The Super Adventurers!! take flight.

From my last post (Super Adventurers!!), you’ll remember that I promised to report back on our first day adventuring into project-directed learning (also called learner-directed) with the idea for August to pick the topic and for us to build some learnin’ around it.
Since we start our flexi-schooling days out at the Guelph Lake Nature Centre watching the birds (see my last post: Morning Bird Call ), it will be no surprise that August picked…

Flight!

Here’s a video showing just how she came up with the theme. See how the mind engages once set free?

We took our cues from the master pilots, them birds, and began to assemble materials based on their magical flying apparatus: their wings.

AUGUST: “They have to be light.”
DAWN: “In fact, bird bones are hollow.”

August found reeds (hollow and light) and some long grasses down at the dam. The dollar store took care of the tissue paper and the feathers. From there we went to the library and piled up on planes, fast birds, flightless birds, Amelia Earhart (girl power, wherever we can!), war planes and some fun fictional picture books for the imagination.
(I made a mental note of finding my old copy of Jonathan Livingston Seagull for nighttime reading.)
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August: “Peregrine falcon is the fastest animal in the world! More fast than the Cheetah.”
(We learned this from Guelph’s own awesome Bird programme Wild Ontario at our very favourite thing: Nature Guelph
AUGUST: “No. I learned it before that from Nathan and Miranda at the park.”

Then, we called in our special speaker, Captain Matheson.
August: “You mean Grandpa.”
Yes, my dad is a pilot- former bush pilot turned commercial jumbo jet pilot and all around plane geek.

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August: “Pilot bunny would fly. He’s small and it was almost Easter.”

Grandpa taught us about the 4 forces of flight.
August: “He got a piece of paper and he blew on the top and it went up!”
Something to do with the fast-moving air having less pressure, and the still air below more pressure so it pushes the paper up. That’s why wings are designed for air to move faster over the top.
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August: “Then we went to the park and tested out the wing thing. At first, it fell. Then, bunny flew!”
Dawn: “Grandpa said it needed a tail for balance so it wouldn’t topple over.”
August: “And for it to go straight.”
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All in all, August said: “My favorite part was making the wings. I like birds. I wish I could fly.”

The Super Adventurers!!!

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Learning can only happen when a child is interested. If [she’s] not interested, it’s like throwing marshmallows at [her] head and calling it eating.
Katrina Gutleben

August has decided on a name for our flexi-homeschooling day.
THE SUPER ADVENTURERS!!!
Decided isn’t quite the right word, as, like with many kids, she hurled out the superamazingawesome adjectives without much apparent deciphering (like her team name– the Amazing Forever Winners Ever!!!).
I like how she made us (mom and kid team) the subject rather than the activity (homeschooling). This is accurate since we do make or break the day together, and the word choice sure is optimistic (her), which is needed for those of us whose little minds worry about things (me).
We have other news, too. We first based our day around work sent home by August’s teacher (see my last blog pos “I’m a Flexi-Homeschooler”) but, that desk work was the source of much struggle (Booooring!!, according to August) plus the work sent home began to peter out anyhow (teacher has enough to do, understandably).
So, we decided to approach our day in our own way. This is a luxury I am happy to take, as mentioned in the previous blog post: not every parent can take a day a week of unpaid work, and not every teacher gets to work one-one-one with a kid. Might as well make the best of whats we’ze gots.
I do a lot of research (into everything), most often while in the bath with a glass of wine, which is where I was last Tuesday night worrying on the eve of our weekly Super Adventurers’ day. Listening to a few podcasts on UNSCHOOLING, I found the approach to be really liberating. Why not make learning easier by starting with things Gussie (August) actually wants to learn about? To get really radical, how ’bout trusting August? I mean kids are born with such a desire to learn about things– with ALL of their senses– that they eat them.
The added advantage of this method is that it doesn’t require me– who’s first job is to parent– to become someone else, i.e. a professional teacher. She didn’t really like me like that, I’d discovered.
Instead, I would facilitate her interests, muster up all the creativity and possibility I could (which made things super fun for me!). This way, we get to learn together, using our curiosity as our drive with the old idea of life as curriculum; world as classroom. Now that sounds brave, much more worthy of the Super Adventurers!!!
It doesn’t mean abandoning conventional schooling altogether- we will fit in curriculum items without even noticing– as they arise and on an on-demand basis.
The next morn’, as we’ve done all along, August and I started our day at Guelph Lake Nature Centre, watching the birds at the feeder by the lake. I asked her to pick a topic, and we flew from there…
Subscribe to read my next post (with pics, video and an entry from Gussie) to see how our super adventuring went!

Hold onto your kids: I’m a Flexi-Homeschooler!

Christian? Nope. Hippy? Nope. Unschooler? Nope. Let me tell you about it.P1120261

I’m doing this thing on Wednesdays, and, oooh, has it been ridiculously lovely for August and I. One day at home, mid-week: a day that is equal parts recovery, connection and inspiration.

