When I began homeschooling some 15 years ago, I didn’t have a good grasp of what homeschooling looked like, but I knew what I didn’t want it to look like. While I had excelled in a traditional school setting, I knew that model was not the best way for a child to realize his or her full potential. I knew I wanted subjects to intertwine and homeschooling to become a way of life. So, while I wasn’t quite sure of the HOW back then, it has always been (and remains – especially now that I have a HOW) my goal for learning to be living.
This phrase has a twofold meaning –
- Homeschooling is a part of our every day lives, and the things we do as a part of our day ultimately lead to educational experiences. Example: grocery store includes discussions of math, economics, colors, and nutrition.
- The things our children learn in their daily homeschool lessons carry over into their lives outside traditional school, and the education itself becomes living and breathing.
My children have always had lively imaginations, so a curriculum that gave their imaginations focus was a perfect addition to our homeschool. For us, that curriculum was Tapestry of Grace. I remember seeing lovely photos of Unit Celebrations as I researched TOG, and thinking to myself how neat that must be. Little did I know my children’s learning via creative play would go far beyond Unit Celebrations!
It began with pretend archeological digs – encouraged by Tapestry of Grace – that lead to hours spent searching the soil for pieces of the past.
It was a unit on castles and knights that led to hours of sword play, cardboard box castle building, and a Knight Celebration the children still talk about to this day!
It’s book selections that took on a life of their own, writing projects that became passions, and hours spent playing through scenarios they had learned about during school hours.
The photo above was taken last year when we were learning about the Civil War. The boys spent hours drilling outside and reading extra literature on the conditions before, during and after the War.
The last few weeks, we have been studying World War I. My boys have gathered supplies and hunkered down in a makeshift trench in our backyard. They even wrote “letters home” to me! The girls rolled bandages from old towels I let them cut up, and my 11 year old son spent hours scouring the internet for ideas to create the perfect WWI costume.
And next week, when we leave WWI, they will likely find more creative play opportunities from the pages of the next section of Tapestry of Grace! It brings a smile to my face to know school is so intertwined with their daily lives. THIS is exactly what I had hoped for!
Here are a few ways you too can make learning an all day activity through the help of creative play:
Use a living, literature-rich curriculum.
I have found that curricula that offer a wide array of books and projects are the most likely to entice your children to carry their education beyond school hours. Tapestry of Grace is a smorgasbord of ideas to pique a child’s interest. I try to choose from the book lists and projects the ones I believe will stretch my child’s knowledge and imagination.
Give them tools to learn more.
When my oldest son showed an acute interest in World War II, I bought him books, took him to museums, and told him stories my father had told me of his time in WWII. When my older girls showed excitement over the Colonial handicrafts section of Tapestry of Grace, I gathered scraps of fabric from my own stash and gave them their own box of supplies. When my younger sons became enthralled with the stories of World War I, I slowed down our lessons, brought home books and videos from the library, and let them devour as much as they wanted of the “extras.”
Give them props.
I posted a video on Instagram last year of my children demonstrating the San Francisco earthquake:
Today’s #homeschool adventure: we made several different kinds of houses (including some made from graham crackers and frosting) and then simulated the 1906 San Francisco earthquake to see which of our buildings held up the best. Then, we ate the graham cracker and frosting ones! #TapestryofGrace #afternoonsnack #homeschooling
Giving your children props to take their homeschooling beyond the books is integral to the creative play model. You can spend money to buy reproductions of period costumes and props, make your own, or simply grab a large plastic tote and begin filling it with fabric, string, cardboard, and anything else you can think of that might make a good prop for future homeschool adventuring!
And don’t forget to ask for props for Christmas and birthdays – we bought our son this top hat when we we first started studying the beginning of the 20th century:
For those of you who don’t have the time or energy to think up creative play ideas (can you see me raising my hand?), it is imperative you use a curriculum that “helps” you come up with ideas – another reason I am a big fan of TOG.
Give them plenty of time!
This is probably the number one thing you can do as a parent to encourage creative play in your homeschool – give your children TIME. Don’t fill their day with seatwork and useless extras. Government schools are so full to the brim with “learning,” they don’t allow children any time to truly dig deep into any subject. I once heard a homeschool speaker say public school is often an inch deep and a mile wide while homeschooling is often an inch wide and a mile deep. In order for your children to use creative play to further their education, you have to be willing to give them the time to dig that mile deep and time to actually PLAY!
Give your children freedom.
A few weeks ago, in freezing weather, my boys got up early in the morning, made hot cocoa, and went out to their “trench.” They sat huddled under blankets as a light drizzle fell, and they talked about what World War I was really like for the troops.
And I let them.
Our generation of parents are scared of so many things. We are scared to let our children do hard things. We don’t like to see them fail. We guide them through every little thing. And in the end, we leave them with no imagination whatsoever. No innovation. No initiative. No freedom of thought or action.
Certainly, there are boundaries, but be certain the boundaries you set aren’t so confining they suck the creativity right out of your children.
Is Creative Play a part of your homeschool? Share your thoughts in the comments section, and feel free to ask questions about how you can turn your school lessons into creative play opportunities – Raising Arrows readers are full of great ideas!
If you’d like to read more about Tapestry of Grace in our homeschool, CLICK HERE!