Interest Led Learning

How do you know what to teach?  This is one of the more frequent questions I answer as a homeschooler.  I think the thing that baffles some people the most is that we don’t use a science curriculum – because my kids love science.  What does “interest led” learning look like?

Last week I assured readers interest led learning doesn’t mean we wake up every morning wondering, “What will we do today?”  I shared our plans for the outside lessons and activities for the upcoming semester.  But some days we do wake up with a fairly open schedule – what do those days look like?

IMG_2459

Monday we started with soccer because E has decided he wants to play goalie with his rec league team.  He’s been avoiding this position for the last several years, so I’m thrilled he is comfortable trying something new.  Since he is playing rec, they only practice once each week for a little over an hour.   We headed out to the soccer field and C and I took turns playing offense trying to score on E.  Once we were tired, C and I took some turns at goal as well.  It was nice to get the physical activity during the morning hours especially given that we had evening commitments. IMG_2421We took a short hike to look at Monarchs. There were a lot fewer than last week.  We pondered whether most of them had migrated away or they prefer evenings instead of morning.  I agreed to check the meadow during my evening walk.  Turns out it was probably a migration thing.

We read a bit about ancient Greece early in the day to prepare for our presentation at Geography Club. We spent some time during the evening watching a documentary from PBS called Sinking Atlantis to supplement what we learned about the ancient Minoans. I learned all sorts of fascinating stuff about the eruption of the volcano Thera and the decline of the Minoans.

We did a bit of grammar and writing.  We try to do a few lessons like that each week.  It’s a bit like mopping floors or cleaning toilets.  It’s that small bit of life that isn’t necessarily fun, but if you keep up with it isn’t that bad either.  The short and easy writing assignment ended up requiring looking up Arctic Terns and Woodpeckers, so C could be sure he was getting his facts right.

Somewhere along the way we had the globe out and there was a comment about the tilt of the earth that concerned me.  I thought perhaps one of the boys wasn’t understanding that the tilt was constant, so one kid was the sun and I circled around him with the globe reviewing the seasons.  Turns out he understood that just fine – what he was wondering was if the earth had the same tilt during ice ages.  Off we went to read about the cycle of the earth’s tilt and the factors that cause ice ages.  We watched some videos of Pangea separating which morphed into catching up on “It’s Okay to Be Smart” videos.

It was FLL day so we spent a couple of hours with the team going over missions and rules and talking about trash.

The remaining hours of the day were spent listening to the current audiobook, some while simultaneously playing computer games like Terraria and Kerbel Space.

So that’s what an interest led day looks like when your morning plan looks like – get exercise, prep for Geography Club, do some writing and maybe math.

Sharing at:

Weekly Wrap-Up WUH

 

 

 

 

Field Trip: Goodwill Industries

IMG_2430I may have mentioned the FIRST LEGO League Challenge this year is Trash Trek.  The kids are learning about trash and recycling.  My special thanks go out to the mom who put together a field trip to a Goodwill processing center.

There were about 15 boys on the trip and our hosts graciously provided donuts and juice while the kids sat in spinny chairs around a conference table.  The kids really appreciated being treated in such a grown up manner.

Our hosts told us about the circle of Goodwill.  It starts with donations that are sorted and sold in the retail stores.  The money raised in the stores is used to provide job training and help to people in our community, who need a bit of help getting back on their feet due to challenges they are facing.  Once people are employed they are likely to donate items to Goodwill and the cycle continues.   Making donations helps us by giving us a place to take items we don’t need anymore.  People who are on a limited budget, committed to living a non-consumer lifestyle, or want to save money are helped by purchasing used goods at a low price.  People who need job training and other services are helped by the programs offered by the Goodwill.

IMG_2427We visited the area where goods are sorted when they come to the store.  There are about 150 different 501(c)3s operating under the Goodwill name so different regions have different requirements on what they accept.  The site we visited does accept clothes that are worn out and those are placed in bales and sold to other industries.   It can be helpful if you label clothes as such when you bring them in.   They also have salvage options for other items.

The site we visited has an electronics recycling program.  They refurbish computers and sell them to qualifying families for $85 for desktops and $125 for laptops.  They also work on and recycle printers, tvs, and other electronics.  The process they use for wiping hard drives is a 7 time overwrite.  You might imagine with a group of fifteen 9-13 year olds, there are a few tinkerers in the group, so we found out that this program accepts electronics even if you have dissected them or if they are missing a power cord.

