Whether you’ve been homeschooling your children for a while now or have been recently thrust into learning from home due to current world events, it can be hard to know if you’re doing it right. We all want the best for our kids’ education and we want to make sure we’re giving them every opportunity to succeed. But, school has changed a lot since we were there, so many parents are not confident they’re covering all the bases.
With new ways of learning and an updated curriculum, how can you be sure your child is learning everything they need? New subject areas like STEM are a particular area of concern. We know we need to include STEM in our kids’ learning, but how do we make that happen?
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The idea of introducing a STEM homeschool curriculum may seem daunting at first, but it’s not nearly as scary as it sounds.
Here are some tips on how to incorporate STEM classes for homeschoolers.
English and the Homeschool STEM Program
At first glance, English seems a world away from STEM, but there’s plenty of ways you can include it in your lessons. Think of ways you could use STEM to enrich students’ knowledge of what they’re studying.
Are you doing a unit on fairy tales? Have your little engineers build 3D models of the houses the Three Little Pigs built. Or conduct their own science experiment – which materials would build the strongest house so the Big Bad Wolf couldn’t blow it down?
There are lots of online programs and games that can address areas like spelling, grammar, punctuation and reading comprehension. You could also use an online graphic design tool like Canva to create a poster (or even an advertisement) when you’re learning about persuasive writing.
Doing diaries or journal entries? See what some of history’s biggest movers and shakers wrote in their diaries. Albert Einstein, Marie Curie, and Charles Darwin are just some of the journal keepers you can find online.
Whatever area of English you’re looking at, there are ways to use STEM to help with research, engagement, and presentation of work. Give it a go!
Okay, it seems obvious to include STEM in Maths – it is one of STEM’s key learning areas after all. But try thinking outside the box when you’re incorporating it into your lessons.
Learning about area and perimeter? Have them design a new playground (or skatepark or theme park – the options are endless!) Doing weights and measurements? Get your kids to build their own scales or a trundle wheel.
Use an online generator like Rapid Tables to enhance your lessons on graphing or statistics. You can even use something simple like PowerPoint to have students present what they know about a key maths topic. Having to explain what you know is a great way to retain knowledge!
A really effective way to include STEM in your maths lessons is through project-based learning. This inquiry-based approach uses maths to solve real-world problems. For example, your kids might find that fresh vegetables are hard to come by at the moment. Design and build a vegetable garden with them. They’ll have to research the materials they’ll need and work out quantities of soil, fertilizer, etc.
Once they know how big their garden beds are, they’ll need to work out how far apart each plant needs to be and how many can fit in each garden bed. Before you know it, you’ve spent time on perimeter, area, volume, distance, etc.!
History, Geography, and Social Sciences
I love the humanities and they are the perfect place to incorporate STEM. Your children can be so creative and let their imagination flow!
Studying medieval history? Get the Lego out and build a castle. Learning about Ancient Rome? Build a catapult and experiment with different weighted objects! Doing Australian Aboriginal history? Learn how to make and play the didgeridoo (record a performance to send to family and friends).
There are so many science experiments you can use in this subject area. Learning about erosion due to land deforestation? Try this experiment:
The opportunities are endless, really!
When it comes to learning about other places in our world, the digital age means we can visit almost anywhere. Google Earth can take us any place we like, but there are also many virtual reality tours your kids can take from the comfort of their own home. Who needs a school excursion when they can pop over to the Great Wall of China or visit the Egyptian pyramids?
Science is, of course, one of the STEM key learning areas, but there’s no reason why you can’t incorporate technology, engineering, and maths into your online science curriculum too. Maths and science often sit naturally together as many science experiments require maths skills like measuring, recording, presenting information in a graph, etc. Your experiment results might lend themselves to discussions on fractions, percentages or algebra. You’ll probably find you’re including maths without really even trying!
Science experiments are also an ideal opportunity to include a bit of engineering in your lessons. Bridge-building, electricity circuits, designing a parachute – all great ways to let those designing and building skills happen. Science Kids has some great engineering ideas to include in your curriculum.
Technology is not only a great way to research scientific topics, but also to demonstrate scientific testing and publish results. For example, if your children are learning about photosynthesis in plants they could film a stop motion video of a plant growing towards sunlight.
