After sorting out clothes and “essentials,” I tackled our homeschooling preparation and planning. This isn’t necessarily a vacation from our life. I want to transplant our home life to Costa Rica for the month. I like what we do at home. I just don’t want to wear wool socks or argue with a child about putting on pants to go outside for a little while. We are heading to a warmer climate to perform this experiment: Can we live our lives as we normally do in a different country, specifically, in a warmer climate, which resembles more like our ancestral homeland?
I imagine that the first week will be getting to know the lay of the land and decompressing a bit. My husband has been working his tail off for the last few months and really wants to spend time with us, hanging out in the sun. The kids, on the other hand, have been asking for schoolwork. I have shooed them away explaining that I am in the middle of very important decision-making packing for the last 6 weeks. And they have sneaked in math, grammar, and cursive notebooks into their suitcases hoping against hope they get their mama-teacher back in Costa Rica. Sounds a little like Stockholm Syndrome and a little like a battle cry for structure – a side effect of being with me 24/7 for the last 4.5 years.
Our basic rhythm will be the same: lessons in the morning, homework and practical studies in the afternoon. Practical studies include handwork, French, music, art, independent reading, reading aloud to me, and pretty much anything they are interested in pursuing themselves. I am sure that in Costa Rica, even with travel handwork projects, their practical studies will include some type of activity outdoors exploring our new temporary home. It’s the morning lesson rhythm that I will have to feel my way through for the first bit.
I am hoping to spend 30 minutes with each child in the morning. Tops. (I have my own explorations to do.)
2.5 total hours and depending on the child, it could really be only 30 minutes of “work.”
Let me break it down a little further by grade:
#5 – Kindergarten: This is a heavenly grade for me. Songs, finger plays, rhymes, stories, and arts and crafts. Boom. Done. I have photocopied a few South American and Amazon animal folk stories and may set up a little painting/modelling area for him. We will learn a couple of animal rhymes together too.
#4 – Gr. 2: Jataka Tales block. These are tales that come from Buddhist legends in India. They tell stories about the past incarnations of Buddha in both human and animal form but whatever form he takes, there is a virtue associated that the tale encompasses. Jungle animals with a moral. Perfect. Through these stories, we will practice writing and reading but the hearing and retelling of the stories by her are what I will emphasize in this block.
#3 – Gr. 4: Norse Myths and Human and Animal blocks. She loved her initial Norse Myth block earlier this year where I introduced the Norse Creation story and the gods using D’Aulaires’ Book of Norse Myths. I photocopied some stories from the book to bring along. Again, we will be focusing on some summarizing, poetry, and creative writing skills in this block. I also want to spend some time drawing and observing some of the animals we spot in Costa Rica using field guides – comparing the animals to our winter wonderland’s animals and comparing them to human qualities too.
#2 – Gr. 6: Astronomy and Julius Caesar. Living so close to a major city, we rarely have a clear dark night to see the stars. In Costa Rica, I am assuming we will get some pretty dark nights where star gazing will be easier. I picked up The Kids Book of the Night Sky and there are neat little stories and activities for the casual observer (read: kids). I don’t want to bog her down with facts but present astronomy through stories and myths. I want to follow the progression of the way early humans looked at the sky which began with wonder and mystery.
We are also going to do a little business math – currency conversion, budgeting, and calculating percentage on tips and sale items. I anticipate many situations down there that will turn into learning experiences.
She has also requested to do a little bit on Julius Caesar. After #1 raved about the book, Julius Caesar, #2 has been interested in learning more about him. I was saving those lessons for our next Rome block but she just can’t wait. I will do a few lessons on him and read a few excerpts from the book to her about his early life and then continue on when we get back.
#1 – Gr. 11: Art/History/Economics. She is currently reading, Young Michelangelo: The Path to the Sistine: A Biography after delving into the Renaissance. Her fascination with his early life and then his rivalry with DaVinci is of most interest to her so she is going a little deeper into this particular figure of that era. She was inspired by an art exhibit. I am seeing a trend in her independent learning. A new exhibit at the art gallery spurs an interest in a historical era or event which leads to her studying the biography of someone from that time to get a snapshot of what life was like.
A trip to Central America is the perfect to introduce a time in history – the Age of Discovery/Colonialism. We are using the books The Discoverers and A People’s History of the United States. We will follow up these lessons with some discussion on Canadian colonialism using this NFB resource.
For my eldest, it is a lot of independent readings and math work, discussion (I use the Socratic method loosely with her), and essay writing. If she wants to go deeper into a subject, we find the additional resources. For example, she will book a coffee date with the curator of contemporary art at the gallery who went to school specializing in the Renaissance to pick her brain about the era after she is finished reading Young Michelangelo. (This serendipitous introduction came about after #1 worked for the current artist-in-residence at the gallery.)
This may seem like intense planning for a trip abroad but that’s just what this is: a plan. Again, repeating the message in the previous post: I HAVE NO IDEA WHAT TO EXPECT.
All I know is that my children want to learn these things and to experience our life in Costa Rica. We may not even open a book because there is too much to soak in. We may end up reading stories the whole time, together and independently. We may do a little bit of refresher math and not introduce anything new. Our lessons may be postponed to the afternoon because of tropical downpour. We may spend the entire time learning Spanish and surfing.
But I like to be prepared. One binder of photocopies and Keri Smith’s book, Finish This Book (for explorations), aren’t too much to carry. I will ride their interest as long as it will take me. Learning should never be painful. I’ve discussed their month of lessons with them and they are eager. For now. They also have daily art journals if they feel so inclined to document what they see around them. Maybe I will make a tropical scavenger hunt using animal and plant guides. Who knows? We will go with the flow, living and breathing how we always do. Our same life (only with less layers on).
And as for me, I will be writing furiously about our adventures in my black notebook and doing a little reading:
Any suggestions on amazing books I need to read? How do you deal with changing rhythms when you are away from home base?