I could spend this post explaining all the reasons behind it but let’s just say that August has landed in a wild Grade 2 classroom (meaning much of the day is spent on discipline over inspiration) with a new teacher who hasn’t quite got a handle on the gang, rendering August a sudden school hater. I wouldn’t suggest this for all kids—this is situational and manageable for us. (My son, for example, is just where he needs and wants to be in his Grade 6 class.)

I realize this is a great privilege. Not every parent can take a day a week of unpaid work (there are trade offs: for example, our car is held together by duct tape, our family doesn’t do new clothes, and Santa leaves Value Village gift certificates- which works great by us), but since I find myself freewheeling freelancing again (anybody got ten bucks?) I felt lucky to be able take on a homeschooling day.

And, oooh, is it fun getting to know my 7-year-old this way. (Don’t kid yourself though, it is work, paid or not.)

I am not an elementary teacher nor do I want to be one… I do teach in other areas for my work, plus I am a relentless learner, full of curiosity and questioning– qualities I don’t see prevailing in the public school system. I also speak French, which, in order to keep continuity with her time in class (4 days French Immersion) this was essential to maintain.

It was important to me to work as a team with the teacher and principal, and that August be made well aware of this mutually respectful endeavour. It is hard to argue with one-on-one learning where I can hone in on August’s areas of need (she has fallen behind in the class chaos).

Here’s how our home day unfolds.

We get Trygve (11) off to school (SUCKER!) then start our day with a hug and an intention. Mine is usually patience; August’s is usually having fun.

We use a chalkboard to write out things we need to get done (the learnin’) and things we want to get done (the adventure!). August’s teacher provides us with a homework package of things to complete (from her day plan) and we create the rest. The day is full of the ‘at desk’ essentials (usually writing assignments and math) but includes lots of hands-on adventure (building geometric shapes, treasure hunts, dance breaks, making healthy snacks, outdoor learning at our river fort (the Duck Den), art, story writing, skating, documentary watching and old people visiting…) I learn just as much as August does.

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Anyhow, it isn’t a big undertaking as it is only one day (hats off to you fulltimer homeschoolers) but our flexi-schooling has a big impact on both of us.
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Bedtime for Bozo (me)

My boy and I are lying in bed talking about life. This is such a treasured time for me. He’s growing up so fast, which, right now, feels like growing away. He needs me less, which, yeah, yeah, is a good thing, I know, but not easy for a mom.

Roots and wings, baby, roots and wings: the two essentials in parenting for all species. The wing time is quickly upon us. Teaching the wings part can be hard going for flightless species.

My boy is nine tonight, ten in a few weeks. Some parts of me are becoming gross to him, like my tangled hair. Don’t I brush it? Why am I not wearing my bra? No kisses, mom! And my breath smells. “It never did when I was little.”

I find this stuff cute. It’s not what really bothers me. Though I did gargle before I crawled in for cuddles. (I’ll admit that it is not endearing when I pick at his face and clean out his ears while he’s reading.)

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“Fake Sleeping”

Continue reading “Bedtime for Bozo (me)”

the mud ball factory

While other kids are at goalie camp, karate camp, and saultos gymnastics camp, our kids are engaged in factory labour.

Production takes place in the gravel section of our backyard where worker Auguste digs down deep with her fingers for dirt to be dunked  into a glass vase full of water. She squeezes and forms the balls of mud to be inspected by Trygve, factory boss.

Trygve’s job is to sit in the red chair atop the fantastic new grassy knoll (a pile of dirt that sprouted which we now so love– best feature in the yard by accident). From his throne he orders the production of mud balls. Once approved (Auguste’s handprint squeezed into each one) worker Auguste marches them one by one to the secret laboratory (behind a bare bush in plain view) where they dry out for 22 hours, according to orders. Many hours of production has formed quite a pile.

Graham, (who we call Gray Ham) our gentle, sophisticated 50-something always-single business friend who occasionally drops off bread to our home,  popped over to deliver some of his garden share. He is the first mud ball customer. Worker Auguste ‘disappeared’ into the secret laboratory to select his perfect dry mud ball while boss Trygve counted the ‘looney’. “Yup, its a dollar all right.”

Gray Ham was instructed to whip it at the side of our house with all his force.  Shazam! The mud ball shattered, exploded!, And left a black circle on the stucco which is still there. Gray Ham said it was very satisfying and well worth the money.  One of the more invigorating activities he has engaged in.

In all this, I neglected to mention that worker Auguste wears a uniform: a shiny silver space suit, homemade from tinfoil.

(below: break time; boss giving orders)

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Back washed by baby.

Auguste and I take baths together. Kind of our thing. She likes them hot; my other can only take luke warm which I find unpleasant: sitting in murky wetness.

Auguste’s latest greatest excitement is the hair growing on her legs. She explains it, I’m growing up so the hair is coming in. At three, this is a great source of pride. One leg is bumpy, maybe a rash. I’m concerned. No mommy, (silly mommy doesn’t know a thing.) that’s the hair coming in.

Auguste’s other pleasure is washing my back with the sponge. Getting it really really clean. This is my bath pleasure, to be taken care of by a three-year-old. To be nurtured by my child.

When I’m out in the world looking for work, watching the men repair the train track, seeing the  young women heading into the meth lab in the morning with their coffees, I can feel my clean back.