Check out some YouTube clips like this one for inspiration:
The internet is a great place to go to get your kids to engage with science topics. Learning about space? They can visit the NASA Kids Club and try their hand driving the Mars rover or find out which astronauts are currently on the Space Station. The site also has an excellent STEM at home section with plenty of ideas to inspire your lessons!
Art seems another unlikely companion to STEM, but in fact, there are plenty of opportunities to use STEM in your art lessons. Get creative and there’s no reason why your kids can’t use STEM to express themselves like they do with art.
Not only can they use STEM to make art materials, but they can also use STEM techniques to create their art pieces or even use art to demonstrate their STEM activities. For example, painting is always a popular form of art, but have you thought of getting your kids to make their own paint? Maybe they could create their own paintbrush from materials found in nature or use magnets to move paint around to produce an art piece. They could even use paint to illustrate the results of other STEM activities they’re doing.
Want to learn more about famous works of art? Pop on over to the Louvre or the Guggenheim! Virtual reality tours are a great way for kids to immerse themselves in art and get inspiration for their own creations.
Digital technology is also the perfect way to share their work. Get inventive and organize a collaborative online art exhibition with friends. Take your artists outside and make a large sculpture piece – plenty of engineering skills to be developed there!
The opportunities are endless, so get your creative STEM juices flowing!
STEM as a Separate Subject!
If your kids are really keen on STEM, there’s nothing wrong with using it as a stand-alone subject area. If children have a passion for a particular area, why not encourage their interest?
Robotics and coding are very popular with STEM enthusiasts at the moment. You’ll find some amazing websites out there to help you on your way. CodaKid has everything you need to get started in coding and Research Parent has some simple robotic projects your kids will love. Or you can check out our guide to the Best Educational Toys for Robotics and Coding.
If you’re after more of a general STEM curriculum but are not sure where to start, there are many websites to guide your direction. Have a look at Innovative Teaching Ideas or Teach Engineering for ideas, but you’ll need to make your curriculum decisions based on the needs, learning styles and personal interests of your kids.
There are so many options, but don’t feel like you need to rush in or commit to any one program. Remember, STEM should be interesting and enjoyable, so do what works for your individual learners!
STEM for Homeschoolers
Some students will have a real passion for STEM and may want to extend their learning in this area. But for many of us, simply incorporating STEM into the subject areas you’re already doing will go a long way towards giving your children the knowledge and skills they need.
STEM is really just a new focus area for education and something that you can easily incorporate into what you’re already doing. There’s no need for a whole new STEM homeschool program. With just a few tweaks to the way your children experience learning, the way they find information and the way they present their work, you’ll have this STEM business covered!
Frequently Asked Questions
Why do I need to include STEM in my homeschool curriculum?
STEM has become a real focus area in education in recent years and with good reason. Predictions of future job markets show the areas of high demand will be in science, technology, engineering, and maths. We need to prepare students now with the skills they’ll need for the future. But even if your child doesn’t plan on a career in these areas, STEM is still an essential subject area. Students develop important skills like problem solving, creativity, analysis, planning and flexibility.
Do I need to include STEM in all my lessons?
Definitely not! STEM is a new way for children to learn, but that doesn’t mean it has to be incorporated into everything you do. In fact, if you’re including STEM just for the sake of it, you’re probably wasting your time. Make STEM meaningful for your kids. It should be relevant to what they’re learning about or addressing a subject they’re interested in. There’s no need to force it into the curriculum if it doesn’t have a place in your lesson. Keep it relevant and kids will be more likely to stay engaged!
What resources do I need for STEM?
Don’t feel like you need to break the budget by buying the latest technological and scientific equipment. Access to a computer and the internet is key, but you can usually make do with inexpensive items or things you already have at home. For example, if you’re hoping to implement a homeschool engineering curriculum, your old box of Lego is a great starting point. If your kids have a particular area of interest, there are many specialized kits available online to help get you started.
What if STEM subjects are not my thing?
That’s okay. In fact, that’s perfect! You and your kids can learn together. There’s nothing wrong with starting at the very beginning and picking it up as you go along. Whatever subject you’re trying to tackle, there are websites, YouTube videos, instructional kits and forums out there to help you on your way. You might find a new hobby or interest for yourself in all this!