Posted by Sarah in Uncategorized on October 11, 2010
How do you teach your kids about history, art, engineering, architecture, environmental issues, collaborating and problem solving all in one day?
Easy send them to a friend’s house with the contents of your recycling bin and let her do all the hard work.
When I first started thinking about home schooling the kids I had the slightly overwhelming thought that I would have to be the inspiration behind All of their learning experiences. Thankfully this is not true, what a shallow education I would be presenting my children if I dictated their every task. A lot of the time the kids themselves come up with questions that they would like to explore further, forming the foundation of our ever evolving tower of learning. Through the last three terms I have followed their lead on topics, craft activates and excursions. If you are willing to let loose the reigns even more tons of learning opportunities literally jump out at you, like when my friend jumped (well more accurately walked in a very genteel and socially exactable manner) up to me and asked if we would all like to come over to her house to build a castle.
I could have stressed over the structure of our term and wondered if medieval castle building really did fit with what we were learning. Or I could just say sure why not. Which I did.
The kids really got into it. As it turned out the castle day was on the same day that the kids church youth group had it’s end of term banquet which was a medieval theme. The day before I helped the kids Google the medieval era and choose dress up clothes that they thought were similar to the images they found, Lani even wanted a medieval hair style so we looked that up and, well I tried.
When we first turned up the kids were shown many varied images of real life castles and different architectural elements were pointed out to them. They were told that parts of the castle were designed with a specific purpose in mind, small windows, moats and drawbridges for defence and battlements for attack. The kids learnt that often the design of the object conveys its purpose.
Then when their little imaginations had been sparked the castle building began. By using packaging that the kids are so used to seeing disappear into the bin they learnt that objects can have more than one use and with a little imagination can be re-purposed into something wonderful.
A few of the kids chose to work individually but the majority collaborated on a massive castle learning valuable lessons in team work and communication. As the buildings took form some of the original ideas had to be altered as what felt right in the heart came crashing down as gravity took hold. They learnt pretty quickly that the strength of a building lies in its foundation and that masking tape is only so strong.
Once they were happy with their creations they were taken out into the backyard and sprayed silver, then decorated with markers and green paper (I think the original thought was vines growing on the buildings but I ended up with a castle with green windows) and suddenly with a touch of artistic flare we had a piece of history sitting in front of us.
So even though I had been planning to focus on Australian history at the moment which is an area quite lacking in castles I truly believe we learnt heaps. And the biggest surprise for me was that I learnt something too. Since castle day the kids have asked questions like "The people that lived in the Medieval time, was that before or after the people came to Australia from England" I have learnt that their minds can hold more than I gave them credit for and that thinking about two eras of history at the same time didn’t confuse them but instead broadened their understanding of the past and gave them another solid reference point to refer back to.
If you would like to, pop over and read Liz’s post about the day (she explains the massive castle better than me as she was sitting next to it as it swelled to engulf the kitchen floor)