Archive for the ‘Unschool Monday’ Category

I back in! Unschool Monday! Whoo!!

I hated history at school. Yes, hate is a strong word. But really, a strong word is required for the feelings I have for school history. At the age of 13, in the UK (and here, I think) we had to choose our ‘options’; the subjects we would be taking for our O Levels (now GCSE’s in the UK) at age 16. My ‘options’ were based on the things I thought would be easiest. Maths and English, to my disgust, were compulsory. The other subjects I chose were geography, history, art, typing, and home economics. After considerable internal discussion, I decided these would prove the easiest ‘options’. Rather amusingly, given my later career, I decided science would be far too tedious and hard, so dropped all science at 13!

My history teacher was also my form teacher. Her name has obviously been placed in a part of my brain labelled ‘do not open’….but suffice to say she and I had a strong mutual dislike of each other – she never locked me in the stationary cupboard like the Geography teacher, although it might have been preferable to listening to her lessons…..

Her history lessons were painfully boring. I really can’t impress upon you how boring. I literally and honestly remember absolutely nothing she taught in her class. I can’t say I don’t remember anything I learnt in her class, because I actually don’t think I ever learnt anything.

Anyway. The point of this little trip down memory lane is that Kai is suddenly in the midst of history mania. More specifically, medieval mania. Knights, Saxons, Romans…..he’s lovin’ it! I, on the other hand, find it hard to summon up any enthusiasm for anything historical in nature at all!

But, my job is to facilitate his learning. So, facilitate I have! We’ve been investigating all things medieval in nature since we got home. So much so that, although I don’t really like the idea of ‘unit studies’, I believe we can legitimately call this a unit study on Medieval History!

Firstly, there’s been a lot of role play….here’s some….

Watching him gallop up and down the lounge with his ‘lance’ (to which he’s attached a ‘flag’) pretending to be jousting is quite disconcerting….but somehow he always manages to stop before he goes through the window!

We also found some games for the ipod, we downloaded Medieval, and we also downloaded How to Train Your Dragon – which is kinda medieval, right?! There are more ‘educational’ one’s, but they look tedious, and you don’t get to kill the enemy with swords, cross-bows and arrows!

We went to the library yesterday, and stocked up on some DK history books – we got Medieval Life and The Crusades – Kai says the latter is better! We also got the first season of ‘Horrible Histories’ on DVD, which he totally loves! And I’ve got two more Horrible History books reserved….

Of course, let’s not forget the lovely internet for resources. We found a BBC site with some info and activities, and Kai made his own Saxon coins, although went with his own inspiration more than the BBC’s – he used yellow paint and green hairspray to get an aged bronze look! Inspired!

We’ve also found a game about Romans – which we are totally crap at, but it’s fun to play!

The BBC site has info about the Battle of Hastings and the Bayeux Tapestry. These are two things I vaguely remember History Teacher X droning on about…..but Kai’s amazing enthusiasm for all this stuff has actually reignited some long lost enthusiasm I have for history, and I’m actually thinking learning about this stuff is very cool! You never know, by the end of Kai’s current medieval phase, I may even remember what the Battle of Hastings was actually about!!! (and definitely be sick of the theme tune to ‘Horrible Histories’!!)

We’re playing along with Owlet and Unschool Monday…


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I know I’ve been quoting peoples questions and statements a lot lately, but I’m gonna do it again….because I figure if one person is asking such questions, lots more people must be wondering the same thing, and they might happen upon this blog and this might help them….possibly….!!

On one of the homeschool yahoo groups, someone recently asked what KLA (key learning areas – like school ‘subjects’) certain things should go under – like cooking, gardening, etc…

I replied saying you put them under different things, depending on the context, or depending where you thought maybe you had a lack of record keeping (for example – cooking could go under Society and Environment, or maths, if you did weighing and measuring..etc).

The person replied saying thanks, but her husband was ‘adamant that things can only be categorized in one KLA’. Ah, if only life were so simple. I replied saying I was equally adamant that things could be put in at least 3 KLA’s, if not more!

