Pets can be a distraction, but did you know they can also be a part of your child’s classroom? Many children love animals, and their interests can be used as motivation to read, write, solve problems, and create projects.
Whether they can play along as a “student”, provide a source of comfort, or serve as a topic for a subject, pets are beneficial. Here are some of the many ways your fur babies can be a great addition to your curriculum.
Teaches Responsibility & Pet Care
The first question parents typically ask when their children want a new pet is, “Are you going to take care of it?” With homeschooling, you can incorporate pet care and responsibility into their schedule. You can give your child essentials roles; tasks as simple as providing water and food to larger jobs such as walking and cleaning cages.
You can take it a step further by outlining how to properly care for animals. When my daughter wanted a pet rabbit, I asked her to write a persuasive essay to convince us she was ready for the responsibility.
Students can research animal behavior and what type of enrichment items or pet toys are out there. Many retail and pet-related websites such as Pet Life have blogs that go into detail on pet care and safety. If students do their homework, they might even teach you a thing or two about animal companions.
Provides Emotional Support
You have heard of emotional support animals. It is no different in your home – especially when it comes to facing challenges in homeschooling. The presence of pets has a positive impact on a child’s mental health. According to Pets in the Classroom, many children turn to their animal companions for comfort and emotional support, which is proven to relieve stress and anxiety.
My daughter has often expressed how much she relies on her fur babies to encourage her to work hard in her studies. Her pet rats will often curl up in the hood of her sweatshirt or climb into the pocket as she completes her math or chemistry calculations.
Your pets can comfort your children on their sick days, keep them company, and boost morale. The best part is that they can have them close during exams – pets are like a test buddy without the risk of cheating!
Aids in Social Skills
Much of the social skills children develop comes from group projects, presentations, and interacting with others. If your home is lacking in peers, your pets can make for fun participants. If your little one struggles with public speaking and reading aloud, practicing in front of your cat or dog can help overcome anxiety and boost their reading skills.
Promotes Physical Activity During Breaks
Up until recently, recess was a perfect opportunity for children to run around and exert their energy through sports and playtime. A combination of being at home, not having peers to play with, and having access to tablets and smartphones is the perfect storm for a sedentary lifestyle.
If you have a dog, playtime can range from walks around the block to playing fetch at the park using dog toys. Otherwise, yoga and other fun kid activities are available online. This provides quality time outdoors with their animal companion and at times, much-needed stress relief.
Incorporating Pets Into Your Curriculum
Your pet can also serve as a midpoint between written assignments and hands-on training and observation. Here are some common school subjects and how animals can play a role in your child’s education.
Mathematics and Finance
For younger children, simple math can be through giving treats or learning how to measure their weight or food. Having a pet is a financial responsibility. Older children can learn how to manage money by creating a budget. As important life skill is developed as they calculate how much it cost to care of an animal.
Animals can also be showcased as part of a science observation. Students can research their ideal habitat, physiology, diet, and other needs to keep them healthy.
Another idea is to undertake an animal behavior study. Older children can create what is called an ethogram or data table that lists the common behaviors of their pet. They can then use the chart to compile observational data as part of a larger study.
You can also help them take note of different breeds, traits, and characteristics of your pet’s pedigree and others. You and your child may learn much more than you expected about your animal friend.
Much of psychology and behavior was observed by how people and animals react to things. Pets are no different. Teaching a dog to fetch or sit on command provides learning opportunities for children. They can learn about processes such as positive and negative reinforcement as well as other terminology to achieve the desired behavior.
Take it a step further by using safe psychology experiments on your pets! Can your hamster make their way through a maze to find their favorite treats? What does it take to teach your dog to shake paws with you? Many of these questions can be applied to your science and behavior studies.
Art and Literature
If your child is young, they may have fun anthropomorphizing (giving human characteristics to) animals in their stories. You can encourage creative writing and illustrate the story together. There are many pet-related craft ideas online for your child to enjoy.
When they are done, they can read the story to their pet. It is a great opportunity to teach literary devices and other story-telling elements involving their animal friends.
My daughter wrote a book about an adventurous panda cub when she was in grade school, Mei Mei the Panda. I scanned her artwork and helped her to type up the story to publish in a bound book. It is now a keepsake we cherish.
History and Laws
Older children can learn how animal domestication came to be. They can also learn what purpose different animals have served and geographic origins.
Current events and local laws may be another great subject to touch on when it comes to your pets. Students can learn about animal rights and why specific exotic animals and testing are illegal. Learning about animal preservation can branch into protecting endangered species from hunting, pollution, and extinction.
Going to class with your pet has to be one of the best perks of being homeschooled. Not only is it fun, pet ownership on its own is a valuable lesson that every child should have. Adopting pets into your child’s homeschool twill add interest, create amazing memories, and build relationships with their favorite animal companion.