Wednesday, April 11, 2012

unschooling little house on the prairie


I can not begin to tell you how much I appreciate the freedom our lifestyle afford us. As homeschooling gains in popularity and unschooling becomes more mainstream - I feel almost giddy at the possibilities of people taking charge of their education and creating exactly what works for their family and their children. What a privilege and opportunity we have!


For us, a recent immersion into the Little House on the Prairie series has led to long days in costumes replaying scenes from the book. We have listened to wolves howling, sewn, dipped candles, studied maps, talked about the Native Americans, laughed at Nellie and the big crab and cried when Pa lost the wheat field to the grasshoppers. 



When we read the series a few years ago, we used the terms "before Laura" and "after Laura" when trying to conceptualize time periods in history. 

The great thing about interest led learning is that the facilitator's (parent's) job is to prepare the environment and support the explorations. In another system, the children might expect that I work hard to organize the whole day with activities and projects that I lead them through. In interest led learning, we all work on it together. They decide (with my input and assistance) what they want to do to make the experience complete. 

 On this particular morning, I woke up to 3 children dressed in their prairie garb ready for a day of pioneer school. We made biscuits from scratch (a rare treat around here) and ate them with the jam we had made last summer (our pioneer selves that is :). We then took a long walk mimicking Laura and Mary's 2.5 mile walk to school. We stopped at our lake (creek) to poke around and catch some minnows. When we returned home, each kid came to my store to buy their slate and slate pencil. Then we played school. They read to me from McGuffy readers, worked on penmanship, and figured arithmetic on their slates. 

It was a fun, kid created, parent supported exploration into what it might be like to be a settler. We finished up with reading a few more chapters out loud while snacking on some almonds that Mr. Oleson send over and building with blocks to recreate the house that Pa had built with the high hopes he had for his wheat crops. 

The beauty of this type of learning is how it organically flows through our life. Later in the day, the kids were back to pursuing other individual interests: reading Harry Potter, playing the drums, grocery shopping with their dad, building and taking apart inventions, writing stories, building a pond habitat in an aquarium and planning a spa night. The Little House thread will weave in and out of our days until they have learned all they need to from it. And then another thread will become more prominent - but they are all always there, making up a rich and strong fabric of wonder and exploration.

Do your children get absorbed in stories and time periods? I would love to hear how your family does it.

16 comments:

  1. I don't unschool, but we do a *lot* of supplementing in an unschool kind of way. I read the full Little House series to each of my kids when they got to kindergarten, and we followed their interests from there. When my daughter was that age, we went to a local organic dairy farm and milked cows. We took home raw milk, waited for the cream to rise, and made butter by hand and shaped it with a wooden paddle, then used my shortbread-cookie stamps to make patterns on the butter pats, like Ma did. My son was more interested in other parts of the books, so we read about grasshoppers and watched some grasshoppers eating blades of grass so we could see how their jaws worked. We looked at the words in Laura's reader, the ones that they used in the spelling bee. I paused the book to read about minstrel shows and their history, and we talked a lot about the history of race relations in the US, and why Ma talks the way she does about the Indians.

    Both times it was a richly rewarding experience, and led to the kids wanting to read the Betsy-Tacy books aloud together to get a better sense of the world that Laura's daughter Rose would have known.

    ReplyDelete
  2. What a wonderful way to learn about the pioneers--and I love your photos, too!

    Your children will never forget these experiences!

    ReplyDelete
  3. what a wonderful way to experience those books! and kudos mama for allowing them to learn while engaging their creativity!

    ReplyDelete
  4. When we first pulled our son out of school in 2nd grade, he had a lot of de-schooling to do. He developed an interest in the Roman Empire, and specifically gladiators. He delved into that world for over a year and made his own toga, felt sandals, armor etc. and we read everything we could get our hands on. He acted out scenes and watched shows about the time period and we talked about it constantly. Later he moved on to other topics (including the Little House series, which was a favorite from my childhood and I enjoyed sharing that with him so much!) but he still has a fondness for Roman stuff. It's so great that he developed all of this on his own and not because some teacher had said he should.

    ReplyDelete
  5. My son recently got absorbed in the Titanic story: http://fannyharvilleunschool.blogspot.com/2012/04/titanic-trifecta.html

    And he loves Little House too.

    ReplyDelete
  6. A wonderful post describing a wonderful unschooling day. We do have an amazing privilege and opportunity. :)

    ReplyDelete
  7. I have a toddler and baby, so it's a lot different with this age, but my toddler is obsessed with trains so we turn everything into trains and that really nurtures his imagination. We also have gone to a historic railway that's in a small town nearby. When I ran an after-school program with elementary school-aged students, I found that following their interests helped so much, especially with some of the more troubled students. I once had a student that I helped build a Titanic replica -- to scale!!

    ReplyDelete
  8. make butter!!!!

    ReplyDelete
  9. The little house thread has woven itself all through our home! I dare say itd be irremovable. What a miracle to allow our kids this level of immersion in something they adore!

    ReplyDelete
  10. My daughter and I have been reading these. We've kind of hit a roadblock as she prepares to get engaged to Almonzo. Something about "These Happy Golden Years" is bugging Caroline to death. But we'll get past that. And she does so love it.

    ReplyDelete
  11. we too have so much fun with imaginary play and Little House is always a favourite with my girls! love these ideas....thank you for sharing!

    ReplyDelete
  12. What a wonderful "day in the life" post! I have seriously considered homeschooling my little guy when he gets older...or actually just continuing what I'm doing now. :) I'm looking forward to getting immersed in our favorite stories as well.

    ReplyDelete
  13. Amy, this is so wonderful! I read the whole series to my son last year and we did a few activities but I hope we can do it all again with my younger kids in another year or two and do lots more activities. I've found the Little House cookbook at a used book sale. Can't wait to make some recipes from it.

    ReplyDelete
  14. This is terrific! I love the coonskin cap too.

    ReplyDelete
  15. Oh, I LOVED reading this post! We, too, have been reading the Little House Books. My 6 year old daughter LOVES them, and truly, the "thread" of Little House has been woven throughout SO MANY aspects of our lives!! The study of Native Americans, of self-sufficiency, family, hard work, geography, EVERYTHING! We even ended up having a Native American birthday party in which we erected a REAL tipi, and all the kids painted it. It is so fun to go on these little journeys with my kids.

    ReplyDelete
  16. We are basically obsessed with Little House on the Prairie around here. My girls have on their prairie dresses right now. They often come get Pa to kill a bear that's gotten in the yard. I love it. Many a homeschool day has revolved around life on the prairie.

    ReplyDelete

Please leave a comment! I love to hear from you!

LinkWithin

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...