Monday, January 13, 2014

Blending Traditional Schoolwork with Unschooling

 I find balancing our unschooling days and weaving in more traditional days is my biggest challenge! 

It seems we're typically either doing one or the other until we're so sick of it and need a drastic change.  I'd like to try and find a happy medium but I'm just not sure that's possible.   Today, I toyed with the idea of doing a little bit of everything in one day. 

I thought we'd start our day with some traditional schoolwork, pack some lunches to eat in the car and head out for a field trip a bit later in the afternoon. 



I pulled out a few books to read with the boys, a new toy scale and a bunch of manipulatives then I declared that school was in session.
   
I had barely finished setting up the scale when Alec and Evan came running over to play with it.  They tried comparing the weights of their two stuffed animals.  Then they took Evan's small hedgehog stuffed animal and tried to figure out how many red pattern blocks it took to equal hedgehog.  They also compared Cuisenaire rods with pattern blocks and played for quite a while. 


 I love self- guided math discovery and it's something I want to start doing more often (again!).  

Ian played with the scale and blocks for a while too as the younger two boys went to get dressed and played in their rooms for a bit.  Once they seemed to have had enough, I followed up their learning with a book. 

We read On the Scale, A weighty Tale.  It's another book in the Math is CATegorical series and we enjoyed it very much.  We learned all about ounces, pounds, tons and when to use each one.  We talked about the different kinds of scales and I asked them if they knew what kind we were using.  We talked about the U. S. Standards versus the metric system and how they are different. 


The two older boys had one more quick math activity.  I printed out two different ways to practice multiplication fluency with the boys.  Both kits were about building ice cream cone sundaes and I thought this might be a fun way to motivate the boys to memorize their facts (you can print out the two FREE packets here and here).  Basically the boys will be taking one minute math tests of each fact, as they complete each fact with 100% accuracy in the minute they'll earn a part of their ice cream cone sundae.  We'll display them on the wall and follow up at the end with a real ice cream sundae party, once they've each memorized all their facts. 

Today I had them try a practice run with their two times facts (neither kit bothered with the 0 or 1's facts).  Since this only takes a minute I really hope that this is something we'll keep up with and do on, at least, a weekly basis.  Ian did fantastic and got 17 of the 21 facts but Alec struggled a bit more and only completed 4.  I was glad to hear Ian tell Alec that it was still great since multiplication is really hard.
    
We read a few more book about winter and snow.  Today's books were The Blizzard, When Winter Comes, and Winter is for Snow.  We enjoyed each of the books but I think Winter is for Snow was probably the boys favorite.  The boys were really able to relate to this story about a big brother who loves the snow and looks forward to all the fun winter activities outdoors while the younger sister hates being cold and wet and just wants to stay in playing video games, watching TV and keeping warm and dry.  It reminded us so much of Ian and Alec that it actually made us laugh out loud several times.   Alec could also relate to the boy in The Blizzard, since a snowstorm comes and "ruins" his birthday (something that has happened to my January birthday boy many years).  I was pleasantly surprised when the boys picked up that this was set back in the olden times of one room schoolhouses and outhouses just a few sentences before I did. 


I had Evan pick a book from his growing pile of books to read to me and he chose to re-read We Want to Make a Snowman!  I asked him to find me the word want on the first page.  He's so great at quickly memorizing these books but he still struggles with recognizing words on their own or in new stories.  I asked him to pick another quick book and I was pleased to see that he chose yet another new book to learn.   With just a tiny bit of help he was able to read the book Pigs All Around.  This simple text only has one simple sentence on each page (for example: pigs on a bus, Pigs in a pool, etc.) and the pictures reinforce what the pigs are doing.  I was just glad that he finally remembered a-t is at and o-n is on!  He's really hopeful that he'll be able to start reading Weird School Books all by himself soon.  I'm hopeful to but I did remind him that it might be a while before he's ready for chapter books. 
     
We read one last book together called This Is London.  We're going to start reading a lot of world geography books.  To start with I picked out several interesting looking books from various places around the world.  We'll eventually pick an area and study more in depth about each continent but for now we'll just roam around a bit.  I picked London to start with since they do remember quite a bit about England and London from the summer Olympics.  We talked about all the things we know about England and I had them find it on the world map before we started reading.  We really liked this book and it's bold illustrations.  It's part of a series so I'll be checking to see if we can get any of the other ones through our library as well.
   
We declared school done for the day and went to pack up lunches.  We headed out around 10:30 to Roger William's Park Zoo. 

We finished up the Schoolhouse Mystery and listening to The Boxcar Children's Caboose Mystery.

Our membership to the zoo ends on the 31st and I thought today's mild weather was the perfect time to get one last visit in.    It was great to get out, exercise our legs and breathe in all the fresh air.  Many of the animals were out today since it was pretty mild and we had a good time.  I think we spent the most time looking at the Lesser Pandas!








Once home Ian wanted to play outside and Alec and Evan dragged out all the dinosaurs, Batman toys and Evan's new samurai castle and set up an elaborate, dramatic, play scene. 

Alec wrote up a list of video games he'd like to look for while out birthday shopping tomorrow.  He was very careful to keep it nice and neat.

Ian worked a bit more on his rock excavating kit and checked on his rock tumbler. 
    

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