After the tour we decided it would be great to send out a challenge to FLL teams to do a donation drive.  We are still in the planning stages, but our team is shooting for October 17th.  We are planning to take clothes and electronics.  I recently went shoe shopping and as soon as I came home I put the shoes I was replacing in a donation bag.  I even managed to get rid of more shoes than I bought!  Please let us know if you are inspired to do the same.  We would love to collect pictures from across the country of donations!

Sharing at:

finishing-strong-green-and-purple-200x200-

Learning Plan 2015

Learning Plans GraphicWe started back to school last week and most of the sign ups for activities are done, so it’s time to share our plan for the coming year.

We operate with an interest led approach, but that doesn’t mean we wake up with a completely open schedule every morning.   Making our schedule for the year / semester is  a collaborative process.  As classes and opportunities open up we decide together if we think they will be worth our time.   Sometimes I see an opportunity and ask about interest.  Sometimes the boys ask for resources to study a particular topic and still other times they ask me to set up classes with a tutor or mentor.  Since the boys are close in age and have similar interests they usually select the same activities.

Pottery WheelThis summer I found a groupon for pottery classes.  Sculpting with clay has always been a favorite activity at our house so we thought giving pottery a spin would be fun.  The groupon class was great!  The boys asked if I would contact the instructor to make pottery part of our fall schedule.  They had so much fun during their class that all of three of us are taking a class in the fall.

IMG_2404After reading the Chronicles of Prydain and the Eragon series, as well as studying ancient and medieval warfare, the boys were super interested in archery.  This summer they went to  archery camp.  It was right on target for their age and interests, so we added archery to our fall schedule.   The timing of the class is great, because it should hit as we are finishing up soccer and before ski season starts.

IMG_0057Zoo classes have been part of our schedule for the last two years and the boys still enjoy them.  When we started homeschooling five years ago one of our objectives was to “learn more about animals.”   This year for the first time we actually got into the classes we wanted at the Natural History Museum.  They just had their first class and seemed to enjoy the classroom part of it.  They learned about lungs in different animals.  I had no idea how different bird respiration is.  My favorite part of these classes is how engaged the instructors are in their topics.

C’s writing project is making up his own book of mythological creatures.  So far he has created a map and some creatures.  I’m thrilled that he’s engaged with a writing project.  He has a friend who’s made her own Book of Dragons from the How to Train Your Dragon series and I think he was inspired by her.

C is using Singapore Math 5A this semester and E is working through Challenge Math.  Challenge Math is intended as enrichment math so it covers a broad grade range.  E finds it engaging most of the time and it has so far been a great review with a focus on the thought processes of math.

We will also be working with Growing with Grammar.  The boys typically do the review at the end of the chapter and then cover lessons as needed and do some of the review activities in the chapter.

We will study avalanches and glaciers as well as cells and biology.  Typically we check out books from the library and use online resources for our desired science topics.

Plastic Bottle GreenhouseOur FIRST LEGO League (FLL) project topic this year is Trash Trek.  We will be learning a ton about trash, recycling, and pollution.  We have a field trip to the Goodwill Processing Center coming up next week. This summer we visited a homestead dedicated to sustainable living, where they had a greenhouse made from 2 liter bottles.   You can follow our Pinterest board of Trash Trek research.  I’m super excited, as well as a bit trepidatious.  As we learn more I will be obligated to make changes in our daily life – more recycling, more reusing, more reducing.  I’m ready to be pushed out of my comfort zone, but it might be …uncomfortable.  Of course FLL also involves a robot aspect, so that is on the agenda as well.

Egypt and Egyptian mythology are currently topics of interest as we are reading the Kane Chronicles.   The boys are also giving a presentation on Greek Mythology next month for Geography Club.  Geography Club serves as a monthly public speaking opportunity.

One of the frequent comments we get from parents who don’t homeschool is that they  would have a hard time getting their kids to do their schoolwork.  I assure them it’s nothing like doing the homework battle every day.  I have “buy in” from my kids, because they are helping create the schedule.  Even when we use a workbook, they have input. The way we do school is like having an adventure where we get to learn more about the world.

Sharing at:

finishing-strong-green-and-purple-200x200-  Weekly Wrap-Up WUH

 

Vacation Learning: Glacier National Park

DSC_5622We are coming off a fabulous week.  After several months in the planning stage we finally took our trip to Glacier National Park.

IMG_1939As the time for our trip got closer and closer we had to consider alternate plans due to wildfires in the park and surrounding area.  While the fires were no longer burning in the park, the air quality was extremely poor due to nearby fires.  We decided to hope the rain in the forecast would materialize and stick to our plan.  Flying in on Saturday,  the mountains were covered in smoke and we could even see some areas smoldering.  It was a very sobering to see the enormity of the wildfires.

