Tuesday, August 2, 2011
Creating Your Own Curriculum: Inspiration For Learning Without Tears
This article about what they thought the future would be like in 1901 is great inspiration for fun homeschool projects that incorporate history, language arts, math, science, social studies, reading, writing, culture, and technology. I've blogged my process in "lesson planning" and creating a Unit Study, Unschooling, or Project Based Learning Homeschooling "curriculum" so you can more easily understand or explain how kids learn without a formal curriculum. If you are just getting started in homeschooling, think about interests, books, movies, or hobbies you have that would be a fun place to start in creating a lesson plan, unit study, or idea list to incorporate it into your day to day learning. This is a good way to try "unschooling" as well. See how many creative learning opportunities you can provide through your child's interests! So if you like Unit Studies, Project Based Learning, Waldorf, Montessori, or just want to inspire your unschooled child to do some fun writing and arts and crafts, read on!
The interest led learning I'm planning for September was inspired by an article written in 1901 for Ladies Home Journal about what life would be like in 100 years . As I read it, the gears in my head began turning immediately! There is so much potential for learning here in so many subjects!
The writer of "What May Happen in the Next Hundred Years" was very excited about being able to travel "To England in Two Days" using "fast electric ships" sailing at more than a mile a minute! The letters C, X, and Q would no longer exist in our everyday alphabet because all spelling will be done phonetically by the year 2001. "Store Purchases will be made by pneumatic tube." The article contains predictions about changes in travel, agriculture, home life, food, education, communication, and so much more. If you wanted to you could probably spend 3 months on ideas generated from this article alone!
Initially, I thought I would write a post about using the article as a story starter for my reluctant writer and a fun way to learn some basic report writing. I was just going to include the article and some links to the project we're doing, building a model of "The City of the Future."As I began writing a short post about the article to share it with all of you, I found myself adding more and more ideas for exciting, hands-on learning that could cover every subject one could possibly imagine.
This is how I have been creating our "curriculum;" when either the Geekling or I gets excited about something, I start looking for fun books, websites, shows, documentaries, field trips, and activities and projects we can use to incorporate math, science, history, writing, and social studies. I read a bit, jot down important facts and things to discuss, concepts that can be introduced, resources I need to find, and books and movies that would inspire learning and encourage him to research more.
*I am going to use the term "teaching" for brevity, but in general we learn together and there is very little lecturing beyond reading aloud together.
As I create the basic outline of what I want to teach using the article or book that inspired the Lesson Plan, I add links to websites, books, movies, shows, documentaries, games, art projects, field trips and the like. I might write some notes about websites we should investigate together that would probably have good related reources; part of the fun of a more relaxed homeschooling style is including your child in the research process and exploring together. If I provide the proper learning environment and access to resources, there is no limit to what we can learn no matter what the initial inspiration was!
Here is an idea and activity list that I'll be using this fall, I've condensed it quite a bit here, but I will add a link to an Evernote Notebook or Google Doc with a more complete Lesson Plan after I've worked on it a bit more:
Teaching History, Science, Writing, Math, Social Studies, Art, Craft, and Culture through Invention, Technological Development, City Planning, Science Fiction, and Futurists
Writing - To use this in a multidisciplinary study, ask your child what they think life will be like in 100 years. If they are reluctant writers, use free Speech to Text tools to allow them to "write" quickly and easily, or use Audio Notes in Evernote via your smartphone or iPad to record their thoughts. This can be written as an article with supporting facts for older children or as a story starter for younger children. After you've studied a bit more together (see ideas below), ask them to write another story or essay to see how their new knowledge has changed their perspective.
History - It's also a fun way to begin studying a new time period in history! "What Life Was Like" stories are a more interesting and accessible approach to history than dry facts. Don't limit yourself to specific articles about the future, Science Fiction like Jules Verne or shows like "Voyagers" (fun 80's show appropriate for kids that includes a lot of history) will give them a great perspective on why we study history, what it can teach us about the present and future, and how it can ignite creativity and imagination. Let your child write alternate histories, stories about what life would be like now if America had lost the Revolutionary war or without Leonardo Da Vinci.
Watch an episode or two of Star Trek to talk about transporter technology (there is tons of science here, and plenty of discussion online about whether or not it's possible). It's also fun to look at the original Star Trek and later version to show children how far we've come in special effects, science knowledge, and technology. Read some Jules Verne and compare his mission to the moon to the one we actually made.
Incorporate Art, Social Studies, and Science by building a model "City of the Future" out of cereal boxes, soup cans, papertowel rolls, paper, and other material that would likely just end up in a landfill. Use tape or ribbon for roads, make mountains out of clay, etc. Math can be incorporated through measurement, teaching the concept of scale, thinking about resources a city would need for different population sizes, and whatever you stumble upon in the building and planning process.
The older children can even make a movie about life in your city of the future using Stop Action photography also known as Stop Motion Photography, film making, or animation or film making techniques (think Gumby or those flip books we made as kids to create simple stick figure animation). Or turn the city into a puppet show platform for the younger kids and film it.
You may even include Geography and Geology by looking up what would make a desirable location for a city (valleys, nearby sources of freshwater, arable land, proximity to natural resources, climate, lack of natural disaster, etc.). Incorporate Social Studies by talking about what cities need to function such as trash collection, police, fire departments, parks, roads, public transport, etc. This can also lead to projects and study on making cities better and more "green" by designing them to require less use of privately owned vehicles, and more bike paths, green spaces, pedestrian walkways, community gathering centers, etc.
If you aren't up to and arts and crafts project, use games like Sim City, Civilization, and "Tycoon" games (Roller Coaster Tycoon and Zoo Tycoon, and Sid Meier's Pirates require some city planning related skills).
Drive around your local area observing important services that are available that make people want to live there like schools, parks, universities, public transportation, points of interest, trash collection, recycling centers, factories or other large and small businesses that drive the local economy by providing employment, and the like.
The kids can take pictures of things they think are important and put together a photo album, small scrapbook, or PowerPoint presentation about your city and the city of the future. Include their artwork, ideas, information about books you've read about westward expansion and the settling of the American West, and anything else you can think of that would be interesting to study.
Math and Social Studies can be included by trying the different economic models from history through imaginative play. Include bartering, share cropping, feudalism, stock market games online, inventing a product and marketing and selling it, run a lemonade stand, play grocery store and farmer, and more! Take a field trip to local farms, factories, and stores to understand how things are made and what drives the economy.