5 Easy Unschooled Projects to Do With Your Kids

Jonathan Longnecker Jonathan Longnecker / October 22, 2014
Education is not the filling a pail, but the lighting of a fiire

Ever since Adali and I finished up her comic book project, we've been trying to think of other creative ways for the kids to learn. Even when you homeschool it's easy to follow the curriculum to the "t" and not do anything else with it. 

As my kids start getting older I'm excited to share new things with them. For instance, this week we started watching the Star Wars movies for the first time. Film education, anyone? :) Seriously, though - I get to watch it with them, give them history on the whole thing and help them tie the stories together. Even explain how some of the old effects were created and how they got updated in newer versions. They love to know how things are made and that excites me.

Wouldn't it be great if you had these little projects you could work on with your kids, too? I guarantee you they'll remember these moments many years from now - probably more than all the school functions, soccer games and birthday parties. Why? Because it's your chance to get personal with themshare knowledge with them that isn't in the form of a "stern talking to," and let them know what you're passionate about. It also shows them how much you want to spend time with them and do fun stuff together.

So! Here are some ideas to get you started:

1. Make Unique and Memorable Projects Based on Schoolwork

Ashley has been so great about doing this with the kids while she's homeschooling. For instance - a few months ago they were studying Mexico. We found a Mexican iTunes radio station, cranked it up and made a bunch of tacos. We talked about all sorts of trivia while we were eating, too. I still remember Jett randomly shouting, "I have a moustaaache!!" in a ridiculous accent while were eating. I have no idea why he did, but it was hilarious. We still say that to each other even today.

Something else you can do is work in a craft that's related to a study session. The kids went with Ashley to Lowes the other day, built a rocket stove out of paver stones and cooked their own hotdogs based on some stuff they had researched. I know they remembered that! Taking the school out of the book and into real life sticks so much better.

2. Create a Kids Book Together

Adali and I made a comic book, but you could start much simpler. I guarantee your kid has some of the weirdest, most awesome stories you've ever heard floating around in their head. Get those suckers down on paper, draw it with them and help them make real book out of it. Watch how excited they get when they can give that book to their friends and family. Before you kow it, they'll be asking to work on the sequel.

Taking the school out of the book and into real life sticks so much better.

3. Start Music Education

Within the last couple of months our kids have really started to pay attention to music. Adali saved up and got an iPod Touch and Jett saved up to get an iPod Shuffle. Now that they can listen to music on their own time I'm going to try some music education with them.

Here's the idea: Every couple of weeks I'll put a different album on their iPods. Before we switch it out with a new one we'll have a "test" where we talk about it. Stuff like:

  • What song was their favorite?
  • What song did they not like?
  • Questions about lyrics
  • Research the band

4. Give Them a Photography Project

You probably have an old camera laying around the house. Or if your child is older they may already have a phone or an iPod Touch with a camera. This is a perfect opportunity to get them to make stuff rather than play games and text all day.

Make a quick calendar list of photography projects for them to work on. Maybe week one they take pictures of 20 different patterns. Week two they take up close/macro shots of toys in fun poses. Week three find bugs or plants and document them. The key here is to have them report back to you and show you their work. Maybe you can even find a way to compile this into an online gallery (or print them out) so that they can share it with others.

5. Make a Short Movie

We've been doing this together for quite a while and have made several movies. From Ninja Turtles to Transformers to them just playing on the playground, it's pretty easy to shoot and edit this stuff just on your phone. No fancy computer software needed. In fact, if you have an iPhone you can download iMovie for free and make pretty great looking videos.

They love seeing themselves on the screen and they want to watch them all the time (and show them to everyone that comes over). The next step I've been pondering is showing my oldest how to use iMovie on her iPod Touch so she can make one herself. 

So there you go! A few ideas for non-traditional creative unschooled projects with your kids. Have fun and enjoy!

Jonathan Longnecker

About the Author

Jonathan Longnecker is the strongly opinionated tattooed and bearded half of Tiny Shiny Home. He loves making music, designing brands, building websites and exploring the outdoors. Currently his jam is renovating a vintage Airstream.

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