Tag: learning

Games We Play: About games and learning

This is part 1 of a series.  In this post I explain why we play games and how we play them so that kids don’t kill each other because they are loosing. I will also talk about how we adapted games to suit different age levels and how our games have changed as the kids have grown.Future posts in this series will give more specific games, ways we have played them, and the educational benefit of each.

Everyone was talking about games yesterday, which got me thinking about our favorites.  We play a lot of games around here–video games, board games, computer games, physical games, word games, you name it.  Games are a big part of an unschooling lifestyle and we, despite being a non-competitive family, love games.

We have found that games are the perfect prompt when nothing else will get a kid moving in the right direction.  When boredom hits it is time for a game.  A long car ride or a visit to the doctors office means it is time for a game.  A quiet evening or a rainy afternoon is time for a game.  Games are what happen when we have a guest, or when someone is away from home, when we are out of movies, or when we are waiting in line.  A question, more often than not, is enough to prompt a game.  Because we don’t do traditional school the kids think of questions as games.

“How do you spell…..?”

“Can you find….?”

“How do they make….?”

“Why do you think….?”

Occasionally a statement will start it.

“Nibble, nibble little ___________, who’s been nibbling on my ____________?”

“I have ____ _____and I need ____, how many more do I need?”

“I spy with my little eye something ______  .”

Sometimes the game is a simple question answer game, sometimes a game is on the computer, on the Wii, verbal, physical, a board game, a scavenger hunt, whatever suits the moment.  And almost always, the game gets adjusted to suit our needs.  Very seldom do we play strictly by the rules and  often (much to the consternation of my mother-in-law) the rules get tossed completely.  Games of Scrabble degrade into a crossword game of how many words can we make fit on the board.  Games of toss degrade into how far away can I get and still catch the football.  Even video games degrade into a game of pretend (Mario has spent more time being a brother to someone else than looking for Sunshine sprites) or games of dress-up (my kids have designed numerous superheroes for City of Heroes though they have never played the game.) More often than not it starts when someone playing a traditional game says “what if” and we all try to see what the results will be.  Sure it means that we don’t remember the original rules for most games but we get to adapt and create and learn all sorts of things we wouldn’t be learning if we stuck to the rules.

When the kids were younger we adapted every game so that it was simpler to play (we didn’t buy Jr. editions because those are usually boring but we simplified the rules so each child could play and enjoy themselves).  We also found that usually it is better NOT to keep score.  Yes, we keep score when we play with grownups but if we are playing ourselves we don’t.  Instead we focus on having fun and coming up with ways to make the game better.

If we do keep score then we use handicap or allow those who are at a different stage of learning to have different rules so the game is less frustrating.  When we play word games then the non-reader (or early reader) gets points for recognizing or spelling any real words instead of 3 letter words (like in Boggle).  If they are very new readers then they get a partial point just for finding a word even if it isn’t spelled quite right–I correct their spelling so they know next time but they get a half point for trying to find a word.  As they learn they get less of a cushion and are expected to do it right.  Now that I have all readers with only one new reader we play more by the original rules without much frustration.

My goal is for them to love the games without being frustrated at not having the knowledge or understanding to actually play. We find that by adapting the games to each child’s needs  they still enjoy playing even if they are not very good at it, and the bonus is that as they play and we adapt the rules they get better at the game until they get to the point where they can actually play the game for real.

Lean-to building

Part of the time we spent at the cottage was spent in the woods building forts, lean-tos and other primitive homes.  My brother (off school due to a teacher’s strike)  helped the girls out while Issac found sticks to use in building.

To start you go into the woods (wearing bright clothes if it is huntiong season–the next day they were all wearing bright orange), find a good tree to lean branches against, and find as much dead wood in the right length as you can find.

If you can’t find two trees with a fallen tree across you can use vines and make your own.

Gather more, and more, and more.  Use a hatchet to chop what you can’t get because it is too big.

Lay it in the above pattern.  You can then cover it with branches with leaves or pine  or even a tarp.  You can also add sides and another lean-to to make a roof–at least in theory.  We didn’t get that far.:)  We did have lots of fun though.

Building cricket houses

Another thing the kids did while we were at the cottage was build fairy or cricket houses.  The found a section of land where crickets played and with a multitude of sticks built mini houses.

This is actually what lead up to building lean-tos and forts that they could actually play in.

To build your own break a whole bunch of sticks to similar lengths.  Stick four sticks straight down into the ground  in a rectangle or square then lay the the branches around the outside lincoln log style.  When finished you can try makeing a roof–Rachel used sticks, Essie used leaves.  Honestly you can do this however you like and let the kids see what works for them.  I only made a few suggestions–they spent several hours working on them without my input at all.

Me, Myself, and I

I don’t have a recent photo (I think the last photo I have is from exactly a year ago–my brother in laws wedding which Issac took looking up my nose) since I am ALWAYS behind the camera but I do have this which Rachel took when I gave her my digital camera to play with while waiting for Grandma after dinner last week.  This is her first attempt at using the camera as a video camera and she wanted to capture everything, including her brother sister making shadow puppets in the light, and for some reason, me cleaning up the table a bit before leaving.  Don’t turn the sound up, it is rather random though in the background my grandmother is telling the pizza worker people that the kids always point out that their ceiling looks exactly like a giant candy bar–and it does.

I am posting this in response to Randi’s request that everyone post pictures of themselves.  Not that she reads my blog but several others do and I read hers and occasionally even comment, though not nearly often enough.