Lake McDonald Smoky vs. clearOur first day the air had a campfire quality to it.  Thankfully for everyone, rains moved in and the air cleared.   The above pictures show the difference in air quality between Saturday (8/29) and Tuesday (9/1).

Hidden Lake Trail BoardwalkI absolutely love visiting the mountains.  Pictures and documentaries can never give you anything close to the full experience.  The vastness of it all is so impossible to capture.

High Ropes CollageWhile we spent most of our time in the park we did take a day to do “fun touristy stuff”.  I put that in quotes because my family considers a high ropes course fun.   A long time ago I heard a psychologist say, “Shared adversity strengthens relationships.”  I decided to view the high ropes course as a chance to strengthen my relationship with my family – although I’m not sure it counts if they aren’t facing adversity.  I happen to think it is a positive thing for the kids to see me get outside of my comfort zone and do things I’m not particularly good at. The ropes course had 4 levels of difficulty and the course rules said no one under 13 on the most difficult level so the boys and I did levels 1-3.  The beginner courses were actually somewhat fun.  E did the level 3 course with his dad and they had a good time.  C and I found the level 3 course more challenging.  We would have taken the chicken exit, if one had been offered, instead we ended up feeling proud of ourselves for completing the  course.

Swiftcurrent Lake Many Glacier HotelOne day we hiked around Swiftcurrent Lake.  The Many Glacier Hotel is located along the shore and there are beautiful vistas all around the lake.   As we were hiking back the tour boat went past.   It was our first day hiking at altitude and while we faired okay for the hike we did, it was obvious the much longer hike I wanted to do wasn’t going to happen when combined with the car trip to get to the east side of the park.

DSC_5668The next day we took a chance to rest and just enjoy Lake McDonald.  Even though the winds were blowing well in excess of 20 mph most of the time the boys still enjoyed playing at the edge of the water.

Lake McDonaldWe drove around the lake to Apgar Village and it was apparent why this vantage point is such an iconic representation of Glacier Park.  It is very near the west entrance, within a few yards of a parking lot, and stunningly beautiful.

DSC_5761Once we were acclimated to the climate and understood how we needed to prepare for hikes, we decided to explore a section of the Highline Trial from Logan Pass.  When my husband mentioned the trail passed above Going to the Sun Road and a chain was provided as a handhold along the narrow passage,  I nearly refused to go.  Fortunately I knew it was probably our best chance to see a pika. Pikas are adorable little creatures that only live high in the mountains.  All summer long they gather plant materials and dry them in little hay piles.  They are lagamorphs, like rabbits and hares, and they happen to be C’s favorite animal.

IMG_2014That’s me inching my way along the Highline Trail.  See the road down below?  Thankfully that part of the trail was reasonably short.

Hidden Lake Glacier National ParkWe kept our hike along the Highline trail to a couple of hours so we could have a quick lunch in the car then hike the Hidden Lake trail on the other side of the Logan Pass.  It was a steep climb up boardwalk stairs but the views of Hidden Lake were truly gorgeous.

DSC_5798We all had a good laugh when a ground squirrel ran right up to E.  While entertaining it was a reminder that people do feed them, which is detrimental to their survival as the small creatures sometimes fail to store food for winter.

DSC_5861Another day we hiked to Avalanche Lake.  The highlight of the day was seeing a bear at the shore of the lake.

Chipmunk feeding on berriesWe also saw loads of chipmunks along the trail.

IMG_2047Our rental cabin was very comfortable and homey.  The owners live next door and their Labrador would come over and play with the boys every night.  Our last night, Jake, the rental dog, stopped their game of fetch to tree a black bear!  Quite a memory!

Bighorn sheepTips for traveling to Glacier:

I was making our reservations about nine months in advance so I wasn’t able to piece together a cohesive in park stay and opted for a cabin outside the park.  Most of the available lodging outside the park is on the west side which makes for a LONG drive to the Many Glacier and Two Medicine areas.  I wish I had been able to split our stay between the east and west sides of the park.  On the other had it was very nice to have a large cabin outside the park.

We opted for a fall trip due to scheduling, which made it easier to determine glacier versus seasonal snow, but we didn’t have views of snow capped mountains.

Good outdoor clothes that layer are a must.

Hope you enjoyed all the pictures!

(Special thanks to my husband who does almost all the photography when we are on vacation.)

Sharing at:

Weekly Wrap-Up WUH