I've felt an itch for awhile now to spend a little bit more time on planning the activities that Silas and I share throughout the day and to become more intentional with how I spend my own time. While I love the slow pace of our days (and don't really intend to change that too much), I find that without putting in the time to plan, many days go by in which we don't really "do" anything. This is no huge tragedy, of course, but it does leave both Silas and I feeling a bit restless and unsatisfied.
It started with a loose New Year's resolution to take a Facebook break, only checking in there when I have messages to send to the folks by which that is our only means of communication. Then it was a commitment to making and sticking with some sort of a cleaning routine (a very, very big challenge for me). Then, greatly inspired by this post, I gave myself permission to stray a bit from the Waldorf-inspired path that we've been following and to re-explore those elements of Reggio and Montessori that so resonated with me when I was first considering our journey of learning at home.
It has been wonderful.
We have had more meaningful conversations, more quality time spent together, and all around more positive days this week than we have in quite awhile. I think I'm just the kind of person who needs a schedule to motivate me. So a schedule we shall have.
So this week...
It's been ages since we've done a proper art exploration. So, I opened up this book and decided to go through its activities one by one. First up, a color mixing experiment using colored water and cornstarch.
Silas was thrilled with this experience. Prior, I didn't really know whether or not he had grasped the concept of creating new colors by mixing any two of the primaries. He clearly demonstrated that he did. He discovered that he could make "light" and "dark" versions of his mixed colors by adjusting how much of each primary color he added to the dish.
The cornstarch element is partially pure sensory fun, but when added to the mixed colors, it also "pulls" the colors apart so that you can see that red and yellow make orange, for example. We did notice this happening, but he was more focused on the variation in texture that he achieved by adding more or less cornstarch to each color well.
This summer we were in a wonderful habit of doing wet-on-wet watercolor painting once a week. This was something that I drew from the Waldorf tradition and I liked that we were returning again and again to the same medium so that Silas could really immerse himself in it and start to achieve some sort of proficiency with it. We finally made our return.
Part of the motivation to be more regular about cleaning is Silas' enthusiasm for helping. He really finds a lot of joy in doing meaningful work alongside me, which means that, ya know, I actually have to be doing meaningful work. One day this week I mopped the kitchen floors (you do not want to know how long it's been...) and he declared that he wanted to mop the floors too, when he's older. "How about right now?" I countered. He was so thrilled. He did the entryway on his own and was so proud of the job that he had done.
As I mentioned before, we are diving head first into a project about polar bears. Silas has always had a variety of interests and I feel that I've done a pretty good job of supporting them, but by formally calling it a "project" and carving out time in our day and week specifically to work on his interests, I am motivated to pause and listen more closely to his questions and he is learning that the work that he does has value and is worth pursuing.
One afternoon we took a trek to our local Natural History Museum to look at the polar bears and the other arctic animals. Currently, Silas is really fascinated by how the polar bear waits at a breathing hole for a seal to emerge from the water and then pounces. He wanted to learn more about that, so we brought along paper and pencil so that he would have a way to record what he observed about the bear that might help it catch the seal. Spoiler alert: there has been a lot of talk about teeth and claws around here.
He also made drawings of several other things that caught his eye, including the feet and eyes of the arctic fox and the beak of a godwit.
Another Waldorf element that we had previously included was a dedicated weekly time for modeling. I do think we are ready to introduce modeling with beeswax, but this week we stuck with play dough, since it's what we have on hand and what we know. We worked together for a long time before the open-ended work that we were doing segued into a return to polar bears.
In this photo, Silas is using the drawing that he made of polar bear teeth and tongue as a guide to re-create those elements in play dough.
I downloaded the free Introduction to Biomes curriculum from Waseca and am excited about sharing it with Silas over the next several months. He has been showing an increasing interest in maps and knowing the names of places in the world and I love Waseca's method of introducing such things through hands-on study of animals, plants, and the environment, rather than rote memorization of country names and capitals. It includes a lot of art and storytelling, which, of course only makes it more appealing to me.
But, of course, I wasn't quite prepared to start it this week, so we did some very simple animal matching, spinning off from his interest in the arctic.
I also plan to add focused time to explore science and math and hope to incorporate those in the weeks to come.
I also just wanted to send a shout-out to Kate at An Everyday Story, whose weekly photo journals of her own children's child-led learning have greatly inspired me. If you have any interest in project-based or Reggio-style early education at home, she is a wonderful resource.