How to Make Any Subject More Engaging

Child and his mother on digital tablet
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Homeschooling parents often want to know how to make homeschooling fun. It’s important to remember that it’s not our job to make everything about school fun – after all, there are some tasks that have to be completed even if they’re not the most entertaining. However, there are some simple steps you can take to make any subject more engaging.

Read Biographies

Often subjects are boring because students can’t relate to them. History is nothing but dry, dusty facts. Science is a bunch of strange terms and obscure people. Math is just a bunch of numbers – or worse, numbers and letters.

One engaging way to learn history is to experience it through the lives of the people who lived it using well-chosen biographies. (Historical fiction is a close second.) Choose well-written biographies that will allow your children to imagine themselves living the events of the past instead of just memorizing dates and facts.

We usually think of biographies when studying historical figures, but it's easy to tie them into other subjects, too. Michael Faraday: Father of Electronics brought the scientist - and his discoveries - to life for my children in a way that a study of the invention of the electric motor could never have done.

Read biographies of the scientist whose work you’re studying, the mathematician whose concepts you’re learning, or the artist whose style you've been emulating.

Try some of these fantastic biography series:

  • Heroes of History
  • A Picture Book of…by David Adler
  • Who Was
  • Childhood of Famous Americans
  • For Kids (ex. Marie Curie for Kids)
  • Time for Kids

A well-written biography gives readers an understanding of events and eras that a textbook never will.

Don't Teach Subjects in a Box

Because of the school model with which many of us grew up, it’s easy to fall into the trap of teaching subjects as separate and unconnected lessons. We may teach math, followed by science, then history. It’s easy to lose sight of how subjects relate to one another.

Showing our children how each subject connects with the others breathes life into the topics we’re studying. Classical homeschoolers teach history in a four-year cycle – Ancients, Middle Ages, Renaissance and Reformation, and modern. They couple this with covering the scientific concepts that would have been familiar to the people of the era being studied. For example, when studying ancient history, it’s common for classical homeschoolers to study astronomy.

Even if you don't follow the classical education model, that may be one aspect of the style you’d like to incorporate in your homeschool to tie history and science together.

Charlotte Mason encouraged allowing children to make their own connections. A simple way to accomplish this is through biographies and living books. Many times, my kids and I have noticed the links between a scientific discovery or invention and historical events while reading biographies and historical fiction 

Unit studies are another wonderful choice for combining subjects. Some subjects naturally mesh together, but look for opportunities to use seemingly unrelated topics as a springboard to others. For instance, in a unit study on horses the beautifully-illustrated children's book, Leonardo's Horse can be used to tie in a study of Leonardo da Vinci, along with some geography, history, and an introduction to the Renaissance.

It's easy to incorporate fine arts and geography into your homeschool in natural ways such as:

  • Creating symmetrical artwork when learning about symmetry in math
  • Using maps with history and science to learn where people lived and where the events affecting them took place
  • Creating art based on the styles of the historical era you’re studying
  • Listen to music and study the art related the era or places you're learning about

And, don't forget to look for natural ways to make writing relevant across all subjects.

Broaden the Scope of Your Reading

Consider the types of books you’re using in your homeschool and look for opportunities ways to expand the scope of your genre choices. Don’t limit young children to picture books. Look for non-fiction titles that capitalize on their interests.

On the other hands, don't limit your older students to only informational books, and don’t think of children’s books as being only for young children. Because books for younger readers boil information down to the bare essentials and present it in a concise manner, they can be an excellent resource for middle and high school students.

You can use picture books to teach a variety of writing techniques to older students. Short, non-fiction books intended for young children can provide a quick overview of a topic for teens (or homeschool parents who need a refresher course). For example, a short book for elementary students on the topic of World War I isn’t going to provide the in-depth information that a teen will need, but it may offer a solid overview highlighting some of the most relevant facts.

Picture books featuring mathematical concepts can increase a student's understanding of abstract concepts.The Sir Cumference series, by Cindy Neuschwander, features the brave knight Sir Cumference, his wife Lady Di of Ameter, and their son Radius. Sir Cumference introduces readers to a variety of mathematical and geometric concepts in a subtle, entertaining way.

Look for Hands-on Learning Opportunities

Offering kids real-life application opportunities for what they’re learning is a sure-fire way to make any subject more engaging. It’s almost always more fun to do something, rather than only read about it.

Hands-on learning doesn’t have to mean elaborate, messy projects. Instead, try these simple ideas:

  • Use manipulatives to explain math concepts (Manipulatives don’t have to be fancy – try coins or beans.)
  • Play games related to the topics you’re studying
  • Go on field trips
  • Make recipes
  • Build models
  • Conduct experiments
  • Explore the concepts of “living math
  • Look for other fun ways to explore math with kids
  • Watch related documentaries or movies
  • Interview people who have first-hand experience with what you're studying

You don't have to jump through hoops to make homeschool fun for your children. Just try these simple adjustments to make any homeschool subject more engaging.