On May 3rd 2014 my daughter turned 4 years old. If we were back in England, she’d be starting school in September. I think it’s far too young for children to start school but nonetheless it plays on my mind that Sienna won’t be following the same path as her friends.
As a mother, I don’t want her to be labeled as ‘one of those kids.’
And I am slightly worried that she’ll either be too smart or not smart enough, if and when, we eventually introduce her to the school system. However, on the flip side, I’ve grown so comfortable about the idea that I’m eager to get started. I love the whole idea of teaching her many subjects based on her current interests.
I’m happy to say that in the four short months we’ve been sailing around the Mediterranean, I’ve seen Sienna’s skill-set explode
Not only can she count to 10 easily but she can do it in three languages. She’s no longer shy about meeting new kids or joining in with others regardless as to whether they speak English or not. Her vocabulary astounds me – just yesterday she asked me to explain ‘photosythesis’ and told me that we’re on earth because ‘gravity’ keeps us here. And her desire to learn and ask questions is amazing.
But until recently, I haven’t put too much thought into homeschooling
In fact, the question of how I’m homeschooling my daughter hasn’t even come up. My husband and I encountered a massive learning curve – we sold our house, purchased a 56’ sailboat and handed our land-based life in for one on the sea. Aside from figuring out how to sail the boat, we’ve had to learn about engines, repairs, moving between countries, and dealing with massive change. It hasn’t been easy but it’s been the most fulfilling thing I’ve ever done…and we’ve only just started.
It’s August now, four months after we started on our epic around the world voyage, and one month before Sienna would be joining her peers at school. We’re moored up in Kos, a Greek island very close to Turkey and the idea of schooling keeps niggling at me. I put a post up on my Facebook thread asking friends from my hometown (NY) and England about the curriculum I should be looking at. Within minutes I had loads of resources, great ideas and fantastic support.
Coming from New York State, I was told to look up the NYS Common Core Learning Standards from P – 12 and several of my British friends outlined the key components in England. Fortunately I also had some teacher friends offer to send me worksheets and guidelines.
Thus far on our journey, I’ve simply offered explanations to Sienna when she enquired about something
We already read books and I’ve downloaded several educational iPad apps. She’ll work on letters, numbers, reading, math and I have a few great sciences apps – they allow here to mix, freeze, spin, and burn things to create new elements or potions. Further, I found several apps about ocean conservation as I felt the topic was apt for what we’re doing.
Aside from that, if I see a book on Greek gods or something kid friendly helping her to learn more from the area we’re in, I’ll grab it. In Malta I found a couple great coloring story books (about Malta) and in Greece we have a mythology sticker books and a fantastic ancient Greek encyclopedia that we flip through ever week.
Today, however, I decided to make a concerted effort to test out the whole concept of theme-based education
Rather than separate learning elements into subjects the goal is to combine a variety of subjects using one theme. Let me explain what I did to give you and idea.
A big of background first…
As my husband, Sienna and I were walking around Kos Town yesterday, Sienna tried to pull a leaf off a tree. I quickly said to her that “trees have feelings! They can’t talk, but if they did they’d say, ‘hey – don’t pull my leaves off!’” I then asked Sienna how she would feel if I came up to her and pulled her finger off. After a long giggle Sienna started asking questions about trees.
Her first question was, ‘why do we have trees?’
Like a game of tennis, my husband, Simon, and I went back and forth explaining the benefit of trees. I explained that they help keep our air clean and Simon mentioned all the creatures that use trees as a home. And on we went.
Knowing that Sienna was interested in trees, I went online and found this great 3 page write-up on trees for young kids
The write-up also came with a worksheet allowing us to fill in the blanks to describe the parts of a tree (roots, trunk, branches, twigs, leaves, crown). View the write-up here: Teaching children about Trees
So, I read the write-up as Sienna coloured the tree on the worksheet. So far we already have had quite a few subjects coming in – reading, colors, nature, ecosystems, writing, science. I was actually surprised when Sienna was able to name all the parts of the tree without my help! While she told me what they were, I filled in their names. And when I said that the paper we were writing on was made from tree pulp, she said, “I already know that mom!’
After reading about the benefits of trees and their parts, I then copied her arm and fingers making a tree trunk and branches. We cut out the outline, pasted it onto a sheet of paper and then I found a template of small leaves that Sienna could cut out and paste onto the branches. (This is where I got the idea from – Homeschooling Tree Craft)
While she was cutting the leaves and using the glue stick to fasten them on the paper, I pulled out our jar of Maple Syrup and said, ‘Sienna – this is maple syrup. It’s made from the sap or the juice of a tree!’
Excitedly, she wanted to try it. I then gave her a little spoonful and said, once you’re done adding the leaves to your tree, lets make some pancakes and you can put the syrup on them and enjoy one of the most amazing delights of a tree!
Not knowing how to make pancakes, but having an idea, I mixed some flour, eggs, milk and oil. This goes to show how pathetic my cooking skills are! My intention was to make a crepe but it ended up being slightly thicker than a crepe and much smaller than an American pancake. Regardless, it tasted great and Sienna had a little lesson on cooking too.
Once we were filled up on pancakes with syrup from a tree, Simon asked Sienna to walk around Kos with him finding as many different leaves as they could. The leaves had to be on the ground and each one had to be different – that was the challenge.
The duo are out on their walk now freeing me up to write this article!
I’m sure I’ll get better at theme based education over time, however I feel that it was a great first attempt. Not only did I have fun doing it, but it seems like we all have a greater appreciation for trees now.