I believe homeschoolers have an advantage because we can teach however and wherever we like. The goal of what we teach at school is to prepare our kids for the world, so it is a perfect opportunity to bring learning opportunities outside the classroom. My two favorite places to start teaching my boys skills outside the classroom were restaurants and the grocery store, so I am going to focus on these.
Here are my tips for bringing your homeschool classroom into community settings.
Restaurants are one of my favorite places to take the boys because I can teach them so many skills there and it is an experience they love. Executive functioning, communication, and academic skills naturally happen in restaurants, so I make sure we are sure to emphasize these when we go.
Executive Functioning Skills
Waiting, following directions, and controlling emotions are some examples of executive functioning skills. Kids have to wait for food which is a great way to work on response inhibition. Response inhibition is the skill of thinking before you act and resisting the urge to say or do something that may have negative consequences. Response inhibition is a skill all three of my boys need to work on. If you have taken The Autism Helper Executive Function course, the waiting visuals are great to use at restaurants. When I started bringing the boys to restaurants, I chose places where they would have something to eat in front of them quickly, while we are waiting for food. They love Olive Garden breadsticks and the chips and salsa at Chilis and these things come out quickly. I also know what we were going to order before we go to the restaurant so I was ready to order for everyone right away. This helped them while they developed the ability to wait. As they got used to the experience, I could order an appetizer that might take a little longer.
My boys need lots of help with communication skills. Davyd has anxiety when speaking to others, Benjamyn is working on picture exchange and George has become a little parrot and has started talking a lot, recently. We go to the same restaurants to help Davyd with his anxiety and all of the staff know us. We have them look at the menu to choose their food and use their communication book to order from the waitress. We like to bring our awesome speech therapist with us to help focus on these skills. I have mentioned Lessonpix before, it is a great way to make picture cards easily. I just go online and look at the menu. I know what my kids like so I make the cards for those foods. Then I print and laminate them and put them in a travel PECs binder that I keep in my purse.
Applying Academics to Real Life Situations
Now that my kids are pros at waiting at restaurants, I like to bring school materials that we can work on while we wait. George loves his alphabet, so I bring with him his Channie’s My First Alphabet Hard White Board to practice his writing. For Davyd, I print out his reading passages from the Roadmap to Reading course so we can work on his reading skills. Benjamyn loves his numbers and counting so I bring either flashcards I made from the anchor charts from his Math Leveled Daily Curriculum level 0.5 or his Math Leveled Daily Curriculum File Folders. We also love bringing our amazing occupational therapist to restaurants, she helps George with his writing while he waits and also with utensil use which he is very reluctant to use now that he has broadened his food preferences past chicken nuggets and pepperoni.
Grocery stores are great for teaching skills like following directions, sorting, academics, and communication. Davyd starts by helping me write our grocery list. Our grocery store makes sandwiches at the deli to order, and they are one of Davyd’s favorite foods. I made him a visual script with Lessonpix that answers all the questions the employee will ask about his sandwich. This helps with his anxiety, communication, and independence. He also gets to watch them make his sandwich, which he loves.
Aldi is a great grocery store to practice skills. It is a small store and they get to bag our groceries. I made them each a list of 5 things we get weekly and laminated it so they could cross things off their list with a dry-erase marker. They are each responsible for finding their five things and putting them in the cart. This added some complexity to our shopping trips now that they are used to going. Since this is a new task, having their therapy team come with to give me an extra hand.
The grocery store also brings the Leveled Daily Curriculum for math to life. Davyd is on Level 2 of the Functional Math curriculum and Level 3 of the Math Curriculum. He is learning about money and rounding up to the next dollar. The self-checkout lane is perfect for applying what he is learning in the curriculum. He also loves scanning the groceries. Ben and George are on Level 1 and are learning to count. We practice by counting the things we buy. This helps with comprehension and fluency.
There are so many possibilities to learn outside of the classroom, I hope you try some!
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Excellent tips, thanks!!!
Thanks for reading 🙂