5 Ways to educate your kids, even if you don’t homeschool

From co-curriculars such as clubs and athletics to conflicting schedules and the work we all take home, finding time to engage well with our children during the school year can be difficult. 


From co-curriculars such as clubs and athletics to conflicting schedules and the work we all take home, finding time to engage well with our children during the school year can be difficult. 

Here is a list of just five opportunities to weave education into parenting, even in the tight squeeze between bus and bedtime. 

1. Play 

It is paradoxical that many educators and parents still differentiate between a time for learning and a time for play without seeing the vital connection between them.  —Leo F. Buscaglia 

Board game classics such as checkers or Othello are a great way to build strategy, anticipate moves and discuss the ripple effect from a single move. For parents who allow video game time, sitting next to your child and asking questions shows curiosity while providing supervised screen time. And if you’re up for it, an impromptu pillow fight can end in giggles and good memories.  

2. Read 

Reading should not be presented to children as a chore or duty. It should be offered to them as a precious gift.  —Kate DiCamillo 

Begin by choosing a genre appropriate for you and your child and create a small book club: Select a title and, if possible, purchase or borrow your own copies. In collaborative reading, take turns alternating reading a section aloud while the other follows along with his or her copy. Modified guided reading is another technique that affords schedule flexibility. If you miss a day because another kiddo has a ball game, you can check in by simply talking together about the book and how the plot is unfolding.  

Younger children can enjoy using book illustrations to tell a story, reading out loud and listening as you read. 

3. Talk 

Parents with their words, attitudes, and actions possess the ability to bless or curse the identities of their children.  — Craig Hill

Move beyond “How was your day at school?” by offering open-ended questions, sharing your thoughts, and providing active listening. Like your mini book club, you can choose conversations from any genre appropriate for you and your child. For prompts, consider card decks such as “Our Moments” that have family-friendly conversation starters. You can ask a question over dinner, or even text it out to your family phones.  

For richer conversations, consider how subjects that interest you can hold value to your child, and vice versa. Reach beyond closed questions by asking “What was one of your favorite things about today?” Open conversations forge links between the seemingly mundane and broader concepts, including ethics, citizenship and other soft skills. 

4. Themed activities

It is the sunlight of parental love and encouragement that enables a child to grow in competence and slowly gain mastery over his environment.  —Felicity Bauer 

Bridging the disconnect between school and home can require a parent’s attention and creativity. Capitalize on the strengths of your home and family, while weaving in relevant aspects from your child’s school experiences. Getting involved in your child’s school is an important option, and so is integrating what your child is learning into the home.  

If your child is studying a particular piece of literature or time period in art, for example, you can theme family activities around these to reinforce what your child is learning. A large-scale theme might include family vacationing or gift giving. But you can scale down your theme to something as simple as meal planning or film selection. Want to unwind and watch a movie together after dinner? Frame your movie choice to draw a connection to what your child is currently learning.

5. Use homeschool materials

Pull up a chair. Take a taste. Come join us. Life is so endlessly delicious.  Ruth Reichl

Homeschool materials are not exclusively for homeschool families. They are tools intended to guide parents in educating at home. Homeschool materials can supplement your child’s curricula, bolster his or her understanding of a subject, and provide new opportunities for you to engage in your child’s learning.  

With just a little intentionality, you can provide your children with educational opportunities at home – and build stronger family relationships at the same time.