Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Fall "Curriculum" Unschool Style

Many people ask me how I teach my kids without using a curriculum. They also wonder what unschooling looks like. Yes sometimes it is days of legos, computer games, and outdoor play. But the simplest of activities usually leads to TONS of learning. Does it follow school's timeline? NO But it is authentic learning, which is so much more meaningful then the memorization of facts. They are out doing, experiencing, pretending, imagining...everything a child's body and mind were designed to do! So to give you an idea, this is what we have done this fall:

September - went apple picking with a homeschool group, used the apples to bake apple pies (measurement, volume), journaled about the apple picking, J asked why there are so many bees at an apple orchard - resulted in learning about pollination, C is saving seeds to plant in the spring, J reading books about apples. All of this based on their own interest, sparked by one apple picking trip.

Went to a library program called Colonial Kids - they learned about what it was like to be a child in colonial times, they made butter, played games etc. Resulted in reading books about colonial times, making our own butter, C wanting to learn how to sew to make clothes, both learning about the 13 colonies, how they were formed, the Revolutionary War, The Declaration of Independence & the meaning of July 4th. 

October - went pumpkin picking on a farm with another homeschool group. They had chickens, a cow, etc. Resulted in both kids wanting chickens in our yard, researching types of chickens, how to build a chicken coop, how to care for chickens. C saving seeds to grow pumpkins in the yard next spring (I am going to end up with a farm). Roasting pumpkin seeds to eat. Farm had a butterfly house - learned a bit about butterflies. Resulted in researching the life cycle of butterflies, wanting to 'grow' butterflies again (we had done this in the past), learning about the migration of Monarchs,

Went to a Native American program at our local park. Learned about native american tribes in our area, what they ate, how they made shelter, clothing, blankets and weapons for hunting.  Resulted in reading books about different types of native americans, ended up coinciding with a survival class in our co-op, they learned how to build a shelter, make fire, find water.

Went on a trip to a local college's farm. The program taught them about what animals do to prepare for winter. They were asked to be nature detectives. The learned about what happens to some bugs when they get cold, how to identify a male from a female. Learned about the migration of the Monarch and why Monarchs are poisonous to birds. Learned that the Viceroy mimics the Monarch so that birds don't eat them. (again reinforcing what they learned at the farm coincidentally) Went on a hike and investigated evidence of animals: tracks, scat, nests, watched squirrels collect nuts and berries. 

Kids were interested in Columbus day. What is it? Why do we celebrate it? Resulted in research on Christopher Columbus, C wrote a story about Christopher Columbus. Was he really the first person to discover America? Discussed Vikings (ties in nicely with Vikings program in November at the library).

November - Went to a library program about Vikings. They learned about Vikings, where they came from, their life. They made a Viking shield and a ship. Got books out of the library about Leif Ericson. Learned about Iceland and Norway (which reinforces what they learned in co-op last year).

Now do we sit down and do work everyday? NO. These things come and go in spurts. This looks like a lot, but each trip was an hour or two. Then when the kids were interested, maybe they spent an hour each day looking something up, reading books, etc. Sometimes they spent 15 minutes. We had days when they did 'nothing' and just played with legos or did art projects.

However look at how much authentic learning is going on. These activities will stay with them because they were meaningful. The kids didn't memorize facts out of a text to regurgitate on a test and then forget. They will remember because they experienced it, they acted it out, they used their imaginations and their bodies through play. And it only took a few trips to local farms, our local park and the library.Is it always this easy? No. I bring them to programs that result in nothing. But many times, this is what happens.

So if you think unschooling is about sitting around and doing nothing, think again!

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