Monday, January 29, 2007

animals animals animals

I decided to try out another approach to our day today. Rather than picking out a theme for this week's activities (mostly because I hadn't decided on one -- I've been rolling along with a general winter theme for a couple of weeks), I decided to just "go" with what the kids were doing, and see where that took us (which, in homeschooling terms, would be considered a more child-led, or "organic", approach).

They started their day, as every day, with creative free-play. And here's a photo of what they chose to do during that time. They pulled out a set of African animals and played out various scenes with them for about an hour. Much of their play was around a familiar theme over the past year or so (however long it's been that Jacob's actually willingly participated in pretend play with his brother): the animals interacting in families, babies seeking out their parents, young ones growing up, etc. Today, however, the play shifted a bit after the family themes to be a hunting theme -- instead of the kids playing the parts of the animals and giving them voice, they became hunters on the African plains, and the animals became their prey. Interesting twist, and something new for Jacob (although Zoo Boy has been playing the role of The Great White Hunter since last summer). Usually anything to do with killing or otherwise injuring anything is highly resisted by Jacob. Anyway, by the time breakfast time arrived, they had already experienced quite the adventure whilst on safari.

As I was preparing their breakfasts, Jacob trotted off to him room and retrieved his current issue of My Big Backyard (a magazine put out by The National Wildlife Society for kids his age), which just happened to be about African animals (at least in part). He read selections from it to Zoo Boy while they ate, and both of them sang a song about an Elephant Shrew (set to the music from "Winnie The Pooh"), and pretended to make animal snouts from the directions in the magazine. (If we'd had time for our small-motor activity this afternoon, I would have dug up the materials needed and we could have sat down and made them -- maybe later in the week if we're still working on an animal theme.)

After breakfast, I had to run to the barn to check on the sheep (we're very close to lambing time, we need to make frequent checks to be sure there aren't any wet lambs turning into lambsicles in the frigid temperatures). Zoo Boy dug out a video entitled "A Trip To The San Diego Zoo" from our collection of videos, and asked if they could watch that while I was in the barn. I popped it in for them (happy to know that they'd be occupied if I got hung up with a lambing problem and couldn't come right back in) then ran down to the barn, where there was no action. As I came back in, I could hear the boys engrossed in a play scenario where they were pretending to be IN the video, visiting the zoo in person. I grabbed a shower and took care of some laundry so as not to interupt them.

When the video ended, I produced a handful of animal flashcards and said that for our exercise time today, we were going to take turns drawing a card, and then we'd all move like the animal that was drawn. I had pre-arranged the cards so that we got a variety of movements for a well-rounded workout and plenty of beneficial OT work. First we were hawks, soaring through the living room, down the hall, over the beds, and back into the living room with our arms spread, banking too and fro. Then we were polar bears, lumbering along on all fours along a similar route that the hawks followed, although the smaller polar bears (as in, the boys, not me) wound up slipping into a pool of ice water (the ball pit) and swimming around trying to catch seals. Next we were frogs, jumping on all fours along the same path, winding up jumping into the "pond" (ball pit again). Next were hermit crabs, crab-walking the route, and hoisting large exercise balls onto our backs as our "shells". When we were elephants, we stomped along with our arm-trunks swinging too and fro, and gave ourselves a ball-bath at the "waterhole" (that ball pit sure comes in handy....) at the end. We had a hopping good time as kangaroos. And we climbed over and under and through everything we could find as spiders, spinning webs and catching flies. As jellyfish, we wiggled and jiggled and giggled our way through the house, and finally as knuckle-walking gorillas, we pretended to eat bananas, snuggled in our tree house, and thoroughly made monkeys out of ourselves. This activity even managed to captivate Zoo Boy, which isn't easy to do. He usually immediately rejects anything smacking of organization, and he tends to wear out long before the end of anything resembling exercise (if we can manage to get him engaged with it at all). But he stuck right there with us for this entire activity, even taking the lead on a few of the animal variations.

Then we had to run out to our OT appointment -- the office is an hour away and we had to run a few errands afterwards, so we were gone for a 4 hour chunk in the middle of the day. For my afternoon trip to the barn, on arriving home, Zoo Boy requested Blue's Safari (a Blues Clues episode featuring -- da da dum! -- African animals! Imagine that! We definitely had a strong theme going!). For our focused RDI time, we played a game of Hedge Harvest (suburban animals foraging for food), and currently the kids are involved in a game of go-fish with animal cards. Tonight for Family Story Time, I'll add "The Eyes of Gray Wolf" by Jonathan London to our other selections for the week (I'll give a run-down of all 3 later in the week), and will finish off the bedtime routine with an animal related video.

Not only did it seem neat that everything fit together around our day's theme, but we had one of the most regulated, natural-feeling rhythms going that we'd had in a long time (since some of the stronger themes we worked with in the fall, where our days were based around apples or pumpkins or autumn leaves). I'm thinking that keeping broad themes available and then working child-selected themes into the fabric of our homeschooling is going to produce the best results for us, all interwoven with our Enki rhythms and educational philosophy.


At 11:10 PM, Anonymous kyra said...

what a lovely lovely day!


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