I have a confession to make. I write and speak a lot about the importance of hands-on activities as part of children’s learning experiences, but I really don’t like hands-on activities.
It’s shocking, I know. I really do believe that hands-on activities are important for all children and are critical for children with special needs, but I struggle with keeping them going in my own home.
I think there are a few reasons why this is true:
● I’m a low-energy person. All the planning, execution, and clean-up involved in hands-on activities fatigue me. In fact, just thinking about the process makes me tired! Hands-on activities are fun, but they are not low-maintenance.
● I’m a perfectionist. I find it very frustrating when I try to duplicate something I saw in a book or on Pinterest, and my results look nothing like the intended activity. (This is why I don’t spend a lot of time on Pinterest. It’s like staring at potential failure after potential failure!)
● I’m not very artistic. Despite my desire to the contrary, I am not a very artistic person. I have these wonderful ideas in my head, but my lack of natural talent and ability in this area leads to disappointment and frustration. (This leads back to my perfectionist tendencies. It’s not a good combination.) I do not deny that I am creative, but I’m not an artist in any visual media. I’m much more at home with words. My one triumph in this area is that I have successfully taught myself to crochet.
● I don’t like messes. Perfectionism comes back to get me again. Creative, hands-on endeavors are often messy, and I struggle with seeing past the mess to the process and learning happening in front of me. I have all these strikes against me, but I still do hands-on activities and field trips with my kids regularly.
Here’s how I manage to make it happen:
● I work with a friend. I have a friend who is great at hands-on activities, creative, and not afraid of a good mess for a good cause. We have teamed up to do science together this year. We go over the lessons with our kids during our regular lesson times in our own homes, and then we get together every other week to do experiments and other fun activities related to the material we’ve been covering. (I confess that she often plans these and tells me what I need to contribute to make it happen.)
● I put my kids to work. Thankfully, my children have not inherited my reluctance to make a mess and learn from it. Often, I will let them choose activities they want to do that relate to something we’re studying. They help me gather the necessary materials and clean up the mess. That takes a lot of pressure off me. They’re also not concerned about less than perfect results. It’s all part of the fun of learning!
● I remember the joy. Although I struggle with hands-on activities, the smiles you see on our faces in my blog posts or on social media are very real. Knowing how much fun we’ll have and how much my kids will benefit academically pushes me to go ahead and make the sacrifice of my comfort and convenience. After all, what will my kids remember after they’re grown and gone? I’m sure they’ll fondly remember the messy activities, not the books and papers. I want to leave a legacy of memories they can cherish for a lifetime.
How do you handle hands-on activities in your homeschool?
Jennifer Janes lives in Arkansas with her husband, two daughters, a few cats, and a couple of gerbils. She spends her days homeschooling her kids, writing, reading, crocheting, and enjoying time with friends and family. She shares about her faith, family, and parenting and homeschooling a child with special needs at jenniferajanes.com.
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