Turtle Courses. Reflections, K Week 30

Elizabeth and I wrapped up the farm unit this week, all except one last bit of writing in her journal.  It was a fun yet busy week, both around school and in general.

On Monday, we made little ‘animalitos.’  The art books I chose to use are centered on different cultures and places around the world.  The project that I chose for this unit was supposed to be putting together little Guatemalan animals, which ‘animalitos’ translates to.  The instructions were to make them with paper, but I thought that since Elizabeth loved sewing in the previous curriculum that we would give actual sewing a shot.

My mom lent me a BIG bag of scrap material that she’s been adding to since I was a kid, and Elizabeth chose some blue and pink material from it.  She decided that for her animal she wanted to make a turtle so I drew her a pattern which she then loosely traced onto the material.  I then cut the material and began the sewing, just to get it started.  We sewed by hand and she did a little bit before handing it back to me to continue on.  I was actually pretty impressed by how even her stitches were and how good of a job she did.  She did a bit more after that but I sewed the majority – which is ok.  Over all she was handy with the needle, if a little afraid to prick herself.  Paul awoke and arose for the stuffing half of the project – and thought that was great fun.  🙂  After I sewed it shut, Elizabeth decorated the turtle’s carapace with the Sharpies she’d gotten for Christmas.

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Emma the turtle

Because she had traced the pattern differently on the two pieces of material and I had cut them out close to what she had drawn, the pink piece of material ended up smaller than the blue, but somehow, once it was all done, it gave the turtle a great shape and made an obvious top and an obvious bottom.  I felt the whole project worked out really well.  Elizabeth really liked the toy and named it Emma.  Now I just need to make one for Paul!

The rest of the week has been spent mostly outside as the weather has been beautiful.  We played on a playground on Tuesday, and on Wednesday, just spent hours out in the yard.  While Paul was asleep, Elizabeth decided she wanted to make an obstacle course.

I was again very impressed by what she can do.  Elizabeth set up the whole course herself, having experience in making one from last autumn.  She had Frisbee throwing, dribbling a soccer ball, guessing under which orange cone a pine cone was hiding, and hula hooping.  The coolest part was a small scavenger hunt at the end.

Though the course was neat and very creative, my favorite part was her instructions.  This is one of my favorite parts of homeschooling: being able to take the time to draw out the learning.  I know what my experience with an obstacle course is: generally you go through each step as fast as you can to see how fast you can do it.  But Elizabeth’s past experiences with obstacle courses are quite limited and so she is creative in coming up with directions as to how to go through one.  Interestingly, she decided that we needed to go through the course one step at a time and wait for the other person to accomplish that step before moving on.  As such, we weren’t really working together, but sharing the course.  We each had an even number of pine cones to find in the scavenger hunt and things like that.

Overall there was little to no competition in it.  I myself am not competitive at all except in card games, which as a mom, I really hold back when playing with my kids.  I had once thought that Elizabeth would be very competitive, but I now think that she was maybe just regurgitating the competitiveness that she learned from my mom’s husband and in reality may be quite like myself and more inclined to shy away from it.

In addition to the interestingness of her instructions, the obstacle course was a lesson in articulating them.  There were times when I would do something wrong, per her mind, but in reality she had not voiced it as part of the directions.  Thus, I would say to her, gently, that she needed to tell me all of the instructions or I couldn’t follow them, or that I couldn’t understand them if she didn’t explain them properly.  I could see the gears in her brain going as she processed this and more directions poured out, becoming more and more consistent and well explained as she thought through what she had already said and what she wanted to have happen.

Overall, we played at the obstacle course for probably an hour and a half to two hours, like we did with the farm store.  As I am looking ahead to putting her into public school next year, I admit that I still mourn that we will not be homeschooling.  I’ve also been considering perhaps trying for a teaching position in the biology department of a high school somewhere.  Between these two things, I think about the blocks of time that are used in schools to move through each subject smoothly, and which we have never had to use.  While I can see their use in managing 20-30 students, it still interrupts the flow of learning, and all that came out of a simple farm store or obstacle course would have been stunted and lost in a regular school day.  I don’t know what the answer is to this, because once you get people – and particularly kids – in packs time is invariably wasted, yet, it seems a shame to have the free-flowing learning lost too.

After choosing to homeschool – and loving it – why would I now consider teaching in a public school?  Well, I think I have a lot of interesting life experiences to bring to the table with the kids as I chose to be a biologist before being a teacher – I lived the subject first.  I also feel called to do it in the absence of being able to teach my own children at home, particularly in this time of turmoil for our community’s young people.  Lastly, I am passionate about biology, and I feel I have a lot of good, hands-on ideas for ways to bring global and local learning into the classroom.  I understand that the tests put a lot of pressure on teachers and students, I just wonder if I wouldn’t be able to teach to both.  Well, at this point it’s just an idea, I don’t even know if a position is available in a local school for next year yet, but here’s hoping. 🙂

Share your thoughts:  What are some instances when you have been able to draw out the learning and how was it expressed in your student(s)?

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