And that is QUITE enough posts for today thank you very much–three is definitely my limit.

Finding education in vacation or Learning, Learning, Everywhere

In July, Sandra Dodd hosted Learn Nothing Day.  Our family, after a bit of discussion, decided not to take part, not because we didn’t feel that we unschoolers didn’t need a break, but the kids decided that there was no way they could learn nothing all day.  They figured out that even if they were lying in bed all day or staring at the wall their minds would be full of ideas and figuring things out and that spending a day learning nothing would mean being in a coma or something equally undesirable.

And so, as you can imagine, even our vacation was full of learning.  I had originally intended to do a slew of posts on the subject with pictures but life got in the way so instead I will share the condensed version.

I have already mentioned how we stayed with friends ( a former missionary to Ecuador and private school principle, my dear friend–his daughter, and her 2 year old who is bilingual.)  Lots of learning went on there on which I already touched briefly.  After spending a few days with them we headed to the beach to stay with my dad, stepmom, and baby brother for 3 days.  In that time the kids and I…

discussed how waves work, why the ocean is blue/green, how the tides work and why, how undertow works, how storms affect the ocean, how erosion works, and what lives at the bottom of the sea.

We saw dolphins and pelicans, as well as numerous other small birds that follow when the fish run (silverfish –I believe) were running and many animals were feeding just off the coast.  We also got to watch a fisherman catch a sand shark, a stingray (and get stung), and another kind of shark that I can’t remember.  We got to see the animals up close and had the opportunity to pet them (um, no thank you?)

(Above is a dolphin swimming in the sunrise, they were hard to catch but we saw enough that I got a few photos.)  We also got to experience many sand creatures and learn about biting flies that come in due to a storm at sea (ouch.)

We learned what sand is made of and how rocks are formed.  We scavenged the beach after high tides to sea what the waves had grabbed the day before.  We found a pair of flip flops, 2 boogie boards, several shovels and rakes, and a few shells plus a jelly fish.

We road the bus and road bikes on the board walk which led to a much needed reminder about bike safety and the rules of the road.

We discussed how magnifying glasses work, watched fishing boats go by , learned the difference between an island and a penninsula.

The kids made friends with another family and got braver about going out in the waves.  Issac hung out with the girls older brother and dug huge holes in the sand.

All three kids spent the moments before high tide digging deep holes and trying to find ways to keep the incoming tide from washing them out.  They learned about different sorts of barricades, erosion, and how quickly the ocean can fill in a hole.

We also visited a shipwreck museum and saw items from the Titanic, the Edmund Fitgerald, and other ships, learned how sea divers recover items from shipwrecks and clean them, learned about and bought some hermit crabs (their first ever pets due to hubby’s animal allergies).  We walked miles and miles, saw a lighthouse, visited our friends again and learned about cryptography, did a scavenger hunt, took a new way home, learned about how to save gas while driving, visited our friends at As We Walk, and saw all that God was doing around us–there was a ton of character developing going on that I am not even getting into.

We are still processing all we learned several months later.  Discussions are still going on about various ideas and concepts that were gleaned from our trip.  The kids now want to go back and visit both our friends in DC and Deb’s family–they have plans for DC now that they have been to the area and are figuring out what they want to see (I think a few museums at the Smithonian are the plan for this next trip).  This has led to discussions of all that is available there and planning and organizing on their part (I try to stay out of it except to limit the cost and number of places).  And I, like my three crazies, cannot imagine a day without learning.

Blueberry Pie

The kids have been collecting blueberries from our blueberry bush all summer, and now that it is full they have been freezing plenty.  Yesterday the kids picked enough blueberries for 2 blueberry pies so of course we had to make some.

We started with the pie crust recipe from my great grandmother’s recipe book–the only pie crust that ever works well for me.  Read on for the whole recipe.Read More

Finding Education in Vacation: Mexican Restaurant

We went to an authentic Mexican restaurant with our friends.

The kids got to try several new things including fried plantain (they already LOVE Mexican food but this one had more variety than our local one.)

Kayla comes here all the time because this is where her daddy works.

She knows everyone and they all love her.

And unlike my own kids, she knows what she likes to eat here (including the EXTRA spicy picante sauce.)

She also taught us a new game, similar to follow the leader.

Unschooling Photo Journal 13

One of our favorite books reads: On a hot, hot day, on a hot summer day, momma says think cool, think cool.  I say that Essie is thinking a bit too cool here.

But boy was it hot–80 degrees in the early morning while we opened the yard sale.  Eighty -nine degrees later.

They ate a lot of watermelon and Popsicles while helping with the yard sale.

And they decided, after perusing the “Photo Memory book of Washington DC”, that they needed to put out LOTS more stuff so we could go and do all they wanted to do.

Saturday Photohunt: Support

The dock and ladder provide excellent support for getting out of the pond without having to walk through the slime–especially when you are practicing all sorts of ways to jump in.

Even the big kids use it. 🙂

Of course there is also the support of the floaty bathing suits, which keep the kids safe in the deep water.

And sometimes you need the extra support a kick board will give.

More “Support” pictures can be found over at Tnchick‘s.

Unschooling Photo Journal 5

The gift of time;

time with grandparents, learning from them , loving them, helping them.

Time with siblings, growing together, learning together,

Time for fun, time for passions

Time alone to learn to live with yourself and God,

Time for others, for helping, learning

Time to put your wants aside for the sake of another.