Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Summer Learning

Last summer, the girls asked to go to school.  But just for the summer.  Yes, they wanted the summer off with no classes, no planned lessons at home, "just like school kids" (though they didn't want camp either).  Buried with work, I agreed, somewhat reluctantly, to at least a few weeks.  It lasted much longer and I used the time to be intentional about observing their learning in an unschooling environment.  I was delighted with the results - they engaged rich, creative, and even skill building activities every day, with little intervention from me.

This year, we didn't even really have a formal discussion.  Various wonderful end of the academic year activities took our attention away from routine and then my need to focus on my own research was a further distraction.  Still, I've been watching.  The results I see support the free learning of an unschooling environment; unfortunately (and fortunately), we get tempted during the official school year by a rich variety of opportunities that become fabulous obligations.  It is a happy dilemma, but in the end our choices keep us in some classes and doing some school-ish things at home (math, grammar), which detracts from an entirely free learning environment.  It is our ongoing challenge to engage the best of both worlds.

This day began with a science experiment.  The girls had frozen about five of their Playmobil characters in water in a glass and decided to make a movie of the thawing process, setting up the camera to take a photo every 30 seconds.  Then I, interfering or - the way I like to think of it - inspired by their idea - decided to move the melted characters around.  Soon with the help of both girls, we made the characters move in slight, subtle ways as they thawed, including sitting up and climbing out of the glass slow step by slow step as the camera recorded each shot.  The science of melting water remained, but now it was encased in a silent movie with all five eventually thawing and the first four "rescuing" the final one by hoisting a handy lanyard.

Storytelling, technical skills, and more were at play in this delightful morning activity and resulted in a short but funny movie.  Charles thought that the thawing was what he would see when he watched it, since he had helped set the camera up for that purpose.  He got a funny surprise to see the characters not just thaw but then jump up and escape and his surprise made us all giggle.

Love the smile

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