Homeschooling, Techniques

Everyday Lessons

everyday lessons on living by learning

Or: How to turn every day into a school day.

“Mom,” we used to ask, “can this count as a homeschool day?”

The state of North Carolina requires homeschools to record 180 school days.

More often than not, my sister and I would make this plea when having to compare labels at the grocery store or listen to elderly gentlemen pontificate about “back in their day.”

More often than not, it was granted.

Economics? Math? Marketing? History? Yes!

Homeschool Rule #1: Ask yourself: How can this be a Learning Experience?

Let’s return to the grocery store.

But before we step inside, let’s learn some life skills and economics. Let’s do some budgeting.

Adding, subtracting, multiplying, fractions. Work your way up to statistics. All of these can be done as you budget. Depending upon your student(s), you can do this with a calculator or by hand. Always let your student(s) try to figure out what they can, especially if it means they have to look something up; the more they can learn to learn, the better.

When you budget, don’t be afraid to let your kids look at your checkbook; they’re going to have a checkbook of their own someday.

There is no end to math and economics.

Homeschool Rule #2: You can go as shallow or as deep as you’d like.

Your homeschooler just needs enough skills to get by, or the ability to look up what they need. When was the last time you used trigonometry? Had to distinguish between a metaphor and a synonym? Don’t worry about deprivation or falling behind.

Is your student(s) fascinated about routes? Anatomy? Really hate math?

Feel free to limit their less-favorites and go all-in with their interests.

Here are some more pre-shopping ideas:

  • Research online: which stores have the best prices? Specials? Should you only drive to one grocery store, or several? Calculate gas vs. savings. (Use Google Maps)
  • Smatter in some Psychology: research shows you spend less and are healthier when you bring a list.
  • What is healthy?
    Have your student(s) investigate.
    Don’t just investigate the food pyramid; look at alternative paradigms too. How do you sort between them? Have your student(s) brainstorm for a solution—or have a lesson in anatomy! Try each diet you find for a month and record your findings; experience is the best teacher.

Have your budget? Have your list?


Listen to Schoolhouse Rock on digestion on your way there.

There is so much wonderful science you can do at the grocery store. Feel free to pick up ingredients for science at home (here are some links), or stage some social science.

Try to answer the questions: What makes the best marketing for cereal? (At home marketing/art project: How would you market your least favorite vegetable? Can you market to a family member their least favorite vegetable and get them to eat it? If so, how?)

How about some marketing math: What is the expected volume of a box of crackers? Based upon box size, how many more ounces of crackers would you expect to have? Based upon the difference, calculate profit.

Or, what about history?

Go grab some spaghetti sauce. Mild? Spicy? Chunky?

How did Prego change the world? Listen to this video to find out. And then listen to the other side.

Essay prompt: How should choices be presented to us? Why?

Spend some time people watching. Your student(s) will ask questions. Develop your research techniques and socialization skills attempting to answer them.

Talk to people—politely (even if it is a little embarrassing and weird). What brings them shopping today? How did they acquire that handbag? What do they think of Prego? Start a survey. Bring home some data. (The nice thing about strangers is that they won’t have to see “that weird homeschool family” again.)

Okay, stop disturbing fellow shoppers. We’ve done enough hands-on science for now.

Let’s learn some scientific language. Pull out your phones; let’s check out some labels.

Pull out some boxes. Look up anything you don’t know. Find out: What is sodium acid pyrophosphate? (Wikipedia is your friend.)

Have a grocery staple? Try to find out something new about it. (Prepare to be disturbed.)

For instance, bagged cheese is mostly made from 1% and 2% milk (yes, there is apparently a government conspiracy).

Do you know that other countries don’t put their eggs in the fridge? Try to figure out why! You will learn things about American egg processing you never wanted to know.

When you get home, use your supplies to do more kitchen chemistry.

Have your student(s) write something about their adventure. Was there an item that struck them? A person they saw? A story they learned? See how much they had to say here.

The great thing about this lesson is that it meets you where you’re at. Teaching a 1st grader to read? You have some ready-made text. Your student interested in physics? Have them calculate the height they expect the egg to survive being dropped. If you can, buy an extra carton and test their calculations by dropping the eggs on different surfaces. Even kids their age like making a mess. (Then, have them clean it up. Responsibility is an important lesson too.)

I encourage you. Nay, I challenge you: Take your family and do this. See how much you can learn in the yogurt aisle. Bring your cell phone. Prepare to look crazy.

It will be worth it.

How do I build my own Everyday Lesson?

  1. Find a place or situation.
  2. Then follow guidelines (as much as it’s helpful):
  • Homeschool Rule #1: When in a situation, ask yourself: How can this be a Learning Experience?
  • What have you always been curious about? Is there something that you never noticed? Didn’t understand? How can you figure it out?
  • Can you discover something new about something you take for granted?
  • In five years, what about this will my student(s) need to know?

Remember: Homeschool Rule #2: You can go as shallow or as deep as you’d like.