidecrafts.blogspot.com/2020/03/tp-your-garden.html
    IMG_20200331_151058265.jpg
    [Thumbnail for IMG_20200331_151058265.jpg]
     
    Nicole Alderman
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    Location: Pacific Northwest
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    hugelkultur kids cat duck forest garden foraging fiber arts sheep wood heat homestead
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    I've really been enjoying using chalk on the sidewalk! The kids like to come over and see what I'm doing, and they don't feel like I'm forcing them to do work. Hurrah!

    Today I brought out my dice, and started rolling them, and then writing out the equation under the dice, and drawing the dice, and then drawing the total amount of dots. Both kids then took turns rolling the dice and counting the numbers. My son can say the number without counting a lot of the time, and he's starting to notice stuff like 6+2 is just one number bigger than 6+1. My daughter is getting really good at counting accurately.



    We've also been focusing on the weather. Yesterday we went on a walk around our property, and it started to hail, but the kids just wanted to keep walking, so we did! (we never get hail bigger than a pencil eraser here). Then we went inside and watched videos on how hail is formed.



    And, today I installed our new 200 feet of drinking water safe hose (did you know most hoses are full of toxic gick, like electronic waste and phlalates?). We found we could get drinking water safe, long-lasting hoses on clearance through their website (check out Water Right's factory second page), the flow is a little slower than I'd like, but I LOVE that the water is safe, and the hose is super light....ANYWAY, we needed to unwind the hose and lay it out straight and fill it with water to preent kinks, which made for a great time to learn about rainbows! After a good 30 minutes of making rainbows with the hose, we watched some videos on how rainbows work.

    I couldn't help but share this picture. My son was playing with duplos and made this train by himself--it was all his idea! He spaced everyone "6 feet" apart unless they were a family. I love this boy!


     
    Nicole Alderman
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    Posts: 16516
    Location: Pacific Northwest
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    hugelkultur kids cat duck forest garden foraging fiber arts sheep wood heat homestead
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    I haven't done an update in a while--it's been busy!

    Here's some of the things we've been doing:

    We installed a windsock, and now the kids know which ways are north, south, east and west, and they know the wind usually blows to the south. They like watching it and telling me which way it's blowing




    I made a game where I write a bunch of rhyming words, and after they say the word, they get to blast it away with the spray nozzle!




    We spent a lot of time at the stream, seeing how the water flows, how dams and waterfalls and rapids are formed




    Why paint inside, when you can paint outside?! We watched Queen Elizabeth II speech on coronavirus, which ended up with us learning all about her life, watching videos of her corronation and opening of parliment, etc. And, then we painted her picture!




    And, of course, for Easter, we dyed eggs! We used plants from outside to make imprits, and used tumeric and onion peels and other natural ingredients to dye the eggs (some worked, and some did not!)




    More fun with chalk. We used the same words we'd used before, but this time I made simple sentances like "hat on hen"....and then the kids had me make and illustrate a bunch more!




    We went for a walk, and foraged for food on the way back. The kids gobbled down bouquet after bouquet of salmonberries, bittercress, and siberian  miner's lettuce. The kids can identify and pick (and of course, eat!) all three




    We also used old alluminum foil to make ice cube molds of my son's hot wheels!




    My son wanted to make a pirate ship, so we got out the chisel and mallet and made him a boat. We watched a lot of pirate ship videos, learned about the names of sails and how sales work. We made the boat in a day, and sailed it in our pond!



     
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