In this post we will be discussing homeschool binge learning.
Homeschooling can be a real drag at times.
Usually, this is because we have traded in learning for schooling. “Schooling” is a tyrannical system in which the person is slave to the mechanism. It reduces human beings to products in an education factory.
While we must have a plan to teach our children the tools of learning, if all we do is keep things all neat and tidy in separate boxes that never touch each other we kill the natural things that spark creativity, beauty, and warmth.
This is why we can go through homeschool “blahs,” or what is commonly known as burnout.
There is actually a remedy of this malady, and it is called:
What is binge learning? I think the best way to illustrate what it entails would be to use a real-life example.
In the past few years we were led to move a few states away from where we had lived for 35 years. This was a radical ordeal for us, and something we were very excited about.
Sooooo….we started gathering all of the information we could.
We studied maps.
We called real estate agents.
We talked to people from the area.
We took two trips to check it out.
We wrote out lists.
We learned new home improvement skills.
We shopped movers…
…and on, and on, and on.
We used every spare moment to learn and make and do so that we could reach our goal.
There were no textbooks, or tests, or lectures (except some friendly informational ones) and yet, we had a very successful move (thanks to the blessing of our wonderful Heavenly Father!).
What does Binge Learning look like for homeschooling?
Well, it is focused, but loosely structured. There isn’t any aimlessness to it and it does have form, but it is allowed to move in any direction necessary.
Here is a homeschooling example:
Let’s say you are reading the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory aloud to your children. As you are reading, certain questions crop up:
- How is chocolate made?
- Who is Roald Dahl?
- What is it about the children in the book that make them so unlikable?
You then take these questions one-by-one and explore them to find answers and gain information.
For the first question, you could:
- Look up chocolate in reference books.
- Watch videos about chocolate making.
- Check out books from the library on the subject.
- Look into where chocolate came from, which would lead to studying the Aztecs and studying a map of Mexico.
- Visit a local chocolate shop, perhaps witness the making of some fudge.
- Make some molded chocolates or perhaps some fudge or chocolate chip cookies.
For the second question, you would find a short biography of Roald Dahl, which might lead you to study Wales, or WWII, or fighter pilots, or planes in WWII, and on and on.
For the third question, you could talk about manners, which would lead us to Emily Post, George Washington, The Golden Rule, Jesus, Proverbs, and so on.
Along the way, you would be keeping notes, making maps, writing brief biographies, doing experiments, keeping graphs, calculating pounds of chocolate per American, etc.
By the time you had dissipated your learning enthusiasm, you would have touched on just about every learning discipline:
Doesn’t this sound ingeniously fun? It certainly can be! I have enjoyed this type of learning with our children for a quarter of a century, and it’s created some of our favorite learning memories.
So how is this different from unit studies and unschooling?
Bing learning is less structured than unit studies. It does start with a question and include loads of different activities covering all disciplines, but the path and the activities are not planned, they are lived.
In other words, instead of mapping out all of the things we do beforehand, I record what we have done after we have done it.
It is different from unschooling because it is not absolutely free-form. I am involved; I oversee where we are going and how we will get there. I also may impose certain requirements, such as taking notes, keeping a journal, doing some notebooking pages, copywork, etc.
How can this be applied?
While I do not suggest binge learning as the “norm,” it definitely has its place.
Here are some of my thoughts:
- You can binge as a break from structured learning. This could be:
- Once every quarter.
- Once every six weeks.
- One day a week.
- Used for an older child who wants to devote the hours after he has done his basic work to the binge subject.
- “Binging” is not as much about the subject matter as it is about teaching children how to research and glean information that can be practically applied to life. This is a skill every adult needs.
Here are some pointers:
- Keep the rest of your day structured. Get up, get ready, do breakfast, and then block out a sizeable part of your day for exploration.
- Pick subjects that you are interested in. This will insure that you are excited, which will help your children to get excited. As in the chocolate study, etc.
- Don’t add in reading, writing, arithmetic, science, history, etc. unless it makes sense in the study. If it doesn’t fit naturally, it will kill the enthusiasm. Use regular school time to focus in on the basics.
- Don’t get elaborate on the activities, experiments, and crafts. Keep them simple and as close to real life as possible.
- Keep stocked up on basic materials such as pencils, colors, pens, papers, adhesives, etc., but don’t get expensive or exotic. Borrow whatever you can.
- Keep a library of reference works on hand to go to so you won’t be too dependent on the Internet.
- Keep a list of possible questions to explore in your homeschool journal or planner so that when the time comes you will have something ready to explore.
And here are two more “biggies.”
Do a wrap-up activity.
This is something that is bigger than the little activities; something that will put all of it together and give a chance to debrief and bring closure. Here are some possibilities (but there are many others):
- Plan a dinner or a special food that you can make. As you enjoy the food, have each person present any writing, drawings, or other things they have created along the way so you can all enjoy it together.
- Create a “display case” like they have in museums. You can clear off a shelf or a table top, or you can put it in an actual box that is open on the top and front. In it you can place items you have found or created that can be displayed for you all to enjoy for a long time.
- Write a family newsletter which includes poetry, stories, essays, art, and photographs of the fun you have had together on your learning journey. A Christmas newsletter after a Christmas binge is one of the funnest things we have ever done.
Instead of planning before, record after.
This can be as simple as making daily entries in a cheap composition book. Just put the date at the top, and write out what you have done, who was doing what, and what areas of academics you touched on (such as Bible, reading, writing, geography, etc.).
A simple way to do this would be to use the free recording sheets I have developed which have the subjects already filled in, or to purchase The Lesson Book, which is something I designed to make things easier for moms like me. You can find The Lesson Book on Amazon, where I purposely priced it low to make it more affordable. There are two versions:
The Record Book. This one has the subjects already filled in.
The Record Book, Second Edition. This one has the subjects left blank, and also has places to track hours and keep periodic summaries.
And there you have it–except for this video, which you can listen to while driving, or sweeping, or making dinner: