Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Surprise Education

I was totally caught out by Eldest this morning... in the car on the way to Craft Club we drove past the place where we had waved at the Queen last week - and it prompted a string of questions leading from where she lives (not in Hitchin!) to a discussion about the Commonwealth, the British Empire, decolonisation, and more.  I was totally out of my depth - and loved it!  It means I have to look it up so I can explain it better.  I never did very well at History in school, despite it being a subject that has always fascinated me - I think there was too much focus on memorising dates, rather than getting to grips with the personalities and the stories.  In fact my poor history teacher didn't do well at all - I can vividly remember the class being so bored once that they had a competition to see who could predict the amount of times she would say 'Holy Roman Empire' in the course of one lesson (I lost count).  Anyway, my mission for this evening is to try and get my head around the basics of the British Empire, so Eldest and I can explore together - as long as he's still interested tomorrow (if he was older or more internet savvy I would set him off researching on his own, but that's really not his style, he just wouldn't do it).
Meanwhile, we had a lovely time at Craft club again today.  The boys were really looking forward to it as today's theme was 'insects', and they totally got stuck in!  What I love about our craft club is that Heather (who runs it) always brings great ideas, provides lots of different materials for them to rifle through until they find something that sparks their creativity, and is always ready to give a hand if needed (which I particularly appreciate as I can't help all my three at once).  Eldest as usual was pretty definite about what he wanted to achieve, and pursued that until he was done (with a pause in the middle for his painted dragonfly body to dry).  Middle just loved getting creative and exploring all the different possibilities - he enjoyed himself so much that he ended up making two bugs!  Youngest had a whale of a time too, not least because there was paint, glue, sticky tape and scissors involved.  He's not usually bothered about the completed product - he just loves the experience :)  Anyway, all three were really pleased with their finished bugs...

Eldest's dragonfly                   Youngest's butterfly

Middle's 'rainbow fly' and dragonfly 

I love seeing them explore possibilities, and spotting the moments when inspiration strikes etc.  Craft club today wasn't just about the art though - it wasn't even just about the socialising, although we all enjoyed that aspect of it too (we took a big box of lego bricks for them to play with while whoever finished first waited for the others - and that proved to be a big hit with all the other children there as well).  It was about the unexpected learning opportunities too.  The weather was lovely today, so the doors were open, which is as good as an invitation to Youngest to explore outside - and explore he did.  At one point he came running in, saying "Mummy, come and see, come and see... run!"  His excitement was over showing me a dead fledgling blackbird that Eldest and he had found outside (Eldest named it 'Dead Larry'!).  I'm not sure why dead things are so fascinating to children - especially boys, it would seem - but they are still a great learning opportunity.  The boys got to have a good up-close look at the bird (I tried not to let them touch it), and they were particularly fascinated with it's long legs and claws.  Eldest wanted to bury it - which if we had been at home I would have had no problem with (you just can't really do it in someone else's garden!) - I think a healthy curiosity about death is a good thing, and can help them to learn to deal with it, hopefully before they encounter it in people who they love.  Youngest was making us smile, at his dismissal of the theory that it had been killed by a cat - he was determined that it had been 'lasered' by Spiderman.  If that was the case, poor little Dead Larry didn't stand a chance!
Once inside again, and after the bugs had all been made, Eldest and Middle were thoroughly enjoying themselves playng lego with the others in the side room while Youngest and I helped tidy up (as you can imagine, a LOT of mess was created today).  He absolutely loves tidying things, importantly putting rubbish in the bin, wiping tables, sweeping into the dustpan, and he even 'helped' to fold down the tables (thanks to the lovely Home Ed mum who was so patient with him, making sure his fingers stayed out of the way, and helping him to safely work out how the table-collapsing mechanism worked).  He really does like to think he can do anything an adult can do.
Then it was time to go home for lunch - after which the boys wanted to watch the extra bits on their Spongebob Squarepants DVD.  I wasn't overly-impressed with the idea, but I have to admit, I was surpised and impressed by how informative it was!  They learned a load of new words (eg 'avaricious', 'denizens', 'curmudgeon' etc), they learned about the different jobs involved in making an animated film, such as writers, director, 3D model makers etc... (and they particularly enjoyed matching the actors to the characters whose voices they provide).  There were even cameos by David Hasselhoff and Jean-Michel Cousteau (though I had to tell the boys who they were), and a chance to learn about real undersea creatures, the importance of ocean conservation and the invention of Scuba equipment.  Who knew that even Spongebob would end up being educational?!  In fact it was so fascinating that we ended up watching the whole thing & running out of time to go out to the barbers as planned.  Ah well... they can always get their hair cut tomorrow!
So, craft club may have been planned (not too structured though - it's geared to allow them to pursue their own creativity), but the rest of today's education - well, it was all a surprise bonus.  If this is unschooling, I love it!  In fact, I just love Home Ed more and more all the time :)

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