Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Play Your Way

One of the friends in our community here at Apple Pie mentioned that it's challenging for her to use play in learning. This made me pause.

She's right. It can be challenging to come up with ideas for incorporating play into our school lessons. It does take extra thought. Fortunately, we don't always have to start from scratch. There are many helpful products on the market -- games, books, and curriculum that use play as a way to learn. We can also turn to our friends and other experienced moms for ideas.

My two sons taught me about the importance of play. When we started homeschooling, I was very serious, task-oriented, and focused solely on getting our work done. My kids taught me a better way. Eventually, I learned my lesson and we began to engage the power of play. Each day on Apple Pie this week, I hope to tell you about some of our discoveries.

But before I do that, I want to share with you a big idea. It's this: you already have most of information you need for how to use play in learning. It's right at your feet. Watch your kids when they are choosing their activities or teaching themselves something. Notice patterns in the way they teach themselves. Notice patterns in the type of play they prefer. Notice what kinds of activities excite them and hold their attention. This gives you important clues about how they learn best.

Second, ask them to brainstorm with you about ideas on things they would like to do for school. At first, they may not be able to come up with anything that seems helpful, but don't give up. This kind of collaboration improves with practice. And be on the lookout for those unexpected moments when something bursts out of them spontaneously. This is best done in a relaxed, ongoing conversation.

Some moms are leery of my suggestion because it will give them one more thing to do, and they are already very busy. At first glance, it seems like this is just more work. But it doesn't have to be. You already have a curriculum that you plan to use. Just include fresh ideas alongside it. Experiment a bit with one small change each week. Let the ideas your kids bring up change how you learn together, rather than becoming a requirement added to an already heavy load. You will find that teaching becomes easier and more efficient when you adjust it to their natural bent.

Some ideas won't work. Some will be too taxing or expensive to be practical. But there will be moments when what your kids tell you can make a tremendous difference. I found their responses to be more helpful to me than a lot of the ideas in fancy teaching books.

I remember one of my sons saying to me, "Science is something you do, Mom. I want to do science, not study it in a book." I realized, after thinking about it, that he was right. We changed our approach to science, and it became an open floodgate of joy,excitement, and adventure for our whole family.

So here's the first thing you need to know: play works best when you do it your way.


  1. Hey Cassandra! I've been trying to find the Celestial Seasonings Madagascar Vanilla Red Tea but can't find it anywhere. Do you know of any stores that carry it?

  2. Karen,

    The last place I bought it was at a Price Chopper Store in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

    You can go to Celestial Seasonings Website (http://www.celestialseasonings.com) and buy it there, or contact their customer service for more information.


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