The Grocery Store Counts as School

"Children learn wherever they are not in just special learning places."

One thing I love about homeschooling is the ability to turn any part of our day into a so called "school day". If you've been around for awhile, you know that I preach school does not just happen in a seat, with a worksheet, in a classroom, or in a school building. It also happens in our everyday life, and sometimes during the most mundane errands, like the grocery store.


My first time incorporating the grocery store as a school day, happened a few weeks ago. I had this amazing plan that both my boys would write our grocery list, and add up how much money we spent, etc. My youngest was so eager to do this. He wrote the letter that watermelon begins with, and kept asking for more words. My oldest told me he would not be writing anything. Complete opposites. Sigh. He needed a bit more motivation, so I created a reward chart for our grocery store school days. I share this because although our great ideas and plans seem great in our minds and in pictures, sometimes we need to tweak them or add in some incentives to get started. Also, this is how I see our homeschooling journey playing out. Out in the world, doing errands, making the most of our experiences, and loving learning.


Before we began our homeschooling journey, I read the book The 4 Hour School Day by Durenda Wilson. This book solidified my beliefs in teaching and about children, and that school does not need to take 6-7 hours, doing bookwork, or even in a school building. It can happen out in the world, doing errands, at the zoo, in the car, traveling, etc. It pushed me even more towards my calling to homeschool this year. I've pulled so many quotes and paragraphs from her book that tie into our grocery store trip and how valuable learning like this can be.

"We can best help children learn, not by deciding what we think they should learn and thinking of ingenious ways to teach it to them, but my making the world, as far as we can, accessible to them, paying serious attention to what they do, answering their questions-if they have any- and helping them explore the things they are most interested in,"
-John Holt

Make the world accesible to them. We have to put our children out into the world, in order for them to learn about it. Whether that is at the grocery store, a road trip, a hike, the doctors office, Home Depot, museums, sporting events, etc. Our children need to be immersed into our community. They WILL have questions, and if we're paying attention we can use those questions and interests to explore learning with them. Like our grocery store trip. This sparked a conversation about sugar. Just imagine where that can go.

"We take them to the grocery store, have conversations about what we are shopping for, and let them get something off the shelf and put it in the cart. We teach them how to respond appropriately when people stop and talk to them or when they're talking with the cashier. As we live out our days with our kids alongside us, the become increasingly confident and independent."
-Durenda Wilson

This is such a simple way of starting slow with the grocery store. Start conversations, let them help you load and unload the cart. Lift them high to get something off the top shelf. See where their eagerness leads them. Maybe you can start bringing a notebook to draw in or write. Then, add in looking for colors, sorting, etc. If it begins to be frustrating, then stop. Have conversations about how this is learning. Everything is learning when you're out in the world!

"Those precious years of wonder and innocence are cut terribly short for a child who begins attending school at age five or six. Suddenly, pressure to perform extinguishes their childlikeness. As parents, we can mistakenly believe that educating earlier is better and will give our kids an edge, helping them get ahead, instead, it often holds them back and can lead to the 'extension of childishness'."

I am not saying that starting academics when you're child is ready, or preschool to begin socializing and playing, or if your child loves school to take them out. If you begin to see that the pressure is getting to them, or if their learning environment is not working, what steps are you going to take? It could be as simple as talking to their teachers, adminstration, taking a mental health day, or more drastic like switching schools or their learning path. Would a path like experiential learning and everyday life field trips deepen that love of learing and extend their childhood even longer?

"Don't miss out on enjoying your children-your blessings- because of unrealistic expectations. A little bit of schoolwork that is enjoyable, rather than copious amounts that end up feeling tedious, will move your child much farther along in their education by encouraging a love of learning."

I noticed my sons excitement for academics started to dwindle. He loves the social aspect of school, but he began comparing himself to other kids, constant anxiety, and was getting discouraged. He is a brilliant boy who loves to build, create, imagine, and play, but the expectations of school was beginning to be too much, and it only gets worse, in my opinion, the older you get. I knew we needed to nuture his love of learning by taking a year to slow down and enjoy learning again. My goal for him this year is not to complete all of the 2nd grade standards, but to enjoy school out in the world, and see that school can be done in so many different ways and be enjoyable, without unrealistic expectations.

"At the end of your parenting journey, I believe you'll want to look back and have no regrets about the life you chose to live with your kids, for the memories made and the heartstrings tied. It is time well spent."

I didn't write this blog post to point fingers, or make you feel guilty. Books, blogs, podcasts, and people in my community open my eyes to new things every day. Maybe something above stood out to you. Maybe you can take just one step to ensure confidence, happiness, calm, and joy are found in your child's educational experience. If they're in public school, make sure it's not all about worksheets, sitting in a seat all day, and homework. Ask questions, volunteer, advocate, set boundaries for your family. If you're homeschooling, is there a balance you can make with bookwork and learning out in the world? It is always time well spent.


While not every trip to the grocery or the dentist can or should be made into a school day, can you see the value in this type of learning? Low pressure, high engagement. How can we start looking at education differently? What questions can you start asking to bring about change in your family, neighborhood, and community?


If you need ideas or help making your everyday errands and experiences tied to learning, I have something for you. I will be creating more as we continue to adventure, but below is a good start for the grocery store school day.