Thursday, April 10, 2014

Spring Break

We recently took an inadvertent Spring Break. We usually hold off until May for that, but life happened. A whole slew of baby animals were born in the course of one week, and then I ended up with a nasty cold-turned-brochitis that lasted another week. Add to that a baby goat that needed help eating every three hours round the clock, the first starts for the veggie garden, and Spring Break seemed like a necessity.

So I didn't ask them to do any school work. No math, no English, no history or science. They had free reign to do as they pleased for two whole weeks.

So what did that look like? Surprisingly, it looked a lot like.... school. Not normal school. Not scheduled school. But educational nonetheless.

There was, of course, biology - watching laboring animals, discussing what happens internally when contractions happen, defining things like amniotic fluid and umbilical cord, seeing the water break, discussing instincts, helping babies nurse for the first time and milking the mamas to reduce the likelihood of mastitis, how mammary glands work, the parts of an udder and teat, and relation of all that to humans. I'm pretty sure enough biology happened that week that we could skip science for the rest of the summer... if not the whole year.

And also on the subject of biology, we had our puppy spayed. This prompted a discussion of surgeries in general, spaying in specific, and walks every two hours - which meant watching the clock and learning to read it.

For fun, The Oldest read a biography about Benjamin Franklin, and topped it off with Paddington, which was on our "to read" list. We also read several chapters of The Secret Garden, and Littlest One worked painstakingly through yet another horse book. So there was our reading, literature, and a bit of history and social studies (with both The Secret Garden and Paddington taking place in England.)

We spend at least three hours making fairy dolls out of clothespins (art and history - clothespin dolls are historical, ya know) and then The Oldest spent another several hours trying to fashion a boat that would hold clothespin dolls and not be top heavy or sink, and that would float straight (engineering and physics.)

Littlest One spent an inordinate amount of time calculating the number of animals we have, how many we would have after we sold or ate them, how much money she could make selling babies and selling eggs, estimating how many birds we will have when some are hatched. Her little brain works numbers constantly. They also played a few different games we have lying around that involve the memorization of math facts and calculated more than a few times how many days until Daddy would be home to help with everything. They paid constant attention both the indoor and outdoor temperatures, sorted eggs into dozens, and calculated gallons of milk from pints and quarts. Add to that the fact that The Oldest did at least a quarter of the cooking for two weeks, and I'd say we accomplished plenty of real-life math.

While I was sick, they did a fair amount of laundry and cleaning (home ec) and even caring for many of the animals (animal husbandry, responsibility, patience, diligence.) In general, their lives revolve around the development of character traits, and this was no different.

There were many, many hours spent wandering the hills, the pasture, the irrigation ditches, the pond, and the garden, just enjoying spring. Such small changes as sprouting tulips, singing meadowlarks, and gobbling turkeys were duly noted. I'm pretty sure that all counts as nature study.

When they did have free time indoors, they spent it playing games on National Geographic Kids. There was problem solving, math and science and history and learning about different cultures. They don't often get to play computer games, but considering we were on a break from school, that seemed pretty reasonable.

While I'm not sure I'd ever commit to 'unschooling' like so many do, I feel very confident in saying that my kids aren't any worse off for having had a longer-than-normal and unplanned break. When your kids grow up with play and learning and life so constantly integrated, they simply don't know how to divide them, and they tend to enjoy nearly all of it.

School doesn't have to happen sitting down!


Bonnie K said...

How true. I grew up on a farm and it is an education on its own.

Anonymous said...

Honored to see your unschooling experience, Julie.
Beautiful :-)
Love & Prayers.