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Topic Tuesday

by Kim Jaworski, Homeschool Resource Specialist


This easy shift in how you cover Science, Social Studies and the Arts for your grade schoolers can save you money (you’ll use your library and online resources instead of expensive text books each year) and will help coordinate learning even across grade levels. This can also be adapted for older students.

It’s simple, and it’s fun because it gives your children ownership of the material and a sense of discovery, which a re-hashed textbook can never do.

My list of topics was compiled from various lists and books that cover what kids should learn in different grades. I merged them all into a big list and used it as my pool of ideas. My kids were close in age, so we used one basket which I stocked with slips of paper, like fortune cookie fortunes, with a topic on each slip. But you could easily have a basket for each child if their skills levels vary significantly. I kept a master list and checked off the topics as they were selected from the basket. Each week on Monday, the boys would pick their topic. One might pick ‘composers’ and the other pulled out ‘volcanoes’. Our basket included Science, social studies and art/literature topics. Then first thing Tuesday morning we headed to the library (there are too many Monday holidays when libraries are closed, but really any day would work). The boys each had their topic in hand and set off to search for 15 min to see what they could find – videos, books, magazines. After the 15 min was up, they could ask the children’s librarian for help locating additional relevant material.

Because of the way library computers are all interconnected now, and we didn’t want to have to request a bunch of items and then wait for things to show up, we usually looked up a topic to find out its call numbers, and then headed to that set of shelves to see what was there. We took home the materials we found and studied our topics for the week. The next Monday we chose new topics and Tuesday morning we returned last week’s items and pursued our next learning adventure among the library shelves.

If a topic really generates a lot of interest at your house or seems to have a lot of books to get through, you can hold a topic over for another week or even 2. For us, Ancient Egypt was a topic that required a longer period of exploration and eventually it was even a birthday party theme!

 You can certainly also check online resources and videos on youtube (parent supervision suggested, strongly). Some weeks we ventured to neighboring libraries (I tried to stick to the ones that allowed us to return the materials to our home library) for new territory to explore. This was especially helpful in the winter months when everything familiar seems stale and drab.

Some families have modified this approach to study a person, a place and a thing each week. So they have separate baskets and split the topics accordingly. Whatever works for you is fine. Even though the boys had their own weekly topic- we studied those topics together. With kids of different ages, they will take on the material at their own level.

In addition to learning about their weekly topics, the boys also learned

  • how to use the library,

  • the advantages to studying from multiple sources and different perspectives,

  • and that any topic can be more interesting than it might originally seem, once you dig in.

And I didn’t have to buy a science or social studies text for every grade. The library is a wonderful FREE resource—make good use of yours!

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