FAMILY, FEATURE STORY

Homeschool Tip: Enjoy Exploring the Outdoors During the Fall Season

In the fall season, you can homeschool outside to break up the monotony of being indoors and doing regular homeschool lessons. Activities such as exploring beautiful gardens, walking the trails at the park, and visiting an apple orchard can be a fun day of learning.


Homeschool Outside During the Fall Season
The kids at Cranbrook House and Gardens

I don’t know why, but this week has been a challenge trying to get schoolwork done. Maybe it’s because of the chilly mornings when we want to hide under the covers and sleep a little longer. Or it could be from the excitement of pumpkin patches, apple orchards, and Halloween just around the corner.

For moments like this, when we unknowingly seem to push the school books to the side, we end up spending some extra time outdoors to homeschool outside. Staying cooped up in the house for too long can be maddening. It’s nice to have places we can visit to break up the monotony of being indoors.

So far, we have taken the time to explore the beautiful Cranbrook House and Gardens, collect fall leaves at Lake St. Clair Metropark, and go apple picking at Westview Orchard. Sometimes these outdoor adventures are scheduled. Sometimes it’s just a spur of the moment idea. Either way, the kids enjoy taking our classroom outside.

Cranbrook House and Gardens
The beautiful Cranbrook House and Gardens is located in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.
Tips on How to Homeschool Outside
The boys walking through the monarch waystation at Cranbrook House and Gardens.
Lake St. Clair Metropark
Admiring a lovely sunset at Lake St. Clair Metropark.
Westview Orchard
Getting ready to pick some apples at Westview Orchard!

CREATING ENRICHING LESSONS TO HOMESCHOOL OUTSIDE

I have been mindful to turn our outside time into valuable learning experiences. When we visited the Cranbrook gardens and Lake St. Clair, for instance, we were on the hunt for monarch butterflies. Both places have a small monarch waystation– a special garden made just for these beautiful creatures.

The waystation protects the monarch’s natural habitat. We learned this particular butterfly species is at risk of becoming endangered and the waystations help the monarchs continue producing “successive generations and sustain their migration.”

For our monarch butterfly unit, I checked out many library books about monarch butterflies and purchased two unit studies from Teacher’s Pay Teachers (TPT). The cost was very low. I paid less than $10 for both sets. (I’m obsessed with TPT now!) We also watched educational videos about monarchs.

Next year, we are going to plant our very own monarch waystation and plan a trip to the upper peninsula in late summer to see the butterflies before they make their grand migration. You can read more about “Michigan’s butterfly capital” here if you like.

Monarch Waystation Cranbrook House and Gardens
Cranbrook House and Gardens has a small monarch waystation.
Monarch Waystation Cranbrook House and Gardens
The monarch waystation at Cranbrook House and Gardens.

HOW TO HOMESCHOOL OUTSIDE

It’s really easy to homeschool outside. You can either plan an outdoor-based lesson like collecting fall leaves for a science project or just simply let the kids explore on their own.

Here’s how I prep for homeschooling outside:

1. I find a lesson activity from a library book or on TPT that is related to the subject we are studying. For example, we are currently learning about the autumn season. I found sight word booklets about the fall, pumpkins, and scarecrows. I’ve been using the booklets to tie into our visit to the pumpkin patch and for making our own scarecrow for our front porch!

2. I check out books from the library related to an outdoor activity we will do. When we went to the apple orchard, I brought along a few books about apples to read at the farm.

3. I research outdoor events and places we can visit that I can connect to a lesson. Last year, when we were learning about different types of farms, we attended a harvest festival at an urban farm in Detroit.

Tips on How to Homeschool Outside
Before we picked our apples, I read a few books about apple orchards to the kids.

4. Sometimes I pack a few books and lesson activities for us to do homeschool outside. It could be reading books together or just doing a workbook activity while we’re at the park. This is a win-win for us because we get a few lessons done and then the kids can go play!

5. We look for various forms of literature at the location we are visiting. You can use brochures and maps as part of a lesson. The kids picked up a map of Cranbrook House and Gardens to try and navigate around the campus. It was a great way to teach them how we can use maps to find places.

Homeschool Tip: Homeschool Outside During the Fall Season
Travis showing Zhen how to read a map at Cranbrook House and Gardens.

The fall weather in southeast Michigan can be a little finicky. It fluctuates between chilly, sunny days to gloomy, rainy days. Sometimes when the sun is shining you can get by with just wearing a long sleeve shirt. We like to take advantage of the slightly warmer days and get the kids outside to play because once the cold winter hits, we spend more time indoors.

On our regular school days, we try to get outside to play in the yard or at the neighborhood playground. Even just a nice walk on a nature trail helps clear the mind. I find that everyone feels refreshed afterward and tackling our daily lessons doesn’t feel like such a chore.

Taking a nature walk at a local park.

On really chilly, fall days, Travis takes the kids outside to play for a short time while I stay inside with the baby. I’ll admit, on those days, it’s a nice little break for me. I get to sit down and rest. Uninterrupted.

Most times I’m sitting on the couch and nursing Zaya, but I don’t mind. It’s quiet and the house is still. I can hear myself think…or not think. Put the running thoughts of lessons and to-do lists on silent. Until I hear those three little voices nearing the front door and ready for the next thing. Ah! Break’s over!


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All photos are courtesy of Jennifer Hamra for Good Life Detroit. Photo location: Cranbrook House and Gardens in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan.

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