Monday, March 23, 2009

Homeschool Opportunities in an Economic Downturn

What a great time to be a homeschooler! As the daily headlines pour out clouds of gloom, and frugal living websites abound, the savvy homeschool mom thinks, "What a perfect chance for a unit study!" The only problem is deciding where to begin. Below are a few suggestions from our family to yours.

Math: This is really a no brainer. Simply make a trip to the super market with coupons in hand, and you're on your way to a great math lesson. Is it better to buy product A on the 10 for 10 sale, or to buy the generic version at its regular price? How low can we go on our favorite products by combining store sales, coupons, and rebates?

Turning away from the stores, and back to the headlines, what about graphing the unemployment figures? Or, take the unemployment figures for your county, and compare them with the population, to see if you can figure the actual number of unemployed from the unemployment percent.

Take a reading of your electric. or gas meter every day for a week. Use the numbers to figure an average of your daily use. Follow the steps on one of the many frugal living sites to reduce your energy usage, while continuing to record your daily usage to see if the changes around your house change your average numbers. These numbers can then be graphed (which by the way also works for a lesson in computer skills!)

Science: Why not take the opportunity to clean your house, and teach your children at the same time? There are many recipes available for home cleaning products, some of which can be made for much less than the store bought versions. Use a recipe for one such as laundry soap, and compare the results against your favorite laundry soap, or even against the cheaper store brand soap. I'm sure your children would enjoy preparing some various stains for cleaning. If you do this, by the way, be sure to let us know how it turned out - we'd all like to be using the best laundry soap, dish washing soap, and bathroom cleaner we can!

History: Again, this is a no brainer. Of course you have to study the great depression, and the other depressions before that. What a great time to make a trip to the library, to visit the archived newspapers. Can you find the headlines from the late 1920's? How do they compare to today's headlines?

This is also a great time to interview older relatives. and neighbors. Although they'd have to be quite old to have in depth memories of the depression, many in their 70's have childhood impressions from that time, or family stories to relate. Also, it's interesting to talk to the older generations about frugal living, and cutting costs. The ideas, that are so new, and interesting to us, are often old hat to them.

Geography: Map out the unemployment numbers state by state, or county by county, within your state. What parts of the country are being hit the hardest? What are some of the reasons, that certain areas of the country, such as Wyoming or North Dakota have not been hit as hard?

Literature: Again, a good time to visit the library. There are a number of great books, both fiction, and nonfiction, dealing with the depression. There are also a number of books out right now on the current economic situation, which might be challenging for older students. Younger students might enjoy comparing works of fiction to movies, that have been made from them. It might even be a good time to pull out the Charlie Chaplin films, and discuss social satire. For a creative writing project, have the children consider what might happen if all of the jobs are in the middle of country instead of the coastlines. Will there be a reverse migration from what we saw during the great depression? How might this change the culture of the Midwest?

Art: This is a terrific time to pursue recycled art projects. It might also be a good time to learn a new handcraft. If it turns out well, you could sell it online, and add a little to the family income.

Bible: The book of Proverbs abounds with verses about money, and wisdom. There has never been a better time to study it.

This is also a good time to find creative ways to give as a family. Sometimes giving can be of time, and not of money. Could you offer free, or inexpensive daycare to another family struggling to make ends meet? Can your savings at the grocery store be translated into an increase in giving to a local food bank? With gardening weather coming on, can you plant a little extra to share with others?

These are just a few ideas that we've been brainstorming about. I'm sure there are countless more. I just have to say it again - what a great time to be a homeschooler!

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