Thursday, May 19, 2016

A years worth of unschooling, in a nutshell.

"Unschooling is an educational method and philosophy that advocates learner-chosen activities as a primary means for learning."- Google ;)

 Everyday has opportunities to answer questions, and the girls have plenty of questions. The more they learn, the more questions they have. We follow rabbit holes, dig deeper, and every once in a while I suggest a new topic, one I think they will have an interest in. If they bite- GREAT! What if they don't, you ask? Well,  I just let it go. Sometimes I point out how it would be useful to know, or make a connection they hadn't considered, and sometimes they decide its worth looking into after all. But I don't push. 

We use no "boxed curriculum", we follow the natural flow of life and interests. One topic leads to another, and there is no clear separation of subjects, no start or end to the school day, or school year. Its  learning about things that drive our passions, learning how to find  and use information, learning practical life skills, learning for fun.

So here is a sampling of things we did this year (it would be impossible to list them all), this is grade....well...who knows. Ages 7, 3 and baby Ula. Yes, Ula was here with us every step of the way. And Ursa learns right alongside Saule, they each do as much as they can, and take from it what they can, with two very different sets of interests and learning styles.

An average day:

We let the kids set their own sleep patterns, never any bedtimes or wake up calls. Usually that means we are all up and moving by 7:30AM. We go to sleep in waves (usually youngest first), when people get tired, thats from 7-10pm.

We start each day (for the past 2 years) with CNN student news, which is a ten minute news brief for middle/high school students. We watch during breakfast and pause it to talk about stories that interest us, or if we need to look at the map/ask a question or share a thought. 

 Lunch we usually watch a Crash Course on youtube if we are home, or some other short video of interest- this week that meant Latin American revoultions, all sorts of things from and about Armenia, and a collection of videos about the causes of famines. 

Almost every night we watch a documentary (full length, David Attenborough nature, history, netflix, or similar) before bed. 

Many mornings we do something at the table, we get a slow start and sometimes play a bunch first. I usually say "Lets work on something" and they say "I want to do X" : 

REMEMBER_ EVERYTHING YOU ARE ABOUT TO SEE LISTED IS AT THE KIDS REQUEST! By simply making these things available to them, they choose to do them, because its interesting and they enjoy it.  

COOKING, we cooked endless meals and studied food from around the world, as those places come up in our other studies.   Both girls can cook various meals, alone, with no help. They learned to safely use the BBQ grill, stove top, oven, and dishwaser,  handle hot food and sharp knives. They can cook following a complex recipe, which they can find on their own using google. They learned about yeast and bacterias (good and bad) in food.  Saule learned to add and multiply fractions for recipes, make conversions from metric to standard units, and various other useful math skills.  They can make me a pot of coffee, and fry eggs. We researched famous people, and what their last meal was, then we prepared these meals (Hitler, Elvis, General Custer to name a few).
Saule and Ursa both learned how to safely cross the street, and find there way 2 blocks to the library. They often go together to check out books with out me. They also go alone to the post office to buy stamps and mail letters. Two times per week we go to story hour a the library, Ursa alone, and Ula with me. Saule attended a 6th grade book club. Saule and Ursa both pick out books, and Saule often read them to Ursa.  We read the Nanny Pinnins series out loud all together, it was a highlight of this years reading.

Saule completed  TONS of workbooks and more traditional school type studies such as Beast Academy math (a series of comic book based math work), Brain Quest Grade 4 (a common core style with all traditional subjects), Story of the World, (history) and had a Magazine subscription to HighlightsZoobooks, and National Geographic History.
Ursa completed LOTS or workbooks that covered numbers, letters, mazes, cutting, coloring, folding, pasting, , and had a subscription to Zootles and High Five magazines.
Our book shelf, the left column is mostly workbooks, art books, books you can write inside on. We have a big world map and we pin places of note. They can use any of these books any time. 
The girls both have a subscription to a STEM engineering project box, called Tinker Crates and Kiwi crates. It comes once a month. This month Saule built and learned about catapults. Ursa Build a pinball machine. Saule also did several LEGO architect projects, she learned about and built several famous buildings including the Eiffel tower and Leaning Tower of Pisa.
Saule is a connect the dot queen, she likes them with 1000+ dots. 

A collection of famous mustaches Saule drew, after she reflected on how funny they were, and how she could tell who each person was by the facial hair in pictures.
We visited a historical site at least once per week including Edison's workshop, George Washington's headquarters, The statue of Liberty, Thomas Morris home,  and many more. We do allot of driving. Driving time is always spent reading, doing connect the dots, or having a conversion.

