One of my favorite parts of homeschooling is when we randomly stumble into a lesson. I like the joy of learning about something that was not part of the lesson plans and the wonder it creates for my kids. Found lessons involve taking a risk, setting aside plans and learning what life has brought into your day. And while great found lessons can find you, there are some ways to leave your day open to the possibilities.
Opening the Door to Adventure
Sometimes, we go looking for found lessons. We hunt for them on hikes in the woods. We don’t know what we are looking for exactly. But it is interesting when we find it. Seeing the spores on the backs of fern leaves, the odd mushrooms on old tree stumps, and local wildlife, from odd bugs to chittering birds, all make good lessons.
This type of found lesson involves only walking without much purpose. It gives the children space to see what they want to examine instead of being rushed along. We pause to look at things with new eyes.
A field guide and a magnifying glass are fun to bring along but a cellphone works fine, too. There are many ways to look up what an animal, plant, or mushroom is called and to learn more about it. Looking carefully can turn into art, with the use of a camera phone, so your child can be a scientist or an artist, or both.
Finding Lessons While Living Our Lives
I also discover found lessons at the grocery store or other shopping adventures. I’ve purchased seed kits, mushroom growing kits and a wide array of small house plants over the years during regular trips to the grocery store. The kits and plants became our lessons on botany and covered a lot of earth science. Honestly, some of these plants did not live long, but even that was a lesson. Learning how and why a plant might die, is part of learning what keeps them alive.
Random science kits, crafts, and activities are also frequently gifts from well-meaning friends and family. The beauty of those is that I can save them for a day when our regular school work is going badly and pull them out to be “found” by my child. Discovering a new project sitting on the kitchen table lifts everyone’s mood.
Found lessons can also come in the form of last minute field trips and outings. Sometimes we want to plan our field trips to coordinate with the history program we are studying or the book we just read, but the field trip itself can be enough. It is okay to just go. Drop everything and visit the zoo today or the museum. Let your children learn whatever they learn there, and let go of worrying about how much more they would get from it in other contexts. So when your homeschool friend asks if anyone would like to join them for an adventure, just say “yes.” Your children may discover a new passion. And if not, that’s fine too.
Following the Trail to more learning
Sometimes, found lessons result in more study and discovery at home afterward. An idea takes hold and requires research and reading and learning more. We all love when that happens. But it is also okay if it doesn’t happen that way. It’s okay if your child never looks harder at those things they learned because they now know things they didn’t before. They know when they read a great book what a yellow mushroom looks like, or a penguin, or a wilting plant. When we know what things are, we can relate to them better in literature, textbooks and lessons. These random topics that wander into your life, make it richer and more interesting.
So, drop your lesson plans and learn what life brings you. It will make your lessons more meaningful when you get back to them.
About the Author
Laura Sowdon, OTR/L is an occupational therapist, writer, speaker, educator and creator of the Five Senses Literature Lessons homeschool curriculum. She has worked as an occupational therapist with children in public and private schools, as well as private practice. Laura has taught and managed homeschool co-ops as well as homeschooling her own three children. Laura is dedicated to the idea of educating children at a pace that aligns with brain and physical development milestones and respects neurodiversity in all its forms.