World Explorers--May 2 Digest
Another joyful day of exploring, playing and learning through both.
It has been so heartwarming to see how much empathy these children have; always looking out for each other and making sure everyone feels included and loved.
Another one of my biggest joys and surprises in creating and executing this experimental "school"--this learning tribe--is to see how well the children (perhaps especially these children, who have such a great foundation with you at home) collaborate on projects when you allow them to take the lead. I'm there to ask the right questions and chime in with stories, art and insights related to what they're already engaged with, that they wouldn't know to look for on their own.
I call this the Judo Principle of great mentorship. In judo, you don’t fight against your opponent’s momentum (pushing back when they push against you). You work with it—leveraging your opponent’s momentum to throw them off balance. Resistance to their energy actually keeps them upright and stable, like the tripod tipi we built today—the opposing forces of the other two legs keep each leg from falling. Your child isn’t your opponent, of course, and you’re not trying to defeat them, but the principle of working with their energy, and channeling it, instead of against it is the same. Instead of trying to get your children to stop what they’re doing to do something more educational or worthwhile, find all the trans-disciplinary learning opportunities that exist in the activities they’re already engaged in. Watch for how I do this as I recount our day:
1. Morning Conversation—Hank brought black shark teeth to show and tell and gave a tooth to all the other children. I showed a picture of a shark—“What color are this shark’s teeth?”—“White”—“Then why are these shark teeth black?”—“Maybe because it’s fossilized?”—“Partly. They are fossilized. This paper that Hank brought says it’s because the teeth were buried in the ocean floor for a long time and absorbed the minerals from the sand and everything that it was buried in.” The Explorers each introduced and share something about themselves. Some shared a story (a lot of camping stories today!)
--The Explorers discovered and started playing with my Russian matryoshka (nesting) dolls, so I told them I got them when I lived in Russia a long time ago. I showed them a picture of me with my host family in the street outside their home, with a robin’s-egg-blue Russian Orthodox church in the background. I explained that I taught English to my host sisters and other 5-6-year-old children. And now that 8-year-old girls in the picture is 32 and teaches a class to homeschoolers with me online. Cece asked “Do you speak another language?!” So I spoke some Russian to them. Everyone fell silent, froze and stared at me as I spoke.
--Kids measured their plants. I introduced them to the graph and we started plotting measurements. “When did we plant the seeds? Week 0? Week 1?”—Week 0—“How tall were they when we first planted them?”—Thinking…“Nothing. Zero.”—"Right!” I drew a red dot on the graph. That’s as far as we got before we lost everyone to playing. I decided to finish filling in all the hash marks this week and we’ll finish plotting next week. I’m excited for them to see a visual of the plants’ various growth rates!
2. Pottery—Who would have guessed that we would engage with math, science and history sparked by playing with clay? We would, of course! “Who wants to make pottery or sculptures with clay?”—Jumping up and down, hands in the air squealing “ME! MEEEEEE!!!”—“Ok, it’s at the table!”—We sit down and I ask, “What is clay?”—“Mud mixed with water!”—“SAND mixed with water!”—“You guys are both right in a way—it is mixed with water, and it is sand—” I showed them the vials of sand we observed last week, “—But it’s been ground so finely, even finer than this; like the flour we ground for bread last week. And it becomes clay when it mixes with water.”
--“What is the difference between clay and mud? Or sand and dirt?”—Lots of guesses.—“Clay and sand are tiny ground up bits of rocks and other non-living matter, things that have never been alive. Dirt is tiny, decomposed bits of things that used to be alive. What turns into dirt when it dies?”—The kids really lit up at this question!—“Dead bodies!” (Elliot)—“Plants!” (Cece)—“Poop!”(Harrison)—“Wait! Poop?! Poop was never alive!”—"Yes, it was! It’s made from the food that you eat! Plants and animals.” (Aeos)—“That’s right, poop is made of living things!”—“And you can use it in your garden.”
--“Ok, so how should we divide this up so everyone gets approximately the same amount of clay?”—The kids counted how many of them there were, discussed and decided to cut it in half then in half again and again until they had 8 chunks. Everyone who wanted to try cutting got to try cutting. The kids helped each other when requested. It was fun to see them figure this out together. Then I brought out the kitchen scale. “Do you guys know what this is?”—“A scale!”—“Do you want to use it?”—“Yes! We can weigh each one to make sure they’re the same.”—They each weighed their chunk and read the numbers for me to write down. In the end they decided not to try to even things out, but it was interesting to see how much they varied and who had the most clay and the least.