Ursa loves to play dress-up, and is often in a fancy gown. She loves to learn about historical dress, and watch movies with fancy dress such as "Titanic" and 

Ursa does historical coloring pages from the "Story of the World" workbook, that she selects, often on the same topic that Saule is reading about.

Ursa is working on her letters, at her request. She likes to be able to write her name on things. She also works on   

The kids love dissections, and we have done several this year, including an eye ball, owl pellets, beef hearts and lobsters. These items were chosen by the kids, from a scientific supplier, and we did an unit study of each of these things.  

Ursa's frog art. We raised tadpoles and did a very large unit of frogs, and amphibians. We attended a class at the Bronx Zoo with a group of other homeschoolers, and another class at the Bronx zoo about Mammals, and visited on our own 3 times this year. We caught and studied frogs and tadpoles in the wild. We spent allot of time in swamps and ponds studying small animals and plant life. We played in the mud.

A few of Ursa's workbook puzzles

Ursa loves to do crafts, cutting, painting, etc.
Lots of Lithianian picture books with Tete. Tete speaks Lithuanian with the girls, I speak English. 

Some things Saule brings on car trips. We always pack a big bag of things and try to avoid any wasted/bored time. We do not have car TV. 

Ursa's day includes as much play as she likes. 

Saule and Ursa attended a workshop about wolves and visited wolves  at a Wolf conservation center. They also visited  Wolves three times at  the Millbrook zoo. They studied wolves in depth, food chains, predators/prey. How wolves shape the environment they live in. We read fiction and non-fiction pictures books about wolves. Saule studies their taxonomy and the history of dogs. 

Puzzels, always available and in reach. Ursa did all of them- several  times. We continued to collect more.

We raised Darkling beetles, studied the lifecycle in depth. This was part of our metamorphosis projects.  

Saule learned about taxonomy, and studied how the system was created. She did several projects with this.

more taxonomy stuff

Saule's eye ball study, she studied vision, how the eye works, variations in types of eyes by species and individual, more and more. She 
We joined the Aquarium in Norwalk CT, visited 5 times, and  studied  in depth the marine life, ecosystems, and  history of the Long island sound. The kids took a class and boat trip with the aquarium during which they dropped troll and dredge nets and caught animals, which they studied on board in a tank. We studied the zones in the ocean, types of plankton, pollution, fisheries, and much much more about these and related topics. At the aquarium the girls used google to research th things they saw, everything from how to tell the gender of a shark, to vaccine reactions in seals. 

We ordered a mantis egg case, studied their life cycle and role in the environment, anatomy. Hatched the egg case, raised the young with a wingless fruit fly colony (which we also raised). Studied beneficial bugs, organic farming, factory farming, food shortages. We visited a biodynamic farm and watched the cows being milked, helped feed the pigs, and toured the farm, 

Saules HUGE frog study project (every imaginable topic to do with frogs). To much to list here. 

Saule did a huge study on Flamingos (again every imaginable topic)  in preparation for our Everglades camping trip, during which we went bird watching and spotted them in the wild. Preparation for this trip also covered all types of other wildlife and ecosystems of Florida, as well as the history of Florida itself. 
Saule was studying fertilizer and bomb making through her history books (WW2), and wanted to right ammonium nitrate in a shorter way, so we studied the periodic table. She LOVED this idea, and had a blast pulling out all types of household things and figuring out were they were on the table, and how to write them. She spent an entire day doing this. 

Pappy wrote the girls several letters, in cursive. Saule decided to learn cursive, so she could read them to herself and so that she could read old documents of interest to her. So she did. She also spent a good deal of time writing letters to other people, including friends, politicians, movie stars, and her sisters.

Saule wrote and sent a message in a bottle. She received a response. She studied ocean currents, guessed where hers would go, and looked at many new stories of things, people, and bottles lost at sea.

Almost daily Saule does a map in conjunction with her history work,  "Story of the World", She has finished all 4 volumes leading up to modern times, and enjoys it very much. The map pages require labeling of countries and movements of troops,  people, etc. She also compeated in a geography quiz at a school festival, she had a perfect score and was very happy to win a globe.

Saule likes to draw, and often does.

Saule's drawing

Both girls loved learning about the Titanic, and they completed a very in depth research on all types of topics about it/ They also spent allof of time played a game of  "we are on the Titanic and it is sinking" which  required printed copies of the original ticks, menu, etc. They both were pretending to be real people from the passenger list.  They watched several documentaries on it, and would include historically accurate details in their games about icebergs, geography, culture, etc. We attended several reenactments of the revolutionary war this year. 