Yesterday we went on a family field trip, catching lizards with Brett. Narrow school thinking would put that under Science – biology to be specific. But when you free yourself from that kind of narrow thinking, it could actually go under many KLA’s, including….

Physical Education and Health….we walked up a big hill and all around the top for about 2 hours. Kai also has to be aware of snakes, prickles, mozzies and sunburn, and wears suitable clothing – boots and long sleeved shirt and a hat…personal safety also goes in Phys Ed and Health.

and if you don’t believe that sound physical – here’s Kai afterwards….and it is VERY rare for him to fall asleep in th car these days!

English – writing down data, and also looking up a lizard we had never seen before in the id book…it actually turns out that Brett thinks it is a common species born with extra-reduced fore-limbs…which he’s very excited about! (and btw – I found that lizard!)

Maths – Reading temperatures on the laser thermometer, writing down the numbers.

Society and Environment – Learning about the local area and the plants and animals that live there. Also some spatial awareness  – Kai had to find a termite mound he found months ag and wanted to go back to!

He also went ‘fishing’ for termites like chimps do…not sure what that comes under? Role Play!?

We also discovered these ultra-cool carnivorous plants….

I’ve deduced so far they are definitely Drosera species –  a carnivorous plant that is commonly called a ‘sundew’ – there are many species, not just in Australia. They use the little droplets to catch insects….From photo’s, this looks like Drosera menziesii – but that is endemic to the South-West (although that doesn’t mean it can’t be here, of course!)….i’ll keep digging…

Design and Technology – he took some photo’s with his digital camera.

So, there you go – one trip – a potential for entry under 6 KLA’s…thinking in terms of school subjects is just so limiting, and obscures the learning that takes place in and around every activity we do…..

We’re playing along with Owlet and Unschool Monday.

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I’ll admit it. There’s been a lot of screen time round here lately…Plants Vs Zombies, ipods and even coolmathgames.com have been getting a lot of focus, while playmobil, lego and board games have been going a little dusty! I’ll also admit that my strewing has been, errrm, somewhat lacking….

But i’m totally ok with the screen time. I really and truly am. It’s taken me a while, though! But it got me to thinking about the narrow-minded ideas some people (me – in the past) have about technology and children….

I subscribe to a feed on facebook that is run by some early learning educators. Why? Because they have some awesome ideas for craft and outside play. But they also get a lot of questions from teachers in early childhood education…Recently they had one from a teacher who was considering buying ipads for use in her classroom, but had come up against a negative reaction by lots of parents….of course, on facebook there was lots of discussion too…here are some snippets from the comments – and my comments about them (ha ha!!)…

‘Children should not be using this type of technology in the classroom (or even at home) They need hands on experiences and experiences in nature.’

Erm – since when were technology and hands-on experiences in nature mutally exclusive?

‘As long as it is monitored and limited in time, it would be great.’

If it’s great, why do you need to monitor and limit it?

‘His time is very limited but it is a great learning tool ‘ (from a Mom whose child uses an ipod at home)..

Similarly, if it’s a great learning tool, why would you limit it’s use?

‘Childcare is about all the experiences and toys you wouldn’t have at home like the big blocks, sandpit, threading, science experiments, etc etc’ (so you shouldn’t have technology at childcare..)

This one particularly got my goat…WTF? You don’t get big blocks, sandpits, threading and science experiments at home? Well, we do here And i’m fairly sure we’re not that special!!

Anyway, that’s enough…needless to say, there were comments pro- and anti- having the technology, but even those who were for it stressed the need for ‘limits’ and ‘monitoring’. There were more than 60 comments, and some to-fro arguing between for-againsts! Technology for kids is clearly something people are passionate about!

The whole thread had me pissed off annoyed firstly by the ignorance of people with regards to technology and how older generations are transferring their fear of technology onto the younger generations, and secondly because of the idea that adults should control and monitor everything children do, even if they admit technology can be a ‘good learning tool’…And thirdly, this apparent idea that if children use technology, they won’t do anything else! WHAT!? Lots of respondee’s mentioned Richard Louv’s book (which i’ve read, btw!)- somehow implying if children use technology, they’ll never get out into nature! What a crock!

