One family's quest to learn together
Its really hot here in Adelaide at the moment, we’re in the middle of summer and it’s not unusual that we find ourselves experiencing a lot of days around 40 C. Thank goodness the children have not gone back to regular school this week is all I can say. Our schools have “Hot Weather Policies”. This means that whilst the children still have to go to school, they have to stay inside the classrooms all day because it’s too dangerous to go outside to play. Even worse I think, is that this policy doesn’t come into practice until the temperature is reported to be over 37 C at a weather station, not in the school yard, so the children may still be sent outside to ‘play’ in the shade even though the temperature is very uncomfortable to be spending up to 40 minutes outside. As a teacher I was always torn between what was worse, keeping the children in with barely working air-conditioning (to watch them start climbing the walls when cabin fever set in), or sending them out into the playground into temperatures that you wouldn’t send your own child out to at home.
This week at home we’re doing things very differently. We spent Tuesday at the beach and then Wednesday at the local pool, and today we’ve been doing some online lessons with the air-conditioning on at home. This weeks heatwave has offered us lots of valuable learning opportunities. The first being sun safety. As Australians, our children have had in drummed into them how dangerous skin cancer is since preschool. Hats are compulsory in the playground, shade over playgrounds is a must and sun-cream and water are offered frequently throughout the day. This week the kids learnt how to safely have fun outside on days around 40C. We’ve rubbed on plenty of 30+ sunscreen and learnt to reapply frequently, we’ve worn our hats, taken our water bottles and played in the shade. At the beach we discussed how it didn’t feel as though it was 40C because the ocean breeze was blowing on our wet skin. We talked about evaporation, and the different messages that our skin can send to our brain. We also made sure that we played in the shade at the beach (under the jetty) and at the local pool (under the shade sail).
A little while ago we were introduced to an online learning website called Study Ladder from another worldschooling traveler, Alyson at World Travel Family. The kids poked around the free limited access version for a week or so before we signed up for the paid subscription. They are enjoying the colourful activities and the ‘rewards’ they earn doing activities which can be spent in their ‘room’. So why have we invested in an online program if we are unschooling? Well, since the children have been attending a very structured private school for the past 6.5 years (Lucy) and 1.5 years (Oscar) the children have come to expect some structure, and this is a fun way that they can explore different lessons at their own pace, (I’m not standing over them with a stopwatch). And also the activities raise questions that the children want to further explore. For example, Lucy was working through an activity that involved multiplying money to calculate savings over a year. This lead to a different lesson with me about how to partition numbers using her knowledge of place value, to work out the answer both in her head, and on paper. Oscar on the hand, saw Lucy playing a “Guess the Number’ game using numbers 1 – 10000 and he wanted to have a go at it. Since he would have been going into year one this year, he would not have been exposed to numbers this large. But, since we are at home, he had a go at the game, and expanded his knowledge of place value to achieve great results.
What surprised me the most from today’s journey into unschooling was that I thought that the children would want to just get on with the activities without me standing over them. I didn’t want to be in their personal space because I was worried that they’d mistake ‘encouraging mummy’ for ‘assessing teacher’. So, I planned to do the dishes in the kitchen which is near enough to the study that I could peek in at them, offer encouragement, and be close enough to help solve problems if they asked me to. However, they wanted me with them! They kept calling me in to share their achievements and work through the activities with them! At their invitation, I pulled up a chair and we worked through an hour or so of maths activities together… I’ll call that my ‘reward’ for the day – the dishes can wait!