Both girls mastered using a hot glue gun, and did various craft and holiday projects and made gifts.  

LOTS of hiking

More hiking

Touching, tasting, smelling, listening to the nature

Daily bike riding, road, cross country, BMX, strider This was the Appalachian trail. We learned the history of the trail, and all about its route. 

Religion meets play- meet "The Pope cat". We learned about religions as we came in contact with them, attended a Hanukkah celebration, learned about Islam, and much much more. Read from the bible, washed each others feet,  learned the historical background of various names (Paul, Judah, John, Mary, Mohammad,). Studied the back-stories to religious art (The last supper) as we came upon it. Studied holidays and their background (including all faiths and pagan/pre-Christian times). Both girls enjoy keeping track of the date on their wall calendar, and would ask me to study holidays as they arose (orthodox easter and armed forces day for example)

Injured cat= lesson in wound care, antibiotics, bandages, and general first aid. They learned how to do the Heimlich maneuver after Ula started putting thing her mouth, so they would know what to do. We talked about major injuries and what to do in the event of one such as a head trama or another major fall (playground). We visited the Fire Fighters Museum  and learned about the history of fire fighting and what to do in the event of a fire. We practiced calling 911. 

Did I mention dressup and play?

Building a realistic Flamingo nest, we spent allot of time in the sandbox this year.  We splashed in puddles. We made mud pies. 

We raised caterpillars, and watched as they turned into butterflies. LOTS of study of metamorphosis and insects. Anatomy, food chains, the life cycle of a mosquito, zika virus, malaria,  pesticides.

Ongoing rock collection during one of our hikes, lead us to consult a rock hound group about this find. Turns out its "slag glass" which led us to an in-depth study of the Copake NY local area history, and the history and process of glass making.  We also continued collecting all manner of natural things and identifying as much as possible including fossils, shells, eggs, rocks, feathers, hair, skins, sticks, seeds, berries, bones, etc. We have a large and growing collection of ID books. 

Slag glass

TONS of reading, including longer chapter books, picture books, cereal boxes, anything they could get their hands on. They devoured it all. Saule often reads to Ursa. 

Did I mention how much time we spent playing? 

On this day, I asked Saule if she wanted to go to the playground, her response "I am just really in the mood to read history!". So she read to them all, the history of Ethiopia and Liberia. Drew the Liberian flag.  

Cross word puzzles and workbooks, for fun, on request only. 

A study of reproduction in mammals, and humans, including raising a litter of puppies,studying the history of vaccines, how they are produced, the risk and benefits, also  administering vaccines (both girls gave sub-q vaccines), a study of internal parasites, learning how to give worming medication to dogs, including dosage per weight. 

Automotive window installation, including geometry, angles, and tool use.  They are active participants in this project, which is to build an RV using a cargo van shell. 

A trip to the Everglades, camping, bird watching, kayaking, study of the environment, junior ranger program at the national park.  A study of the aircraft we flew in, how airplanes fly, lift, parts of an airplane. Other types of flying machines. The history of flight. 

We added these games to our collection this year, and played them all several times. 

We looked at art online, printed some we liked, researched artists and watched Minibio and learned about each artists life and times. 

We studied oviparous and viviparous animals, exceptions and strange cases.  

Ursa learned to count to 10 using the microwave buttons and other real life situations. She likes to push buttons and we use that as a chance to learn what the buttons mean. They learned what a fuse box does and how o use one. 

The kids learned how to introduce themselves to new people and made several new friends. They learned how to speak with adults in public places, ask questions, and navigate real life situations. They learned how to grocery shop, use a credit card, count change, and check a receipt. Saule learned the meaning of a loan, he idea of a debit vs credit card, and a general understanding of taxes. 

Sprots included allot of BMX and other types of bike riding. Hiking, yoga, and TONS of playground time. 

In March Saule took an official  CAT 3rd grade exam, to practice taking exams and in her words "for fun". She did very well, scored way above her age/grade, and felt great about her work and progress. It was a timed exam, so she learned about how to answer multiple choice questions with a little pressure.  This test  would be accepted in NY state for year end testing. 

The list and topics go on and on. I better stop get the idea ;)

1 comment:

Thom Schwarz said...

Is that all you accomplished? Slacker! I didn't do that much learning in 8 years at Epiphany Grammar School!