The Art and Science of Homeschooling from an Occupational Therapy Perspective

In his book Grasp: The Science Transforming the Way We Learn, Sanjay Sarma writes about the science of learning; he writes about spacing of learning. Revisiting, or repetition of, material frequently with low stakes impacts, and applying within context affects development even at the cellular level. It’s fascinating, but knowing the science isn't all we focus on as homeschooling families.  We have the privelege of applying these concepts to our specific students. THIS IS ART. 


In college, I was notorious for cramming (revisiting information with high stakes) for exams. I remember spending twenty-one hours straight in the library before my anatomy and physiology exam. Most of the information I had to then relearn in graduate school. Was that really effective? It was effective for a grade and for exposure so that I could then pick it up faster the next time I studied it; however, if that exam was the end of my anatomy studies, I probably wouldn’t retain the difference between a femur and a tibia.


Here are a few examples of how we applied these concepts of repetition and learning in context for my daughter to prevent her from experiencing the ineffective learning techniques that I used.  

  • Drawing maps = repetition
  • Relating current events to what was learned in geography = context
  • Using Quizlet app for Latin vocabulary and geography = repetition
  • Finding and comparing terms we learn in books = context
  • Drawing, labeling, and talking about the parts of the body = repetition
  • Dissecting = context

All of these subjects had low-stakes quizzes throughout the year. The final exam was long but celebratory!! She drew six of seven continents in one hour; she wrote a persuasive essay; she drew models of seven body systems; she identified fallacies; she completed math word-problems; and she translated Latin vocab and declensions. She totally exceeded my expectations.


Another example occured this weekend when one of our five-year-old boys had a long unexpected day followed by a long car ride. When he arrived at the final destination, he was what I would describe as a “brain on fire.” He had a hard time with eye contact. He was loud. His bedtime routine was in chaos, so to calm for bed seemed impossible. To decrease the “brain on fire” effect, I literally placed him in the beanbag chair with his stuffed animals. The deep pressure was coming around him at all angles, plus it was coming from some of his favorite toys. He slept that night with the beanbag chair over his legs and, in fact, called me in the middle of the night when it had fallen off.


As an occupational therapist, I know the science behind proprioception calming the body, but applying this concept to this specific child is an art. He isn’t one to sit on a lap for big squeezes unless he approaches us. He isn’t a child to initiate a lot of heavy work to help himself calm down. But, being surrounded by his own stuffed animals in an enclosed space, he was open to it.


Learning to combine the science and art of homeschooling requires patience—with yourself as the educator and with your children as learners. Applying the concepts of repetition and context will begin the process of steady accomplishment that might just exceed your expectations. If your child is struggling with accomplishing the goals that you as a family want or need to do, please contact Collins Academy Therapy Services for a consultation.  I would love to work through the science so you can artfully apply it to your homeschool!


  • American Occupational Therapy Association. (2020). Occupational therapy practice framework (4th ed.). American Occupational Therapy.
  • Sarma, S. (2020). Grasp. New York: Doubleday.

Sarah Collins

Sarah is an OT and home school mama whose zone of genius is bridging the gap between OT's and homeschool parents with resources to help them both thrive.

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