July 15, 2013

On Their Own

Via Flicker
This spring we were not at home, so homeschool took on an 'on-the-road,' loose sort of a look. I loved it! We did spontaneous things and less seat work. We were in the outdoors more (when it wasn't raining) which was therapeutic for us all. This kind of change in schedule satisfied the fly-by-the-seat-of-your-pants longings I have when I do execute a well planned day. Well this spring I got my freedom, for a time, and actually some good things came out of it.

I am posting today about one activity that I initiated but became kid driven as we went along. It began with a bird book and time to look outside. I purchased this beginning bird watchers book with stickers. I know it isn't a "real" nature journal like we usually try to accomplish at home, but it did accomplish something our 'real' nature journal making has not yet done....my boys asked to do it and got out their books on their own to do it.

My guess is that they felt confident that they could wield this tool of observation and the 'real' nature journal entries we have been doing are still beyond them skill wise. The skill they have not yet acquired with ease is drawing and handwriting. Just about the entire 'real' nature journal entry activity is either drawing or handwriting. They will most likely catch on later as their fine motor skills develop but for now the sticker book was just within their grasp so they used it. You know something is working because your children will use again and again. They will drain it to the dregs if it is the right tool for them.

They were not allowed to simply put the stickers onto the birds as they liked it was a unsaid rule that they must have seen the bird and had someone witness that they saw it. SO they began a sort of guy like competition to see who can spot more birds than the other. Typical. I love it when their 'boyness' really accelerates their learning because there are so many times when the 'schoolish' type things simply do not appeal to boys and thus make it seem they are just not so bright. But now in the wild they can hunt down birds and add a sticker and they could do it faster than the next guy. Enthralling.

They would often beg for help to fill out the info about the birds because THEY WANTED TO KNOW more about the bird they had found. They had developed a connection or relation to the birds.  It was fun for them to add in the sticker, learn more about the bird they saw and of course be first. I know this is not to be encouraged in a CM approach but I have yet found it detrimental to learning. There needs to be obvious sportsmanship rules but all in all I have found that good competition is healthy for boys. Also my boys are all within 1 1/2 years of each other with the oldest being 9 and the twins being 7 so there is room to spur one another on and it is truly a fair fight to the finish.

One activity that we did near the beginning turned out well indeed. I purchased a high quality molding clay in lots of fun bright colors. It is the kind of clay that never dries so you can reuse it again and again. It just gets better with time. However looking back maybe it would have worked better had we used an oven bake clay like FIMO because then they could have kept each bird they made.

We created several clay models of our birds but these are the only pics that survived some how. RATS! At first we tried going 3-D but that wasn't happening so the boys ended up making 2-D relief like images of the blue jays they saw in the park. The colors were very rewarding to work with and the way the clay moves in your hands makes working with it for beginners simple and successful. We still have the bags of clay at my mom's house which we can use again for another project. I love it how a simple resource like clay can become so many things over time.

Via Tumbler
We don't aways do education on the road or away from home and in the way we did this Spring but it worked for us for that season of the year. I have many happy memories of the lessons we did and the things we learned. It was truly relaxing. Maybe we can learn something from it too and let our children wiled appropriate tools so they can really do the learning for themselves without us grown ups always telling them how to do it.

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