Homeschool and the Importance of Hands-On Learning

Tell me and I forget.

Teach me and I may remember.

Involve me and I learn.

Benjamin Franklin

There is no doubt about the effectiveness of adding hands-on activities to boost a learning experience.

Studies have shown a marked increase in retention when students actively participate in learning a skill or subject versus merely being told or shown.

Students who participate in hands-on learning, also known as experiential learning,
•    Stay motivated and alert
•    Develop critical thinking skills
•    Learn their strengths and weaknesses
•    Grasp ideas sooner and retain ideas longer
•    Make connections between unrelated topics
•    Get to experience many styles of learning a concept
•    Strengthen fine and gross motor skills through physical activities.

What the hand does, the mind remembers.

Maria Montessori

About staying motivated and alert:

Kids get bored. And no matter how much inflection and emotion you add to your reading, just hearing a lesson from a textbook or other book may not be enough to get the facts to stick.

Adding movement and tactile reinforcement to a lesson makes it fun and memorable.

About developing critical thinking skills:
When faced with a design issue while constructing a model of the Great Pyramids, your kids will have to stop and think the problem through.

When writing the script for a historical play, your kids may encounter different versions of the same event. They’ll need to discern the most factual version or research conflicting details.

Hands-on activities cause your students to see topics and events from a different perspective, opening up channels of communication and critical thought.

About learning their strengths and weaknesses:

Maybe your shy kid discovers a talent for dramatic acting. Maybe your budding biologist learns that dissecting animals is definitely a hard no.

Hearing about an experience pales in comparison to experiencing it firsthand! Your kids will uncover aspects of themselves through hands-on activities neither you nor they had ever considered.

About grasping ideas sooner and retaining ideas longer

As Ben Franklin said, “Involve me and I learn.” You no doubt have experienced learning curves that were dramatically reduced when you went from reading about a topic, such as knitting or woodworking, to actually doing the thing.

Hands-on activities help create solid neural pathways in our brains so we make connections quicker and can recall those facts for a longer period of time.

About making connections between unrelated topics:

And speaking of connections, hands-on activities can trigger memories of other learning experiences.

The texture of a fabric or a plant leaf, the smell of an essential oil, the sound of a homemade water xylophone all can click with your child to remind them of something familiar, thereby strengthening the understanding of the topic.

About experiencing many different learning styles:
Kids take in and process information in many different ways. Some prefer visual delivery of new information. Some, an audio version.

And while we all have our favorite method of learning, hands-on activities can introduce ideas in a new way, and can create deeper understanding the student may not have experienced otherwise.

About strengthening fine and gross motor skills:
Sitting and listening is one way of taking in new information, but that won’t necessarily improve certain motor skills in your child.

Big movements like jumping and small movements like putting together a puzzle both build motor skills and help increase learning and retention.

The Science Behind Hands-On Learning
Research has shown the importance of including hands-on activities in everyday learning experiences.

One study investigated the strength of retention between two groups of students who either watched someone baking cookies or participated in baking cookies.

As you can imagine, hands-on baking generated much more retention of the process.

Activity-Based Learning Strategies  Carbonneau and Marley

The science behind hands-on activities speaks volumes!

And now, since you’re wishing you had a fresh batch of cookies warm from the oven, is a fantastic time to fling open the baking cabinet and call the kids for a math and cooking chemistry lesson.

What are some ways to include hands-on learning in your homeschool?

Here are just a few ideas you can incorporate into your everyday lessons to help your students retain information:

  • Counting with coins
  • Drawing on the sidewalk and hopping as they skip count
  • Creating an analog clock with cardboard and paper fasters
  • Cutting a pizza or pie to learn fractions
  • Building a cardboard replica of a historic monument
  • Creating a lookalike of a historical document
  • Acting out a scene from history
  • Doing kitchen science experiments with everyday items
  • Watching the life cycle of a plant
  • Keeping record of the weather in a notebook
Language Arts
  • Playing homemade games with words and letters
  • Creating word puzzles or scavenger hunts
  • Dancing to a poem or acting out a scene from a book
  • Turning a written essay into a radio broadcast
  • Building a simple musical instrument
  • Experimenting with the sounds of everyday items
  • Dyeing fabric in interesting patterns
  • Recreating a famous masterpiece from a new material
  • Using food to build edible landforms
  • Creating a sidewalk game to learn states or continents
Foreign Languages
  • Make colorful labels to stick to household objects
  • Play a familiar game in another language
Involve your kids in dreaming up new ways to add hands-on activities to your everyday homeschool adventure. The closer they are to the idea, the more excited they will be.

Have fun with hands-on!

Beverly Matoney is a veteran homeschool mom of two awesome graduates. She creates copy and content to help companies connect with their homeschool customers.
Visit her website at Online Homeschool Activities to find even more ideas to add hands-on fun to your homeschool adventure!