Way back in 2009, I posted about how to green your homeschooling (or unschooling) experience at the now defunct Tree Hugging Family. I’ve been thinking readers here might benefit from some of those tips, so I’ve spiffed them up and now they’re all shiny and ready to go.
School at home is naturally more eco-friendly to begin with
One of the biggest perks of being a home or unschooler is the fact that it’s much greener by nature than brick and mortar school experiences. How come? As a homeschooling or unschooling family you avoid toxin-filled schools, gross school lunches, bad ol’ school bus emissions, school waste and best of all, you can pass on green values and living skills to your kids, something most conventional schools fail to do. Still, as a family learning at home, there are some action steps you can take to make your homeschool experience even greener.
Borrow don’t buy many supplies
Most homeschoolers are used to hard core curriculum pushers saying, “Buy this… buy that… you need this latest book!” But you don’t have to give in. If you do choose to use a set curriculum, buy used sets from friends or check on homeschool forums for someone letting go of an old set. You can also buy and share items like cameras, telescopes, movies and other supplies with another homeschooling family. Check books a plenty out at the library vs. buying new. You can even rent music and sports equipment.
Green your field trips
As a homeschooler it’s a snap to organize eco-friendly excursions. Head to the forest, recycling center, paper mill, community garden, beach clean-up and more. Contact local green businesses and see if your child can shadow for a day. When you meet up with homeschooling or unschooling groups, plan to meet outside if the weather is nice.
Don’t get stuck at home
Green kids get outside. One major downside of public school is the lack of physical activity during the day. Don’t get into a public school-like rut where your homeschooler is on the computer or stuck in a book all day. Your family has the freedom to move childhood back outside, so don’t stay in. Go explore nature with the tips below.
- How to cut screen time and get your kids outside
- Help your child explore his world
- Grow a nature loving family
Go for used goods
At most used bookstores, used homeschooling texts and even workbooks are easy to find and cost way less than new. Thrift stores, garage sales and library sales are great places to get used, slightly used, or even brand new (that otherwise might be tossed) materials such as books, art supplies, games and other random goodies. Especially look for school and daycare sales. I’ve gotten some amazing art supply deals just because a day care was moving and didn’t want to lug everything along.
Make record keeping and other usual paper tasks sustainable
Some states make you keep careful homeschooling records. Even if your state is more relaxed, records still matter for your child’s portfolio. However, you can use a digital camera to record events and activities vs. an all paper method where you write everything out. This saves massive time too, just be sure to back up digital records often.
For working on writing, drawing, math and other tasks, invest in a large chalkboard or white board and use it for math problems, drawing maps, and learning letters. Of course, nothing beats a pencil and paper at times, but using a whiteboard or chalkboard some of the time reduces your material footprint.
Pack a waste-free lunch
I know, it’s school at home, so where does a packed lunch come in? Think about all the times you head to the museum for the day or those weeks where you hop from homeschool group to homeschool group daily. A waste-free lunch is necessary and eco-friendly for even homeschooled kids. While we’re on the topic of bags, make sure to also invest in a less toxic backpack for field trips and hang out dates with other families.
Green your materials
Home and unschoolers alike can try to buy less stuff and when you do purchase goods make sure they’re recycled, non-toxic, reusable, and easy to recycle later on. Buy recycled papers, rulers, ink cartridges, pencils, pens and so on plus invest in non-toxic versions of things like glue and crayons. Oh, and although it may cost a little more, aim to buy high quality art items such as pastels and paints, which last longer than their cheaper peers.
Avoid making “green living” a lame lesson
Once you start pushing green curriculum, kids tend to zone out. Kids are much more receptive if you simply live green. Obviously as a homeschooler, you have more time for special green projects like starting a worm composting bin or building your own rain barrel or solar cooker, but really, green living skills are best learned as life experiences, not as forced lessons. Instead of reading about recycling or organics, incorporate these issues into your everyday world, discussing why as you go.
Do include fun green activities in your child’s day
I know, I just said, “Don’t make green a lesson” right? Actually I said “lame lesson” – it’s perfectly smart to look for cool and fun green minded activities to try. Try Journey North or the No Impact Project or see many more idea at the EPA’s website.
How are you greening your homeschooling experience?