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Real World Learning for Less

By Melissa Morgan
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #55, 2003.

Teaching worldview on a limited budget.

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Melissa Morgan

If your family homeschools, your children already learn in the real world instead of a classroom. You don't need an extra "real world" curriculum. Homeschoolers can divide delicious real pizzas, instead of cardboard manipulatives. Kids can learn physical science and practice measurement when they help their parents with chores in a real kitchen or garage. Families can discuss health, science and nutrition at the grocery store, doctor's office, or health food store, instead of reading about it and forgetting it.

The Bible talks about real-world learning: "You shall walk in all the ways which the Lord your God has commanded you... you shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lie down, and when you rise up." (Deuteronomy 5:33, 6:7, NKJV)

Homeschoolers can read the Bible to their kids from birth. They can search out accurate, interesting books that teach in realistic, useful ways. If they use textbooks, they can supplement them with practical experience as much as possible. You can feed the desire that reading will open up an exciting, independent world.

Real world learning—building a treehouse
Show your child how you put your education to practical use. For instance, you need to understand percent and estimating when you consider the cost of purchases at a store. If the sale says "Twenty percent off," how much will you pay? Don't forget sales tax! If your kids want to spend less money, they can easily learn fractions, decimals and percents.

We can find many more free and cheap real-world learning opportunities both at home and away. Instead of trying to keep the kids busy so we can get our work done, we can include them in adult activities. Children can use computers, file forms alphabetically, attach stamps to envelopes, or copy addresses onto letters.

While you do chores, talk about what you do. Make your child your helper. "See, here is the angle. It shows ninety degrees. Help me cut the board here." Real-world math sticks to elementary kids like peanut butter on bread.

Families can also learn together on the road. Let your child help with trip planning. Planning a trip can include budgeting, map reading, Internet and library research, mileage calculation, culture and language studies, and nature studies.

A field trip to a historic farm
History only matters when you take it personally. You can't go back in time, but you can visit a historical village. Play a game from the past. Experience how people lived, cooked food, played, and built their homes. Consider trips to attend history reenactments, historical villages, and international festivals.

Real-world learning can even be profitable! Homeschoolers can learn responsibility and increase understanding of academic subjects through a small business. Your child can learn about manufacturing, marketing, business expenses, profit, loss, percent, taxes, checking, and savings. Try paper routes, craft sales, washing cars, mowing lawns, computer repair, baking and selling bread, garden horticulture, and small animal genetics/breeding to name only a few.

Don't overlook the traditional kid-run yard sale or lemonade stand. Years ago, our kids planned their own drink stand, and sold drinks. Other kids saw their successful business, and set up another stand down the street. The Morgan's business still raked in more money through lower prices and volume sales. Adult customers tended to donate dollars instead of quarters, and say, "Keep the change." The kids also learned about junk food over-indulgence. One customer returned for drinks ten times. Later, he related the unpleasant consequences of his actions. The drink stand netted a little bit of money and a lot of practical experience.

Business kids use real money to buy, sell, and give to charity. Some families use a special container for tithing. You can buy a bank that looks like a church. You can also make your own bank. Cut the lid off a can and attach pictures from a church bulletin or missionary magazine. Most churches offer free foreign ministry materials. Together, families can find out where their tithe money really goes. In the real world, real money can help people with real needs.

Volunteering—painting a church mural
Ministry work can also help kids develop empathy for others, which is entirely different from classroom "socialization." Helping an elderly or handicapped neighbor repair their home can provide learning experiences as well as character development. Kids and parents can volunteer together for community service, such as working in a food pantry, volunteering at a shelter, or planting flowers or vegetables at a dilapidated street corner. Families can join a neighborhood watch program to learn about law and safety in the real world.

Ministry can begin at home. Older children can review math and reading when they help teach younger siblings. Grandkids can help grandparents with shopping, letter writing, and finances. Real-world experiences can encourage positive social training, independence, and maturity that many modern young people lack.

Contact local church or government officials. Ask what you can do to help. You can also find local ministry information in your telephone directory. Look under "Missions," "Social Service Organizations," or "Human Services."

For real-world social studies, check out the web sites below, which offer free ministry information and resources.

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