Anyway, i’m annoyed again…and i’m going off topic! So, yes, we’ve been technology heavy here the last month or so…..and of course Kai’s been learning from it (see The Zombie Curriculum for specific examples!)….

But, that’s not all we’ve been doing – we’ve been to the beach, the national park, the zoo, play meets, the museum, done experiments, drawing, writing, etc, etc.

But, I went to Sydney for work last week, and when i got back i made an effort to strew some other stuff that hasn’t been out from under the bed for a while. And when i say strew, i mean strew without intent…this is another concept that has taken me a while to come to grips with – but boy, we’re all a lot happier now i have finally got to grips with it!! 

So, here’s some old school technology and play from the past few days….

Inspired after watching a Sunday afternoon re-run of Wild Boys (which seems to have re-run most days this week!) Kai decided to become an Aussie ‘Bush Ranger’. This is *really* old school, as that cowboy jacket was made by Nana for Brett when he was 7 (apparently he remembers he got it the day Elvis died!!) – and around the same time he got that gun and holster!

We went to a local school fete, and picked up a massive bag of wooden blocks of all shapes and sizes (for $1!), which Kai used with his playmobil to make a dinosaur wall last night…..

At the museum last week, we spent some time in the Pacific Cultures section and Kai’s been pretty interested in bow and arrows used by Indigenous cultures….and wants to make his own. His first idea was he needed some sticks to make arrows, so he found some sticks in the garden and spent time whittling away to make a sharp pointy end with a knife….in the lounge, so i could watch – but i’ve shown him how to use the knife properly! I guess our next step will be to figure out how to make the bow….google here i come!

So, not sure this post has much of a theme or a message – aside from the fact that we need to have more trust and respect for our children – when given opportunities to do other things, they will not choose to simply sit and play computer games ALL day, every day.

Here, we enjoy new technology with old. We zap zombies. We whittle sticks with knives. We watch Samaurai Jack on DVD. We build towers of wooden blocks. We race Crash Bandicoot around a race track. We play Bush Rangers. We play in the sand….We don’t pass judgement on which is the better learning tool, or which should or shouldn’t be monitored or time limited. Each pursuit has it’s own, unique merits….

I think the issue is that many parents and grandparents are still scared of technology, to varying degree’s – understandably, as it’s something many of us (including me) came to as older teenagers or adults and it seemed scary and hard to master….They also buy into the ‘it’s addictive’ theory…but I feel much of that theory is linked to the fact that screen time is restricted for so many kids – it’s restricted, therefore they want it more, therefore parents conclude their addicted? I dunno, i’m rambling….but i’m fairly sure there is no actual study that shows any screen is ‘addictive’ in the same way a drug or alcohol is addictive?

We’re playing along (in a rambling and incoherent way!) with Owlet and Unschool Monday!

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Sorry I’m late….still indecisive about what to write about – but late Tuesday night I’ve been struck with inspiration!!

I saw a post on a home school group list the other day asking about curriculums – and whether there was one or two that covered everything you need for a year.

Well…I’m sure you can guess my thoughts on curriculums…But while Kai’s been playing Plants Vs Zombies the past few days, I realized that, actually, we have a pretty full curriculum – henceforth known as the ‘Zombie Curriculum’.

You think I’m crazy, right? And you may well be right….but not about this thing in particular…let me explain forthwith, using the eight South Australian KLA’s….

English:  we read the almanac (info on the plants and zombies) and Kai’s been singing along (Arts!) with the zombie song which has the words on the screen to read as you sing. There’s also been lots of writing and writing practice – we now have quite the collection of zombie drawings, some with names, some with names of gravestones!

Design and Technology: Well – technology speaks for itself, i should think, but Kai also came up with an idea for a new game – he’s called it Zombie Stab. It has a variety of weapons, and zombie’s that come out of the ground and eat your feet…He also designed a ‘promotional’ poster for his game (more Arts/Media!).

