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The landscape of education is changing. Last year, millions of children had to adapt to e-learning or turn to homeschooling due to the COVID-19 pandemic. This year, while things are slowly starting to get back to normal, homeschool has become a greater option for some kids and parents. So much so, that in March of 2021, there were 4.5-5 million K-12 students homeschooling in the U.S.
More parents are starting to see the benefits of homeschooling, including flexibility, meaningful learning, and meeting the child’s needs now based on their learning style. But, another benefit of homeschooling is that it doesn’t need to be in a traditional classroom setting.
Outdoor learning is a great option to introduce to your homeschoolers. Not only can it break up the monotony of a regular school day, but there are additional benefits that can support your child’s learning and overall health.
Let’s look at some of those benefits, so you can take a new approach and consider outdoor learning as often as the weather allows.
Improved Mental Health
There have been multiple studies done on the mental health benefits of being in nature. Some of those benefits include:
- Reduced stress
- Less anger
- Improved mood
- Boosted energy
Over the last year, children and teens have gone through a lot. Some researchers are already concerned about a “wave” of mental health issues for kids and teens due to the pandemic. Doing what you can to maintain your child’s mental well-being while homeschooling can keep them from becoming one of those statistics.
Does outdoor learning absolutely ensure they won’t struggle with change or feel stressed or depressed because things are different? No. But, learning outside is a safe and natural way to manage mental health, and pick up on any warning signs your child or teen might be displaying.
Consider it a “nature pill” that can help them deal with the effects of the last year and any other struggles they might be going through. Even spending just a few hours outside each day can completely change their outlook.
A Boost in Curiosity
It’s normal to be naturally curious outside – even as an adult. For kids and teens, that curiosity is even greater and more important. Young kids can almost always use their imagination to turn an everyday outdoor experience into something “magical.” You can use that to your advantage in an outdoor classroom setting since they’ll be eager to learn and explore. Curiosity has more benefits than you might realize, including:
- It increases happiness
- It boosts achievement
- It strengthens relationships
- It improves decision-making
If your child or teen already loves being outdoors, you can harness that passion into your daily lessons and make sure a portion of each day is dedicated to exploring. Nature offers so many built-in lessons that your child will think they’re just playing and having fun, but they can learn new things along the way. From tree identification to learning about area wildlife, being outside is like immersing yourself in science. Allow for time each day for your child to ask questions about their surroundings. By encouraging their curiosity about things they already enjoy, you’ll show them that it’s okay to be curious about other things. That can increase their desire to be lifelong learners.
It Caters to Every Learning Style
COVID isn’t the only reason homeschool has become more popular. Kids have different learning styles, and those aren’t always approached in the best way when they’re in a traditional setting. Homeschooling makes it easier for you to focus on that learning style and educate them in a way that they fully understand.
Taking your classroom outside makes it even easier to appeal to your child’s natural learning style. Whether they prefer a hands-on approach, auditory learning, or they’re a visual learner, you can cater to their individual needs completely when you’re outdoors. Some of the benefits that cater to your child’s learning style and are enhanced by outdoor learning include:
- Experiential learning
- Real-world experiences
- Active problem-solving skills
- Firsthand sensory experiences
In an outdoor learning environment, you’ll spend less time explaining how to do things outside and more time letting your children experience things for themselves. Because they’ll experience less stress than they would in a classroom, they’re more likely to retain the things they’ve learned. When a child or teen is happy and relaxed, it will be easier for them to stay focused and dedicated to what they’re doing. It shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that many students who participate in outdoor classrooms have increased productivity and better cognitive skills.
Most parents agree that kids should spend more time outside. In this world of smartphones and video games, that can be easier said than done. But, if you homeschool your kids or teenagers, considering an outdoor classroom could be a perfect way to boost their learning experience and their general health and well-being. Keep these benefits in mind and think about what you might need to get started with a classroom immersed in nature.