Wednesday, July 6, 2011

the art of learning

Certain elements of unschooling really appeal to me. (But then again so do certain elements of Waldorf, Montessori, Charlotte Mason, Unit-Based education, and Classical education.) I don't think I could ever fully unschool my kids (my brain lives in planning mode too much for that), but one thing I enjoy is trying different methods and seeing what happens. The beauty of unschooling is that you can truly try it out anytime, anywhere, anyway you choose.

With the summertime here and the kids home with me (or traveling with me as the case has been this summer), I've been looking for little ways, both happenstance and planned to incorporate learning into our every day. Oh, learning happens every day whether I incorporate it or not, like when the kids have to budget their spending money or when they discover random things about nature on a hike or in our own backyard. But sometimes incorporating can bring an everyday experience to another level.

Like this spider web that we discover between two of our tomato garden stakes which sparks a conversation about the condensation that forms on the grass and plants each evening as the air cools and the earth radiates the day's heat. That condensation allows the spider web to be more easily seen due to the reflection of light. We even examined in a few hours how the dew disappeared and the spider web was more difficult to see. We even talked a little bit about how the spider built such a large web while we slept and how similar it felt to Charlotte's Web.

In addition to random every day occurrences, I try to occasionally find an unschooling type outlet that my kids will enjoy that might help solidify or introduce a new idea for them. The summer seems to be a perfect time for this when we have so much time to choose activities at leisure.

While the older kids were helping me clean the house, Finn needed an activity to occupy his time and keep him from distracting the others. After we cleaned the kitchen area, he happily sat at the kitchen table with a little bit of food coloring and water in 3 bowls and 3 pipettes to help him mix colors in the 3 other bowls.

He had such a wonderful time of learning about color combination. He already knows about secondary colors and can tell you which primary colors you need to form the secondary colors, but with this little experiment, he was able to investigate what happens when you add a bit more blue to the green or purple to see the varying shades of blue-green and blue-purple.

Likewise, after the cleaning, the older kids helped me screw eye-hooks into 2 dowel rods and tie 2 lengths of rope between the eye-hooks, one rope shorter, and the other twice as long with a washer hanging in the middle.

The kids were thoroughly befuddled when after creating this confusing device, we filled a bucket with dish soap and water and walked out to the back yard. I explained to them that the washer kept weight on the longer roap to form a sort of oval and the cotton string would absorb the soap solution.

Well, Finn wasn't as adept with his smaller frame at achieving the goal.

But the older kids quickly figured out how to make this strange device work.

They also determined that if you walked against the slight breeze, the breeze would help move the bubble away from you instead of allowing it to splash right in your face. Smart kids, these are.

Paulie quickly mastered the art of large bubble making.

And before I knew it, he was making some 8-10 feet long.

His siblings just sat back and enjoyed the show.

And they all learned. Hmmm...much more fun than reading about wind direction, color combination, condensation and web construction in a book. As much as we love reading. ;)


  1. I love it all! I've also been using summer time to test out homeschooling and I love it. We've really been enjoying each other so much. xoxo

  2. As always, you have inspired me. :)

  3. I love your bubble thingy. Sorry I don't have a more technical term. Along with classical education, we use a combo of Waldorf and unschooling. He loves Waldorf so much and then he loves the freedom of unschooling and investigating things.

  4. How fun, fun, fun! I have to do the bubble wand!

    I also like the concept of unschooling. But I'm also too planning oriented to do well with it.

  5. I've wondered how to make the bubble wand. What ratio did you use for the dish soap? I would love to do this at recess with my 2nd graders next fall.

  6. That first photo with Paulie and the giant bubble is amazing! Unschooling is very seducing my friend, you can do it all... but at your own pace. That's the beauty!

  7. What a great post! I love the bit about the spider's web--such a great example of time well spent. Homeschooling provides so many opportunities like this that just can't be planned. Glad you're enjoying your summer!

  8. What great summer ideas Joy. Thank you for sharing. I also try to encourage during the summer by suggesting and leaving little hints for ideas around.
    Warm wishes, Tonya

  9. Love all your kids activities. Great ideas for us to use here! Thanks


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