Friday, December 21, 2012

They Won't Remember Everything

Doing The Thinker

I love the generous curriculum idea put forth by Charlotte Mason. Many subjects which widen their horizons are being covered by my children. It can be an overwhelming educational principle, however, when you're teaching multiple grades or trying to meticulously cover every subject.

Elizabeth (grade 5) does up to 20 subjects a day. Jonathan (2nd) can do up to 14 a day, and Phoebe (K) does 7-10. Some of these are family do-togethers, and Elizabeth and Jonathan do some on their own also. While we are normally able to finish our work before kids get out of public school, I often feel doubtful that we're covering each subject well enough. How can you cover so many areas and remember it all?

While reading Volume 3 of Charlotte Mason's series, I found some comfort to salve this worry. (Check out pages 162-163 if you want to read it yourself.) Charlotte was talking about the need for a wide curriculum and how we shouldn't limit a child's access to certain subjects intending a predetermined pathway for him. For instance, we think he should not waste time on Latin since it won't be of use to him in the commercial pursuits we imagine for him. From there though we read how only "a few notions" will catch hold of a child; but when they do catch hold, they can work more wonders than years of grind. There's no need to limit the variety of knowledge relationships your child can pursue. And it is not expected that every bit of information or fragment of experience will light your child's mind on fire with connection and light-bulbyness. *Whew* It does take a load off.

Teachers offer access to the wide range of knowledge and experiences and then step back allowing the child to connect to the material. The teacher does not need to fret if the child does not make the connections she would make. She needs not fret if all 20 subjects from the day do not set the child off in a delightful narration. There was likely at least one solid connection established that day. One notion that made the child pause and reflect for a moment before continuing his reading or translating Latin. We serve up the best that we can, trust good habits, keep a wise eye, and set them off to pursue a life of learning.

At the end of Volume 3 similar words of comfort are written:
The average child studies with 'delight.' We do not say he will remember all he knows, but, to use a phrase of Jane Austens, he will have had his imagination warmed in many regions of knowledge.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Red Harvester Ants

These were discovered near our home on a nature study walk. They look freaky with their square heads, big pincers, and large red bodies, but they are very cool. We haven't been bitten by any of them, though that was what I was most afraid of (we have been bitten by red ants nearby, however). They seem to leave you alone if you leave them alone. They have a flat mound with a circle of bare dirt around the entryway. And you can see one of the trails leading from their mound to their food. They harvest seeds for food. Not sure where from around here. Grass seeds maybe? We have a lot of Longtailed Grackles in our yard, and they eat seeds too. Maybe it's grass or clover or some kind of weed that's producing the seeds they eat.

The Texas Horned Lizard gobbles them up. I'm kind of hoping we see one of those guys at some point.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Tractor Refinishing Handicraft

My dad was given two 60+ year old toy tractors, and Jonathan was on the receiving end of one of the tractors. He was very impressed that a toy would last that long. Harrison was taking it to bed with him for a while.

We decided we would refinish this tractor for a school handicraft project. I'm not sure we did it exactly right, but it was a lot of fun and I would definitely do this project again. We might even start searching for antique metal toys to refinish.

First we placed the tractor in a plastic bag and poured in rubbing alcohol. We tied the bag and made sure the whole tractor was soaked. After 10 or so minutes we could take it out and rub off the old paint with a rag, toothbrush and toothpick (for the tiny spots). This took several days.

Second, we scrubbed the tires with a toothbrush and soapy water to get off all the dirt.

Third, we covered the tires with several layers of masking tape careful not to cover any of the metal parts that we would paint.

Fourth, we sprayed (outside on top of newspaper) primer over the tractor. After it dried for an hour we sprayed it with red paint. Jonathan did fine with the big sweeps of spray and I did the cracks and crevices. We did have to sand down some drips and spray again the next day. I had to hang it from a hanger attached to a tree branch so I could get at all the tiny spaces. It's sprayed on there pretty thick, so you can actually nick the paint easily. I think we need to have less paint next time. Or maybe a different brand?

Jonathan is eight, so I'm not sure he could have done this whole project on his own. But he learned and at some point will be able to. Some projects get drug out over time and you just want to finish them already! But this one was worthwhile, fun, not too long, and definitely a good skill.