Did you know you can create a week-long curriculum from a single event and boost excitement in your homeschool at the same time? With just 20 minutes per day, a field trip and some enthusiasm from Mom and Dad, you’ll inject your week with learning fun. All you have to do is choose a focal point for your field trip, decide what you want your kids to take away from the week, and break up the learning into short lessons.
Beyond getting your kids excited, coming up with a short but specialized curriculum will get your creative juices flowing and remind you of the wonderful freedom you have as homeschoolers. This simple action sparks life into the whole family. Are you curious about where to start? Let me share our family’s experience with an event-based curriculum as a starting point. Check out my planning process and get inspired to try it for yourself.
Choose a focal point
Here’s how I went about putting an event-based curriculum together. This curriculum idea started out when I learned that The Detroit Zoo has opened an expanded habitat for the red pandas. This sounded awesome, so a field trip to the zoo seemed natural. But the zoo’s a big place, so having the red pandas as a focal point narrowed my scope into something specific and manageable. Studying all the animals is overwhelming. Studying one animal is totally doable. Now, to build enthusiasm in the family…
I planned a trip to the zoo for the following Friday. This would be the big event that the kids would be excited about. I built enthusiasm by declaring the entirety of the week Red Panda Week. (Just say it with a little flourish and you’ve got everyone’s attention.) Yep, something as simple as giving the week a special title and focus injected our little corner of the homeschool world with a new energy. (I needed that energy as much as my kids, let me tell you.) With the field trip plan in place, the next thing to do was to determine my goals for this curriculum.
Set specific goals
Now that I had a focal point for our week, it was time to set some goals. Seeing as this curriculum was kind of an extra, I wanted to use it to demonstrate more abstract concepts. Seeing as reasoning on subjects as well as noticing things we don’t know are important to us, I decided to go in that direction.
I decided that our goals for the week would include thinking up questions about the red panda that the kids would like answers to. We’d also work on looking up answers to the questions, which involves getting to the heart of what you want to know. Also, any time we can use math in interesting ways it shows our kids that math is not just useful, but can actually be fun. So, I wanted some math explorations in there too. An art project would be a cool bonus as well.
With my goals in place I could now work them into our family rhythms for the week. The next step was to schedule these goals into daily lessons.
Plan short lessons
Okay, now I just needed to spread these goals out in short lessons spanning Monday-Thursday. When planning our school days, I try to keep any given lesson to between 20 and 30 minutes. The relatively brief amount of time means I’ve got the kids’ attention and finish before people have a meltdown. (That’s the idea anyway. Sometimes meltdowns are just an all-day occurrence. I’m sure you can relate.) I took a look at the week and put together a plan. You can see what the curriculum looked like by clicking on the link below:
How did our curriculum work in real life?
One of the nice things about putting together an event-based curriculum is that there’s no pressure. It’s icing on the homeschool cake — an extra little flourish that’s tasty and beautiful but not crucial. So, I went into this week with no sense of urgency, just happy anticipation. Which is just as well, as I ended up skipping one whole activity. Here’s how our Red Panda Week Curriculum played out:
The kids and I watched the videos linked to in the curriculum post. Then we gathered around our chalkboard to think up questions about the red panda. We filled the whole chalkboard with interesting questions. (Of course, I forgot to take a picture of the chalkboard, so I don’t have an accurate record of the really cool questions they came up with!) Here are just a couple of them:
- Do they hibernate?
- Do they have long claws to wrap around the trees to climb?
- Do they hunt animals?
- Do they have they have special bacteria that helps them digest the cyanide in all the bamboo they eat? (Man Cub had heard something about this on Wild Kratts.)
- Are they rodents?
Tim spent time with the kids looking up answers to these questions. I love when we do stuff like this, because not only do the kids get their questions answered, they become part of the research process. The result of this day’s red panda research is a couple of very excited little hooligans spouting “fun facts” about the red panda every five minutes. I’ll take that!
Wednesday was supposed to be the red panda craft day, but I confess that I didn’t get around to it. I’d feel worse about that if it wasn’t for the fact that our entire morning was spent having some spontaneous Little House on the Prairie fun in the backyard. (We made corn cakes in a cast iron skillet over a live fire. It was a good day!)
Tim took the kids on a crazy math journey based on the red panda. He let the kids come up with questions based on the red panda that you’d need math to solve. After honing the random questions into something that could be realistically answered, they set about solving the problems. You can read about both the questions asked and how they solved them in Tim’s After Action Report from that day. (There’s also a picture of the wall of math they did together in figuring it out.) You can check that out below:
While Tim ran into some logistical issues during math time (which we’ve since conferred on and come up with a plan for improving next time), the results were good. Both kids have talked animatedly with me about the things they learned several times since then. It’s always a good sign when kids want to tell back to you the things they’ve learned. Nice work Tim!
Friday was the long-awaited (because to kids five days is an eternity!) Red Panda Week Zoo Day. (Yes, all caps is necessary to convey the giddiness that was raining down upon my head. Tiny Tyrant was awake and dressed in a rain coat and her rubber boots at 6:45 a.m.!) It was cold and drizzly and thoroughly ugly-looking outside, so I wasn’t excited. However, I know from personal experience that this is fantastic weather for visiting the zoo. Seriously.
We were the first guests through the gate that morning, and we headed straight for the Red Panda Forest. (Okay, we paused briefly by the otters because they’re my favorite, but otherwise mainly focused on getting back to the red pandas.) We were rewarded for our hustle.
We arrived early enough to enjoy the morning peacefulness. We had beaten the larger groups of loud children that scare away the animals. In the quiet, we watched one of the young red pandas climb all around the trees in his habitat. Tiny Tyrant was excited to see him climbing head-first down the tree trunk and pointed out that he could do that because of his claws.
We also saw a couple of zoo keepers bring food to the older female red panda in her part of the habitat. Man Cub immediately keyed in on how awesome it must be to be able to be so close to the animals. The zoo keeper hand-fed a treat to the red panda and talked to her for a minute. It was pretty amazing to see.
The kids loved going across the new rope bridge in the habitat too. As we crossed, we were eye-level with one of the pandas as she ate her bamboo in the tree. It’s a beautiful habitat.
My favorite part was that the whole time we were there, the kids kept sharing things they had learned over the week. You could tell they were proud of what they knew.
Why you should try an event-based curriculum
A week-long curriculum based on a single event like a field trip is a quick and easy way to breathe new life into your homeschool. Once the newness of the school year has worn off, it’s all too easy to get into a rut. When we’re stuck in a rut we forget about the fun and spontaneity that homeschool offers. Planning a fun field trip gives everyone something to look forward to. Turning that field trip into a curriculum creates a sense of excitement within your family that spans the whole week.
Creating the curriculum stimulates your personal creativity. While it takes a little bit of effort to create a mini curriculum, it also allows you to be creative. Coming up with inventive ways to introduce new ideas or hone skills keeps you on your toes. The more often you do this, the easier it is to incorporate creative learning concepts into your days.
It reminds you of the freedom you have as homeschoolers. Fun lesson plans embody the spirit of homeschooling. These are the perfect chance to remind yourself of the array of learning opportunities open to your family. Plus, it feels good to see your kids’ faces light up as you all try something new together.
I hope you’ll make the time to plan an event-based curriculum for your family. Just choose a focal point, set specific goals and plan short but enjoyable lessons. Such a small amount of effort yields huge rewards — in learning, creativity and shared family memories.
Already brainstorming our next event…
Want some help planning an event-based curriculum tailored to your family? Just leave a comment or get in touch directly. We’d love to hear from you!