Elizabeth has been sick most of this week, and my husband and I have been continuing with our ‘moment’ issue, but luckily that seems to be moving forward in a positive direction. I think it was pre-destined that Elizabeth would fall sick now because in my doubts about my marriage and whether to try to work it out or not, I’ve been forced to also depend upon Chepe for his help and wonder (and fear) how I could do it alone. Also, after months, literally months, of not having both kids take a nap at the same time, I’ve been gifted four days of solitary afternoons, which I was really needing.
Because she has been sick, we haven’t fit too much school in, but Thursday Elizabeth and I did continue with our owl unit that we started last Wednesday when we went birding and looking for a Snowy Owl (see Quest for A Snowy Owl. Reflections, Week 26) by looking up owl facts at Animals Time: All About Animals For Kids, and checking out some pictures of different owl species at The Owl Pages. Building upon her own personal experience with three different owl species – not too bad for a 5-year-old – and we mostly looked at the screech, great horned, and snowy owl pictures, but also checked out a few other kinds. In addition, we play-acted baby owls, with Elizabeth building a huge nest out of blankets and then pretending to be a newborn chick with its eyes closed for the first ten days of it’s life. She is very detailed. Check out our Nature Walks – June for some owl pictures our from our own woods.
Friday, we played shape travel. I cut some big shapes out of construction paper and labeled them, asked her if they were 2- or 3-D, and then we scattered them around the living room. We came up with different ways to move between them, digging pretty deep with movements like flitting, twisting, hauling, waddling, scurrying, etc. I liked it because she didn’t nessesarily have words for some of her movements, but as she did them, I named them, so her vocabulary was augmented – and she will probably remember them too, as she can often surprise me by learning a new word once and then using it properly later. Unfortunately this doesn’t seem to extend to Spanish though.
On a different note, I have been feeling introverted lately, which makes me want to just sit and think and daydream. I’ve also been moving ahead with planning modifications for the Moving Beyond The Page curriculum. My absolute favorite change that I’ve been making is the addition of the element of service learning and active citizenship, which I’m realizing is where I need to start with my planning in each unit. What I’ve been doing so far is sitting down with a piece of paper and pen and asking myself how the books of the curriculum “speak to me.” I jot down my first thoughts. For example, Millions of Cats by Wanda Gag made me think of numbers, patterns and cats. I then peruse the parent guide of the MBTP curriculum to see what activities are all ready organized that fit into what speaks to me, and activities that have materials in the consumables box because I want to use them. Then, I work out a plan for 5-7 days of activities. For Millions of Cats I planned activities that used the cat cut-outs from the consumables box, drawing kitty-like patterns on them, then organizing them into patterns. I tried to get Elizabeth to do some simple addition with them too, but she wasn’t interested. We also counted them a number of times with different groups and relationships.
In the last step of my unit planning, I go through the week’s worth of activities and determine if all the key subjects are hit, such as LA, Math, Art, etc. When I get to service learning and active citizenship, I have been finding that it almost always takes me into a whole new place that touches on real-life activities that include trips and math that is real. Let’s continue with the Millions of Cats example. When I wondered what I could use for service learning and active citizenship, I wondered how could I make real-live cats meaningful to Elizabeth when we don’t have a cat? Of course – go to the Humane Society. A trip to the Humane Society would give her a visual of real cat coat patterns, population numbers and why cats are being housed there, learning about pet care, learning about the service the Humane Society provides the cats and community, what a worker or volunteer does there, and show she can help too. I could tell her all of these things while sitting in the living room, but it would be much more memorable to her if we did it while petting cats in person at the actual Humane Society. (Of course, we did not actually pet the cats because they had ringworm. See Doubts About Our Decision to Homeschool. Reflections, Week 25.)
I’m starting to think that when I sit down with my notebook and think about how a book speaks to me, I ought to make my initial list, then consider service learning and active citizenship to see where that takes me before I make out my weekly plan. It’s exciting because for the dinosaur unit it is taking us to a museum and exploring questions like, “What does a paleontologist do? Who can be a paleontologist? Why is paleontology important? Are there any negative impacts made from dino digs?” These questions, though I’m not looking for in depth answers, or even that she will have the answers, will allow her to begin to look deeper than just the facts and start to pursue her own questions and answers, especially as many times the answers are open-ended. I hope as well that these kinds of questions will lead us to volunteer work for our homeschool when both of the children are older, I really enjoy volunteering!
Share your thoughts: How do you incorporate service learning and active citizenship into your homeschool? Do you do any kind of fun and interesting volunteer work with your children?