One of the things I have come to treasure most about homeschooling, is the freedom we have to go off on learning tangents. I love that talking or reading about one thing can spark a question which can lead to another thing. And another thing. And another thing.
I don't really fall easily under neat labels and headings but I guess you could say that there is a natural, eclectic flow that sometimes happens here when we introduce our kiddos to new ideas, experiences or concepts. Sometimes they'll clearly show me they are uninterested in the topic but other times, their questions or comments will prompt me to suggest something else to explore or they will naturally delve deeper into that topic themselves.
I could never imagine how these things could have happened when I first started homeschooling, and if you're in that place, I wanted to encourage you by sharing an example of it from one of our recent days. This example occurred over 2 days (with lots of other 'life learning' happening too).
IT STARTED WITH 2 THINGS: INTENTION & OBSERVATION
Our intention for the morning was to work through one of our ongoing read alouds for history Our Sunburnt Country . We've been working through this slowly (and when I say slowly I mean over years because...rabbit trailing). We use this in conjunction with many other resources including The Book of Centuries. We love read alouds that are engaging, that tell a story and that prompt the kids to ask questions or think deeply about a topic. I have found Story of the World, Our Island Story and Our Sunburnt Country to be like this.
Back to our day. We were up to a part of our story that discussed the explorer Charles Sturt. Before we launched into the reading I reminded the kids that we had last read about Hovell and Hume and asked what they could recall about them. They both remembered that Hume had been kind to the Indigenous peoples he had met (even had some first nations' children named after him in his honour) whilst Hovell, the English-born navigator, had been bombastic, racist and dismissive of Hume's skills. [Learning here included using memory recall and oral narration to summarise the content from a previous time in their own words.]
We began the next part of our reading.
We read about the riddle of the rivers, the Murrumbidgee ("where was that again Mum?" *looks at map together*) and Zippi (11) asked what the Wiradjuri name for the 'Lachlan' river (our local river) would be. We will find this out somehow. [Another example of a skill here: recognising, reflecting on and desiring to explain connections between own experiences and the world in the text].
In the text we also read about 'salted meat'. I paused to ask 'why was the meat salted do you think?' and one of them said 'to preserve it like they had on the ships for the convicts'. The text also stated that rations had to be given for the remainder of Sturt's trip. We paused again to talk about rations. They said they remembered that rations happened during war times like they'd seen in Back in Time for Dinner. I reminded them about the actual ration ticket we had from WWII. They knew that in this context it would mean that the explorers would only be given small amounts of food each day to make their supplies last. I asked Zip and Zeek if they thought (like the explorers had) that there might be an inland ocean in the centre of Australia and both said they knew there wasn't but they could understand why the explorers may have thought that. Zeek said they should have asked the Aboriginal people what they knew of the land. [Learning here included: being able to describe the impact of British settlement in Australia, using skills to comprehend a range of increasingly challenging topics, and using a range of strategies to think imaginatively about information].
We got out the Book of Centuries (a timeline that we have been creating together over many years, noting down important events as we read about them). Zeek identified where 1828 would go along the timeline recalling that anything in the 1800's would be the 19th century. This all happened in a conversation as we sat on the lounge reading. When I resumed reading, Zeeki happily continued drawing. When we reached the end of the reading, I asked Zeeki about his picture.
He said the reading had inspired him to draw a map about a mysterious island with a big volcano on it that had an internal sea. He said he might consider creating a little comic book about this.
This is where observation comes in.
I can see that a lot of Zeeki's time is currently spent drawing. He is drawn to comics and graphic novels (graphic as in pictures not as in violence!)
After a while, I found Zeeki continuing to work on his comic book about this island with the inland sea. He was drawing and writing about it in his room.
I thought it might be timely to do a little more cartoon drawing work and thought we could maybe start with something more realistic like the human form before moving onto caricatures. He'd recently picked out this art kit from the beautiful Rourke and Henry Kid's Boutique and asked if we could do an art lesson together.
I got some books from the art shelf. One of them was all about drawing cartoons. He didn't want to even open it! Instead, he wanted to look at the sketches I showed him from Leonardo Davinci's Notebooks and the work of Degas. I didn't fight that - I let go of my expectation that he'd want to draw cartoon bodies and instead went with where this was now headed. We talked about line, cross hatching and movement. We examined works in detail using a cardboard frame to hover over different parts of the images and discussed what they were observing. We talked about realism vs impressionism which we've looked at together in the past.
We looked at proportions of faces and they enjoyed sketching some faces themselves. While they sketched, I read about Davinci being a scientist and an inventor as well as an artist. We discussed how he dissected the human form to study it and how some of the medical practices we have today wouldn't be around if it hadn't been for his early work and observations. We looked at a sketch he made of human muscle.
We pulled out the 'How My Body Works' (muscles book) and read about muscle fibres which was met with lots of 'eeeew gross!' responses when we looked at the picture. We recalled what our muscles help us do and the connection between nerves, our brain and our muscles. [Lots of cross KLA learning here - PD H PE, Creative Arts, History and English].
To extend the human body learning (which I'd been thinking about doing already) we started working on a lapbook. We always have a stash of manila folders here for lapbooks. We started slowly going through one of the downloads by identifying parts of the body. Again, we used a stack of books for this and read about different parts. When we got to the tonsils and couldn't really describe what they were, we pulled out the dictionary. We talked again about alphabetical ordering and looked up the word and read aloud the definition. Zeeki wanted to remind us about the difference between a dictionary and a thesaurus (but couldn't remember the name of the latter). [Lots of skills here too; understanding the purposes of different resources, alphabetical ordering, listening, fine motor skills when working on the lapbook etc]
We then got out our new 3D body puzzle that we'd recently purchased and began to work on assembling it together. This took time (because of other activities happening) and was left on the table in stages of completion for the kids to come back and work on. Collaboration happened with Nan being asked to come and help (and me too). The learning (aka puzzle building) continued after showers and before bed. [Again, more PD H PE and Science outcomes being met here with team work, independence and enquiry].
Both Zip and Zeek said they wanted to do more of their lapbook work tomorrow and find it interesting to learn about the human body. Zeek wants to watch a laparoscopy procedure being performed (Zip definitely does NOT want to!) We talked about how some of my organs are being affected by Systemic Lupus at the moment and important ways we can care for ourselves. This human body work right now is relevant for us which makes it even more engaging for the kids.
As I was saying goodnight to him last night, I noticed that Zeeki had spent more time working on his comic. "It's not finished," he told me, "but you can read it if you like!" I was chuffed to be shown what he'd been working hard on. "The Island of Mount Eruptmore - with Shock Wave" is a gorgeous piece of work showing his imagination which had been sparked by that little bit of reading we had done earlier about the inland sea.
Introducing ideas with intention but allowing there to be flow through observation has become a really beautiful part of our life. I'm so glad we can go on these little learning adventures together. I love seeing it where it takes us all.
Happy learning and living,