The bit at the top shows your weapon choice. The spiky things are throwing stars. The words say ‘Zombie Stab’ – I thought it was quite ambitious to write words that look like they have dripping blood when you’re still practicing your writing!  

Maths – Much adding and substracting as you gain points and then lose them as you plant more plants. Keeping score, and working out how many points you need for each plant or weapon.

Physical Education – fighting imaginary zombies on the deck with sticks (this is extremely physical – believe me!)

Science – an understanding of photosynthesis – that sun is required to grow plants (OK, I might be slightly grasping at straws here…!)

Socialization ( not strictly a KLA…but everyone seems to care so much about it!) – talking to his friends about Plants Vs Zombies and Zombie Smash and discussing tactics and the best plants to fight different zombies..

So, I’m missing society and environment….Oh, and languages……but really, who cares about them anyway!? (i’m kidding, by the way!) – what curriculum covers absolutely everything?? And all for $10…or $1.99 on the Ipod!

We’re playing (belatedly) along with Owlet and Unschool Monday.

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Kai’s been watching a King Kong cartoon this week…he ‘acted’ as Kong at the beach today….

We enjoyed the spring sunshine and topped up our dwindling vitamin D stores while everyone else was at school and work. Then we spent Kai’s book voucher prize from the poetry comp – he chose a physiology book about hands with a model to make a skeleton hand, a story book about endangered species, and a Ruby Gloom DVD.

Some other snippets we learnt today

– sunshine makes you feel good and we NEED it! This year we are freeing ourselves from the mass media scare-mongering against sun exposure, and not buying into the hype about toxic sunscreens promoted by pharmaceutical companies…

– There are 27 bones in each hand (and Kai put the hand parts  in the model all together using a fairly complex number-letter plan on his own!)

– The Guam Micronesian Kingfisher is extinct in the wild – due to introduced brown tree snakes on Guam gobbling them all up (we presume).

– Budgie smugglers are not a suitable item of clothing for anyone, anywhere, ever – and if that makes me judgemental – so be it!!

We’re playing along with Owlet and Unschool Monday. What did you learn today?

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Toddlers know they can be anything they want to be. When they say ‘I want to be a train driver.’ They truly believe they can be. If they say ‘I’m going to be a doctor when I grow up.’, why should they think they couldn’t be?

But by the time kids leave school, their opinion of what they can be ‘when they grow up’ has usually changed dramatically. For many kids, their options now seem a lot smaller. Years of schooling has conditioned them into accepting their ‘position’ – socially, and academically.

They might, for example, have been the toddler that wanted to be a doctor. But maybe they struggled with the way school presents maths and science. Maybe they came from a less wealthy family. And over the years it would have been made abundantly clear that kids that are not good at maths, and who come from less well-off parents, don’t get to become doctors.

I was reading one of Peter Gray’s blog articles the other day, and he was talking about a book called ‘Wounded By School’ by Kristin Olson.  I haven’t read the book, I should point out, but would very much like to, but found the blog post very interesting.

I identified with many of the ‘wounds’ inflicted by school.  In particular…

Wounds of Rebellion – ‘Anger toward schooling can lead to a turning away from all forms of learning.’

Wounds of Underestimation –  I identify with this whole paragraph in the blog entry, but what I’m really talking about here is this part…

A low grade achieved in a course or set of courses can unduly discourage people from following what had been their dream. A would-be biologist chooses a less-desired track because of a D in tenth grade biology’ and also…

 ‘A would-be author concludes that professional writing is beyond her scope because an English teacher could not see the sparkle of her essays or the brilliance in her non-conventional sentence structure and gave her below-average grades.’

