The simple answer is YES. It ALL counts!
I have often said, tongue in cheek, that if you are not locking your child in a sensory deprivation room for hours on end, they will learn. We are hardwired to learn new things. Exploring our world and our environment ensures learning. When tools are available, learning happens more readily.
I have used a number of different unconventional items over the years in our homeschool. I have been creative in my teaching thus my kids have been creative in their learning.
One thing I love using in our homeschool are games - board games, card games, computer games. There are so many things one can learn from games. The basic skills needed - taking turns, strategy, following directions - are used in many styles of games.
(These are not affiliate links - just sharing so you can see what I'm talking about...)
Some of my favorites include:
- Rat-a-Tat-Cat - this is a card game that even I enjoy geared for ages 6 and up. However, once a child can count to 10, they can probably play the game. There are a couple of different versions - one easier than another. The goal is to have the lowest number.
- Sum Swamp - a board game geared to teaching basic addition and subtraction. I enjoyed this one as much as my sons did. It's also quick so you can play multiple games without it taking forever. Geared for ages 5+ (or younger with help)
- Set - a card game that messes with your mind (in a good way). You have to make matches but they can be in multiple ways. You can match color, shapes, or number or any other combo.
- Ticket to Ride - This is one of my favorites that we still play. You have destinations you must build your train line to gaining points for each destination you succeed in making. The link here is for the American version but they have many other versions. It's a great way to learn geography and strategy also comes in to play. This is geared for ages 8+ but there is also a First Journey version for ages 6+. Younger can play with help.
- Settlers of Catan - This is a family favorite. We started playing this one when our oldest was only seven years old. It is geared for ages 10+ so we did give him some help to start. Note that the version linked is good for 3-4 players. If you want more than that, you'll need to buy the expansion pack as well. There is tons of strategy involved with this game. There is also a junior version geared for ages 6-10.
I count field trips as the learning for the day. On field trips day we would listen to audio books while driving there. I talked about the power of audio books earlier. We would then enjoy the field trip taking in all we could. I rarely ever made my kids write up a report but that is another way to ensure they learned something. We would simply talk about it. I would always ask my kids what their favorite part of the day was and why.
Favorite field trips we have done throughout Maine. I am including all of our favorites, but please ensure these are still operating due to the current climate in the world.
- Maine State Museum - We have done focused field trips here but just going and exploring is also fun. Admission is free for educators including homeschoolers. Simply fill out a form at the front desk when checking in. Note they are currently closed for extensive renovations.
- Maine Wildlife Park - I normally coordinate a large field trip here either in the spring or the fall. There is an admission fee. If you do a field trip, it is usually $5/person. They are currently open by reservations only. It's a great outdoor space with lots of animals native to the state of Maine. It's always a highlight of our year.
- Leonard's Mills - This is a great living history museum. They typically hold a two day event in October that is full with reenactors running the village as it would have been in days of long ago. The last few times I have attended there were Civil War reenactors camped out as well. This is located above Brewer in the town of Bradley. It is part of the Maine Forest and Logging Museum. You can check their Facebook page for their current policies.
- Orono Bog Boardwalk - This is part of the Bangor City Forest. We were able to go with a guide quite a few years ago. I would recommend it even if you just go to explore on your own. This is free.
- Fort Knox - We love exploring Fort Knox. They used to do a medieval fair on Labor Day weekend but I don't think they have held that event for the last few years. This fort is in excellent shape and a great place to go run around and imagine what life would have been like all those years ago. The Penobscot Narrows Observatory is also there and, if you don't mind heights, a great place to check out as well. There is a small fee to enter, more if you are not a Maine resident.
- DEW Animal Haven - A great place to see exotic animals in Maine (tigers and lions!). They also have wild animals and domesticated animals. From now until October 11th, they are only open on the weekends. We have done field trips here in the past which makes it a little less expensive. I am unsure if they are currently doing field trips.
- Apple Orchards - This is a great time to explore local apple orchards. While we have often done field trips, you can do these without one. I have to say though, we did a tour one year at Ricker Hill in Turner. That was fun as they showed us what it's like "behind the scenes" to sort apples and make cider. They also have a wonderful playground with fun activities to explore.
Homeschooling doesn't have to look like your child sitting behind a desk filling in worksheets to count as education. It can just as easily be taking a hike up the mountain exploring nature (science and PE). It can look like visiting grandparents and listening to them talk about what life was like when they were little (history). It can look like helping mom and dad do home improvements or even chores around the house (life skills). It can look like going along on errands and learning to interact with the world around them (social skills). It can look like a day spent on the couch reading (all the subjects!).
I hope this gives you an idea of what learning can look like. It ALL counts. Anything you do where your child is learning, is educational and worthy of their time and effort. Count. It. All.