--While they worked with the clay I said, “How long have humans been creating things with clay?”—“Since before Christ!” (Aeos)—“Since maybe 48AD???” (Harrison)—“Yes, a very long time, and even longer than that.” I showed them a photo of a clay figurine (just the face) from many thousands of years ago. I said, “The oldest clay art is figurines like this. They didn’t have any writing from this time, but these figurines are clues that they probably believed in a god or gods.”—“And they built temples to worship their gods!” (Elliot)—“Yes, they did!” Cece taught Krishna how to make a snowman, at his request. When he was finished, he pulled a picture book from the shelf to look through.
--I gave them toothpicks to carve designs in their clay if they wanted. Then inspiration struck—“Do you guys know what people used to write on before paper and pens were invented?”—“Clay!!!”—“How did you guess?!”—I showed them a picture of ancient Sumerian writing (cuneiform) on clay tablets. “This is some of the oldest writing from about 5,000 years ago. You know what the first thing they started writing down was? The king sent his workers to every farm to write down how much wheat people grew, like we talked about last week.” (This is overly simplified, of course, and I focused on wheat because we’ve been talking about it and playing with it in WE. The first writing was for accounting--trade, tax and property information.)—“Why would the king want to know how much wheat each farmer was growing?”—no answers—“What does he want to make sure he gets from each person in his kingdom?”—“Money?” (Elliot)—“Yes, money. Taxes.”—“Why does the king want to take some of everyone’s money?”—“I suppose because being king is his job, and that’s how he got paid. And he has total power over everyone in his kingdom, so a lot of kings take so much that their people suffer while they get rich.” This is, of course, another overly simplified answer. I’ll let you explain it in your own way if you want to! I just hope it piqued their curiosity.
--During lunch time I asked if any of the kids would be interested in doing another baking project in the future. There were a few suggestions, then Hank said, “Cinnamon rolls!” And everyone changed their minds in agreement. “Yeah, cinnamon rolls!” Anyone have a good gluten-free cinnamon roll recipe? I can make almost anything gluten free and refined-sugar free, except bread. Otherwise we can do muffins, another suggestion.
3. Nature time—Harrison scooped up snakes from the creek with a net and everyone observed. Hank collected pond water in a vial. They all attempted to climb up on the concrete posts by the bridge. Amelia, Aeos, Cece and Elliot started playing a make-believe game (started by Aeos, I think) in which they were healers. I think this was my favorite part of the day! They would look for plants with various healing properties and heal each other. Harrison and Hank were off doing their own thing together and called out, “Hey, guys! Come here! I found a plant that is SOFTER THAN A BLANKET!” Everyone ran over and gathered around a good-sized patch of lambs-ear. “That plant restores rejuvinative energy [or something like that]” (Aeos, as part of the game). I said, “I think lambs-ear actually does have healing properties in real life. Let me look it up.” I found several sources that said lambs-ear can be made into a tea for sore throats, colds and liver functioning. The Explorers started picking handfuls to make tea out of when we got back. Then they went on exploring. They found and “harvested” moss. They exited the woods into a field. “You guys! Look! It’s a field of healing!” (Elliot with arms wide open running out into the field.)—“Look! It’s a healing tree!” (Aeos, running towards a weeping willow, everyone running after him.) The Explorers started jumping up to grab handfuls of leaves to save for their apothecary. Amelia often enjoyed walking and talking with me while the others played. She is excited to bring her pet turtle to show and tell soon.
4. Back Home--We found one last long branch for our tipi tripod, and the kids all worked together to carry them back to the house. We did a tripod lash and worked together to raise it in a good spot. We found other long branches to lean against it. Next week we will collect flexible weeping willow branches to weave walls around the poles for walls. Krishna was eager to find branches and help lift them to put them in place.
--The kids played more stick wars and pushed each other on the tire swing, laughing so hard. More magical childhood moments. We went back inside for the last 15 minutes to finish up clay projects, make the lambs-ear tea (I put the kids in charge of washing their own leaves and putting them in the pot; then made sure they were well-washed. We picked them in the woods, which are NOT fertilized), and look at the pond water under the microscopes—analog and digital. The kids were sure they saw tiny moving things; I was not so sure. Either way, it was fun trying to get it in focus and seeing other plant bits floating around that look almost invisible to the naked eye.
--The lambs-ear tea was delicious! Flavorful and slightly sweet, not bitter at all like I was expecting. If you didn’t get a chance to try any, I’ll make more next week! And if you forgot to bring home your clay project you can take it home next week.
Can’t wait to build on our adventures!