School underestimated me and failed me. I was the would-be biologist who chose to be a typist because school told me I was dumb. Yes, I became a biologist eventually. But it took 10 years out of school for me to find the confidence to chase my dream again (probably roughly equivalent to the amount of time school had spent telling me I was too stupid to be a biologist!). By that time, I knew again I could do anything I wanted (except maybe learn to sew!). And then I became a freelance writer, too…

Our son has two biologists for parents. Perhaps it’s inevitable he’s interested in science. Perhaps not. But he also two parents who took an unconventional route to their PhD’s, and were told by both school and their parents that they shouldn’t/couldn’t pursue a career as biologists. Two parents who know that, despite what anyone else thinks, you CAN be whatever you want to be.

My biggest hope is that Kai always believes he can do whatever he wants – whether that’s being a biologist or not!

It would never cross his mind that he couldn’t be whatever he wanted to be. Of course, he’s just 5. But I hope with unschooling, that he’ll always feel like this.  In the words of the awesome Primal Scream (Loaded)- I hope he’ll always be free to do what he wants to do, and be what he wants to be.

We’re playing along with Owlet and Unschool Monday..

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So, I’ve written about embracing the chaos that goes with home/unschooling before. I like to see the ‘chaos’ as a reflection of a home where lots of stuff goes on, and thus, where lots of learning happens. Of course, it sometimes is a big job to tidy up, but never really as big as you think it might be!

This is a picture of the kitchen table last night (not for the squeamishly tidy…look away now!)…

We don’t eat at the dining table, except when we have visitors. We eat on the couch, in front of respective screens, or the same screen, usually (and I’ve written about that before too!). The kitchen/dining table is used for activities. Usually Kai’s, sometimes Brett’s on the weekend.

So, a quick look at the kitchen table usually gives an indication of what Kai’s been doing (=learning). He’s been playing on the computer – mostly Kung Fu Panda and Angry Birds. Angry birds led to some geometry and playing around with the protractor – geometry set is that thing in a lovely shade of green, and yesterday we went to Science Alive, hence the experiments at the front (it was food colour, psyllium husk and water…yuk!).

There is always pens, paper,ruler and scissors on the table, and over the back is Kai’s microscope – we made a slide of sap from a log for the fire, and Kai had drawn a picture of what he saw on Sunday morning.

But, for all my talk, I can only stand the table looking like that for a while! Kai doesn’t like to move his experiments, sometimes for days, just in case they do something exciting in the long term (dessicate…absorb…change colour…etc!)…but I do usually ask what parts I can tidy up (empty test tubes, etc!)….

And on the weekend, Kai also got an ipod. Yes. I succumbed….it was his part of the tax refund. We decided with all our planned road trips, an ipod was a better use of our meager resources than a trampoline or a Wii left in an empty house.

And while we don’t limit screen time, which now includes the ipod, I did feel like I maybe needed to make more of an effort to strew stuff, or the call of the shiny ipod might exclude everything else!

So today I tidied up somewhat, and found some new (or old…haven’t been out for a while!) stuff to put out and about. They included some magnets (old one’s, and some we got from Science Alive yesterday), the play-doh with fossil teeth and stuff hidden in it, and the calculator.

As it turns out, the call of the shiny ipod hasn’t been that great today, despite the rain and my spending most of the morning cleaning…..

The magnetics led to some reading on electro-magnetics (in The Science Book – which is GREAT…from the library), then Kai went around the house finding out which metal objects were iron or steel….

Aside from the stuff I put out, he’s looked at stuff about rainbows again, and forensic DNA (!?) in the Science Book, been outside between rain spells to play in the sand barrow (possibly my greatest idea ever!), and we’ve made chocolate chip cookies.

So despite my small ipod angsty moment, I actually think Kai will mostly see it as something to do in the car, which is what he does with the Leapster. When he’s fed up, he’s turning it off and bring it back to me….

He has played on it for a bit….more Angry Birds, and he chose a new game from the App Store, ‘Math Ninja’. Even the easy level is a bit hard for him, but we restricted it to addition only, and I’ve helped him and with the calculator, he’s doing pretty well!

So, that’s what’s been going down in our house this week…we’re playing along with Owlet and Unschool Monday…check it out…read a bit…play along!!

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